After a result like that, belief is all we really have.
Martin Bonjour's missed a few pretty open headers this year. He should certainly have scored in the Vancouver Whitecaps' opener off a corner. Given how strong he is in open play off set pieces it's a shock he hadn't nodded one in. Turns out he was just waiting for one to fall to his feet.
If beauty really was truth, Bonjour would have had one in the first half when he got the ball at his feet with his back to goal, kicked it up into the air, and served himself for a full bicycle kick that didn't go over by much. Ah, well. I'll take the ungainly yet spectacular mark he did get: a Davide Chiumiento cross whistles just past Eric Hassli, just past a reaching Gershon Koffie, just past a surprisingly erratic Alain Rochat, just in front of Bonjour who, with a post code all to himself, settles the ball, brings it back, and cranks it like it's a wide-open shot in practice which, really, it almost was.
Told you the Red Bulls couldn't defend.
But then it all went wrong. The Red Bulls picked up that "surprisingly erratic Alain Rochat" part and, after largely neglecting the flanks for 70 minutes, hit the right hard. They made inroads, there started to be a few sketchy moments, and then there was an equalizer. Dare I say that the Whitecaps, who have not made a habit of blowing leads this year, were too complacent? Too willing to hoof and hope, too happy to settle for tired legs (Sebastien Le Toux) and slightly off-form ones (Rochat)?
I don't care if Thierry Henry is dead: the Red Bulls deserved more respect than the Whitecaps gave them. So Vancouver more-or-less controlled the match and it all went to waste. A lesson learned by what is, after all, a developing team. I hope.
It was courteous of the Whitecaps to mark my article on how we don't really have too many forwards with some really mediocre forward play. Sebastien Le Toux had a stronger game than he did Saturday, lack of a goal aside; he had some nice touches and wasn't an awe-inspiringly terrible turnover machine. At the same time, he muffed the one really good run into the Red Bulls box he had and never really looked like a scorer.
Davide Chiumiento, who wasn't really a forward but was certainly playing an attack-first role, was showing some dandy touches until he got a little too involved rolling on the ground trying to control a ball. Still, that assist on Bonjour's goal, even if they gave it to Rochat, was pretty close to worth his 90 minutes.
And all I have to say about Camilo is that the Southsiders were doing the "Eric Hassli!" chant fifteen minutes before Hassli actually warmed up to come on. When Hassli actually came in, there was a deafening fusilade of applause even by his standards. (That said, Camilo's very, very worst miss in the first half was called back offside. It doesn't really make a difference, but it sort of does.)
No sooner did Hassli enter, of course, then he did some very Eric Hassli stuff: took a questionable yellow card (suspended!) and singed the side netting with what would have been Goal of the Week if the soccer gods had puffed slightly to his right. I realize Hassli gets stick in some quarters for his lack of production this year, but on the other hand the way he cranks his shots he won't be shooting 8% forever.
Long Tan didn't do a whole hell of a lot, but he barely had any time. Still, he's an inspiration to people who bitch about their jobs on Twitter everywhere (Bryce Alderson, Michael Nanchoff, Greg Klazura, and Michael Boxall all have Twitter; get whining, guys!). Can't figure out why he came in for the strong Gershon Koffie, though, when Le Toux was gagging for a substitution. Indeed, at the post-game press conference where Rennie was speaking about how the Whitecaps need to move the ball out side and use the whole field when defending those short leads, all I could think was "is that why you left in your had-been-done-for-twenty-minutes right forward long past his due date?"
The Whitecaps pretty much owned the game, is the damnable thing. On a happier day they would have won by a few. I've harped on this before but it's all about learning the right lessons. The Whitecaps have been awfully good clinging to leads this year but blew a not-that-important one tonight. There's a lot worse times to let in that Heath Pearce goal than to give up two points against a non-conference opponent: if the Whitecaps learn from their mistakes it'll all work out in the end.