I watched this afternoon's Vancouver Whitecaps festivities from my apartment balcony, smoking a cigar that was compensating for something and viewing the game through my window. This, incidentally, is the only way to do it.
The Sportsnet directors love their irrelevant closeups that they can torment us with when there's soccer being played. I remember one in the second half. Frank Yallop sat despondently on the bench, largely inert, staring out at the field with the look of a man preparing to get up and run into battle only to find that his legs had been blown off. I recognized that expression well, as Yallop had worn it many times while managing the Canadian national team, where his only achievements had been giving Jaime Peters a dozen caps when he was nine years old and, of course, completely ruining my childhood.
Martin Rennie, meanwhile, was on his feet, suit and tie as ever, utterly composed as ever. I like Martin. I like him because, when he's in public, he always carries himself with the same bearing: basically pleased but things could be better. When he's frustrated he gives it away, like on Wednesday when I questioned his substitution tactics and he smiled, genially, and spoke with an air that was two parts defensive to one part being so frustrated about the result that he wanted to tear somebody's head off. Suppressed anger is the best sort for a manager, in my books.
Mere moments after this emotionless interlude, Camilo Sanvezzo drew the penalty. It was a little foul by Sam Cronin and anybody other than Camilo wouldn't have gone down: they would have just tried to charge past the guy who was getting his leg in, failed, and it would have been a goal kick. A smart tumble; one of Camilo's few smart plays this year.
Poor, poor Camilo. I get the impression MLS has mostly figured him out; he has plenty of skill, of course, and a lovely power shot when he has twenty seconds to set it up, but not a boatload of creativity. Compare that to Dane Richards, who isn't half as talented and has been in this league three times as long but scored a magnificent goal, could have had a couple of assists, and always seemed to have the Earthquakes feeling the fear of God. That I enjoyed. He was my man of the match, but heavens there were plenty of contenders.
So Camilo wants the ball on the spot, Barry Robson takes the ball on the spot, presumably waving his "hello, I'm Barry Robson" card, and cranks the spot kick into the top of the net with so much venom Mustapha Jarju felt it. And that was that.
Well, no, that wasn't that as such. There were the frenzied forays by the Earthquakes, late; the arrival of Kenny Miller for Darren Mattocks seemed to spell the end of the "just outslug them in transition" strategy which won them so much of this game through no fault of Miller's own; what the hell would any of us do if our first touch in Major League Soccer was a B-grade scoring chance? Probably stuff it a lot worse than Kenny did. Miller spent too much time walking and looking uninterested, but so does Mattocks so it's not like that changed anything. Really, the problem was that the poised control-the-ball-and-move-it Whitecaps defense turned into a frenzied get-any-part-of-the-foot-to-the-ball Whitecaps panic.
Still. Whitecaps held on. Chris Wondolowski didn't score (someone send Gershon Koffie a gift basket for pulling that one off). And a 2-1 lead, for once, did not turn into a 2-2 draw. In four days Vancouver gained four points of six at home from two of the best teams in the Western Conference. Wait a minute... that's what good teams do, isn't it?
Maybe that's why Yallop looked so despondent. God knows he's had his ass handed to him a few times; you think he'd have been used to it. Besides, the score was only 1-1 at that point. But Vancouver had the best possession, just like they had against the LA Galaxy, and it looked like only a matter of time (as it turned out to be). Maybe he was just miserably braced for the inevitable.
I like the sound of that.