The Whitecaps went into this match with questions about their defence. Jay Demerit was gone, an unknown quantity in Brad Rusin was stepping in, and the club had generally not fared well without Demerit in the past. Ironic then, that the match would showcase some of the best attacking the Whitecaps have done in their time in MLS.
Head Coach Martin Rennie opted for a 4-3-3 lineup, with just a few tweaks to the starting 11 that took the pitch against Toronto. Joe Cannon got his second straight start in goal, perhaps a sign that he is 'the' guy in the early going here. When will Brad Knighton get a match in? In any case, Rusin stepped in for Demerit, Nigel Reo-Coker made his first start of the season, playing midfield, which pushed Kekuta Manneh to the bench. That meant Camilo would sit on the bench again, while Kenny Miller earned another start up front, this time wearing the Captain's armband.
Fans didn't need to wait long to see the scoring opened, and it was an absolute beauty. Daigo Kobayashi with a curling shot from 30 yards out beat Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum just six minutes in. The shot was perfect, and it sent BC Place into a frenzy. We're still in the honeymoon phase just two matches in, but how good has Daigo Kobayashi looked? So many of us called for the return of Davide Chiumiento, but Kobayashi has shown supreme creativity in mid, solid passing ability, and now, a wicked shot. He's looked absolutely fantastic so far.
Despite the fast start, the attack for both clubs died down for the majority of the first half. However, the 'Caps decided to wake up with just over five minutes remaining, and Kobayashi was involved again. At 39 minutes and in the Crews half of the pitch, Kenny Miller passed the ball to Kobayashi, who's clever touch landed on the foot of a streaking Alain Rochat. In the box, Rochat dropped the ball back to Kenny Miller, who's one time shot was stopped well by Gruenebaum. The rebound went right to Nigel Reo-Coker, who looked to have a sure goal on his foot. Instead, it went up over the net, leaving Reo-Coker to shake his head, and prepare for a goal kick.
Just three minutes later, the 'Caps attacked again, with Reo-Coker lobbing a perfect pass to YP Lee, who crossed the ball to Kenny Miller in front of the net. Miller fell to the ground while getting his shot off, but Gruenebaum made another impressive save.
A few seconds later, the 'Caps would earn a corner. Kobayashi would take it, and it found the head of 6'5 Brad Rusin, who put it off the post. The 'Caps could smell blood in the water, but just could not push the ball over the line in the dying minutes. The 'Caps ended the opening half the way they started it; with a bang. However, they had just one goal to show for it, leading 1-0 at half.
It sure didn't last long though. Just over a minute into the half, striker Jairo Arrieta took a pass, moved into the box and beat Joe Cannon to tie everything up. Cannon was caught guessing on the play, going down too early as the shot eluded him. Cannon still had a solid outing, making a number of strong saves. Is it enough to earn a start next week? The only person that knows that is Martin Rennie.
At 56 minutes, the 'Caps reclaimed their lead, with a brilliant individual effort by Kenny Miller. Glauber received a pass from his keeper, but was a little too nonchalant with it. Miller raced in, picked his pocket, then went one on one with Gruenebaum before slotting it past him. A well deserved goal for Miller, who had been working his butt off every minute he's been on the pitch. What a difference an off-season makes; a popular punching bag for most of his Whitecaps career, suddenly Miller is one of the best 'Caps on the pitch!
Three minutes later, Miller almost added an assist, crossing a ball for Darren Mattocks in the box, who got his head on it, but put it right into the hands of Gruenebaum. Erik Hurtado thought he had his first career MLS goal at 79 minutes. Kenny Miller took a long pass and found himself behind the Columbus backline. On a breakaway and onside, Miller selflessly passed the ball off to a streaking Hurtado, who made no mistake. However, the goal was waved off to offside, much to the disbelief of a shocked Hurtado.
The crew did manage a few chances late in the contest, but the 'Caps held on, improving to 2-0 on the season.
Man of the match? Easy. Daigo Kobayashi did most of his damage in the first half, but he was easily the pulse of the offense for as long as he was out there. He started attacks with heads up passes, or perfect lobs. He was easily the best player for both sides tonight, with Kenny Miller coming in a close second.