It's always pleasing when I bill a game as uninteresting and an opponent as not memorable and I'm totally right.
Wait, did I say "pleasing"? I meant "totally infuriating". Good gracious what a dud. The heat, the altitude, Barry Robson's inability to choose between doing too much and doing too little, the squadron of Colorado Rapids half-chances vs. the single real chance the Vancouver Whitecaps got after an outrageous blunder by centre back Drew Moor. A large but lukewarm home crowd, enjoying a Fourth of July evening at the game but not adding much to the atmosphere. A small contingent of Whitecaps supporters getting into it with security about hanging their banners up. The most interesting things were Russell Teibert on the bench and Joe Cannon's shorty short-shorts.
It would be worse if I was a Rapids fan, of course. At least the Whitecaps got three points for their trouble, with some tenacious defending, not a little good luck, and Darren Mattocks's surprisingly effective opportunism combining for a 1-0 win that I've already forgotten most of. Colorado had the possession, had the large bulk of the chances, were completing their passes and everything, and not only didn't get a goal but didn't force Cannon into a serious save.
So yay, three points, and no more climbing into Dick's until next season. The Whitecaps are up to eight wins and put a little padding between themselves and a playoff rival. Darren Mattocks, he of the flashy goals and the missed opportunities, pulled a bit of poaching from his bag of tricks, and our new Ginger Ninja acquitted himself as well as could be expected. So that's good. The game was tilted against us. So that's bad. The game is now over, and that's brilliant.
We could see how the Whitecaps were missing Jun Marques Davidson and John Thorrington down the middle. Jordan Harvey and Young-Pyo Lee did a masterful job making the outside chances difficult but Colorado got too much headway just attacking down route one. The midfield centre pairing of Alain Rochat and Gershon Koffie looks reasonably solid on paper, but Rochat is not a strong midfielder and Koffie's spent most of the year playing higher than he did in 2011. Asking him to drop back and be a Desiree Scott-style destroyer just wasn't working in that context: the two of them just couldn't win enough balls or force enough wide.
I'm going to repeat my praise for Jordan Harvey, who in my books was the man of the match. He saved a goal in the first half and had an all-round excellent game, retaining possession well, moving the ball decently, and frustrating the Rapids attack. Late in the game there were some dangerous crosses coming from his flank but Harvey was holding up his end; those were the stages when he needed support from the midfield and we just didn't have the horses. I spend way too much of this space bashing Harvey's play at left back; when he does exceptionally the least I can do is take a step back and applaud.
We probably would have lost if the Rapids were playing vintage Conor Casey instead of 2012 fifteen-pounds-overweight Conor Casey. He had some terrific shots at headers, as a gunshy Martin Bonjour was playing off him a little bit. In MLS it's generally the right move to give the striker a little space and take your chances with him rather than the gung-ho refereeing, but Dave Gantar was letting 'em play tonight and Casey is normally such a dangerous customer finishing off from those little ghosts of a chance defenders give him that I'd have been clutching and bumping at least a bit. The one time the Whitecaps defense did get really tangled up with Casey was on a late cross that was six feet over his head. Still, the soccer gods smiled upon us.
Three points. I don't think any of the Whitecaps are terribly satisfied with the performance. They sat back, looked like they'd have been happy with a draw, got more, but could easily have wound up with less. Vancouver hasn't played a completely satisfying game in a couple of months now and a disturbing percentage of their wins have been ugly ones. But wins they are, and wins we need: there's something to be said for a team that blows some heart-breaking leads managing so adroitly to hold onto this one.