Wait a minute; A big match that the Vancouver Whitecaps had to win, against a wounded but still very effective team, on the road, missing Darren Mattocks and Kenny Miller? How in hell did the Vancouver Whitecaps win that match? More aptly, the Vancouver Whitecaps we've come to know and love since their move to MLS generally have gone out of their way to find ways to choke and lose important matches. The Amway Canadian Championship, the MLS playoffs, the Cascadia Cup; this is not a team that has historically done well when the chips are down. Then again, they haven't had Kekuta Manneh at their disposal all that long.
The super rookie scored three straight goals against the vaunted Seattle Sounders, keeping the 'Caps playoff hopes, at the very least, on life support. It was a welcome change for 'Caps fans to watch the 18 year old make the most of his chances, scoring those three goals on three shots. While in the past, the Whitecaps have seen their guns go silent when they most needed them, Manneh instead rose to the occasion, putting the 'Caps on his back and showing strong finish.
It seemed as if Seattle had one game plan going into the match; stop Camilo Sanvezzo. After his two goal performance against Portland, including that wonder strike we all loved, Seattle seemed intent on fouling him early and often, and playing a suffocating defensive style every time he touched the ball. Perhaps they figured that with Miller and Mattocks both out, Camilo would be the lone attacking threat on the 'Caps side. Instead, it just opened up plenty of space for Manneh to break away from the pack, which he did on all three goals. Case and point; Manneh's second goal.
As you can see, Camilo receives a pass in Seattle's end while on the run. The Seattle defender, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, completely committed to Camilo, leaving Manneh free to streak to the net. All it took was a cute little backheel from Camilo to complete the play and double the Whitecaps lead.
Now, while the 'Caps played a great match, there was good and bad from the events.
1) Michael Gspurning was unbelievably awful. While his team obviously hung him out to dry several times during the match, Gspurning can't say he had a good match. Let's face it; he embarrassed himself, and after the match, lead Coach Sigi Schmid to hint that the position may be up for grabs. Need proof? Nigel Reo-Coker's goal was satisfying to watch, but let's not kid ourselves here; that was brutal.
2) While we should all be happy the 'Caps live on to fight another day, we can't forget that each and every contest played is a 'must-win' match. That means they can't relax, can't celebrate too much and must get ready for war again. I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy, but time is running out, and it seems questionable to me to suggest that the 'Caps will be able to bring that level of passion and intensity against a team that they don't really have any history against.
3) If Manneh isn't in the starting 11 when the 'Caps next take the pitch, I will cry.