Maybe I'm being harsh, but Sunday's first half vs Chivas had all the vigor and quality of a rotting fish. Admittedly, the Caps did open brightly - pressing high and with purpose in the first 10 minutes or so. But after some chippy play from the hosts to start, and a red card to Chivas midfielder Augustin Pelletieri at 13', it was Vancouver that looked like they'd gone into their shell, playing for the draw, not the hosts. Static, relentlessly uncreative, and horribly unenthusiastic at times in the opening 45 were the blue-and-white, underscored by an egregious turnover on a sloppy play that handed the Goats a 1-0 lead just before the half.
Up to the half, and in the early stages of the 2nd half, Vancouver looked off-balance, Pedro Morales hardly managed to get into the match through no great fault of his own, and with Kenny Miller pushed wide right to occupy the slot normally occupied by Russell Teibert, a heavy portion of the attacking intelligence was neutralized.
Only once coach Carl Robinson had seen enough, and brought Kekutah Manneh in for Nigel-Reo Coker - and switched to a 4-4-2, did things begin to shift in Vancouver's favour. The later addition of Hurtado (Fernandez) also gave the Caps some fresh legs. Manneh's stamp on the match was immediate and palpable. Hurtado? Less so, but he did show that his touch on the ball seems to have improved significantly in the offseason.
Kudos to Robinson for making the changes to personnel and tactics, and making them early enough to impact the match, and help earn the draw.
WHITECAPS REPORT CARD (selected players)
- David Ousted B: Couldn't be faulted on the goal against, which ricocheted in off Demerit at close range. One distribution gaffe that almost cost the team another goal, but generally a decent performance.
- Steven Beitashour C: Defensively, not a bad outing. But for a FB who's touted as having an offensive thrust capability, his contribution was dismal. Pumped a number of balls into the box from the chalk on the right, but only one of any degree of quality.
- Nigel Reo-Coker C-: Reo-Coker and fellow holding mid Matias Laba still need to refine their act. NRC's giveaway was sloppy, and inexcusable with only two men behind him at the time.
- Pedro Morales Incomplete: Despite being on the field for the full 90', he didn't get enough opportunity on the ball, or assistance from forwards to do much to try and impact the match - especially in the first half - making it tough to assess his game. In some ways, his game was the opposite of the home-opener vs New York, where he was only on for 25 minutes, yet put on a clinic.
- Darren Mattocks: B-: Had his chances, and almost delivered on his own, but was most effective in his interplay with Manneh, and fully earned the assist on Manneh's marker. Probably the best, or at least most active player in the first half. Caught offsides a few times too many yesterday, and I found myself angered by his poutfest with Hurtado after a misread in the late going.
- Kekutah Manneh: B+: In almost a reprise of Manneh's match versus Dallas in Vancouver last year, Manneh comes on, energizes the side, and the team pulls out a draw. Looked dangerous right away, and probably 80% of the reason why the Caps got a point in Carson City.