The Vancouver Whitecaps stayed perfect on opening night, as they downed the NY Red Bulls by a final score of 4-1. Now, Thierry Henry didn't play in the match, which takes away a little bit of the shine, but the 'Caps still put together a valiant 90-minute effort in front of a sell-out crowd at B.C. Place.
Beitashour O'Brien Demerit Harvey
Teibert Miller (83'Manneh) Fernandez (73'Mezquida)
Bench: Tornaghi, Leveron, Hurtado, Manneh, Koffie, Mezquida, Morales
This match would have a little added drama, as it would be officiated by replacement officials. While it could have been a disaster reminiscent of last year's NFL laugher versus the Packers and Seahawks, it actually wasn't half bad. I'd even go as far as to say it was a better than average reffed match, although maybe that's just not saying much about the quality of certified MLS officials. While a few questionable calls were made, they got the big one right; They almost missed it, but the right call was made on a NY hand ball in the box, which would eventually lead to the Whitecaps first goal. At worst, you could definitely argue that the referee was card happy, but it didn't affect the match too much.
The 'Caps began slowly, almost heistant, not registering a good chance until a free kick in the 30th minute. It would take a slip-up from Red Bulls defender Richard Eckersley, who took a Matias Laba ball in the arm while in the box, to help break the match open. It sent Kenny Miller to the line, where he buried a nicely placed shot for the Whitecaps first goal of 2014.
The put away goal would come shortly into the second half, when Sebastian Fernandez, playing in his first MLS match, would let a scorcher loose into the top right corner of the Red Bulls net. Luis Robles managed to get a fingertip on the ball, but it was too little too late.
The Red Bulls seemed to become unhinged after that, and a major defensive breakdown saw new Whitecap Pedro Morales find a wide open Kenny Miller streaking down the middle of the pitch. He would tap the ball over Robles' head for his second of the night, and a commanding 3-0 Whitecaps lead.
Adding to the Red Bulls' misery was Morales, who scored off a nice feed from Nigel Reo-Coker to make it 4-1 in the dying minutes of the match.
The Red Bulls would get a header goal from Wright-Phillips in garbage time, but otherwise, the match was really never in doubt for the boys in deep blue.
What Went Right
Kenny Miller proved that he still has some gas left in the tank, with his two goals on the night. He's made it known that he wants to stay in Vancouver past June, so it was very nice to see the veteran Scotsman playing with a fire lit under his ass. When he got his chances, he buried them. Sebastian Fernandez was one of the best players on the night, and it was his goal that really took the life out of the Red Bulls. In his first game as a Whitecap, he was given a standing ovation when he was subbed out; Not too shabby.
Jay Demerit and Andy O'Brien were beat once or twice, but the veteran center backs were rock solid for the majority of the night. The two were a great physical presence on the back line, making up for some of the poor decisions made by Steve Beitashour (more on that later). David Ousted was tested a few times, didn't need to be spectacular, and got the job done in the cage. Nigel Reo-Coker started off very slowly, but got better as the match went on and looked like his old self in the second half.
What Went Wrong
Darren Mattocks sure makes you shake your head sometimes. He had a slew of chances early on in the match, but was stymied each and every time. You can forgive that, especially because he's been snakebit for a while now, and he's trying to earn himself back into the city's good graces. What I don't like to see is the pouty, whiny attiude Mattocks brought to the match. When Mattocks was subbed off for Pedro Morales, he walked sullenly to the bench, then looked on as the crowd erupted into applause for their prized off-season acquisition. Didn't Mattocks promise to do something about his attitude in the off-season?
Hopefully it was just opening day nerves for Steve Beitashour, who was beaten a couple of times early on in his Whitecaps debut. When the match started to turn for the Whitecaps it became less of an issue, but you would hope that Stevie will be able to have a bounce-back match next weekend.
The 'Caps certainly didn't start pretty, but they put their heads down and kept going. They got a shot in the arm with the penalty, and the wonderful goal from Fernandez gave them swagger we haven't seen in quite a while. While Darren Mattocks continues to be a project, the 'Caps were able to rely on the veteran Miller, who certainly is efficient with his scoring chances. You would like to see a bit more fluidity from the midfield moving forward, but for a starting 11 with plenty of new faces, this was a very, very well done first match.
Final Score: Whitecaps 4 - 1 NY Red Bulls
Man of the Match: Kenny Miller. The old man is still a goal machine.
34' Kenny Miller VAN
49' Sebastien Fernandez, Darren Mattocks VAN
77' Kenny Miller, Pedro Morales VAN
89' Pedro Morales, Nigel Reo-Coker VAN
90+1 Bradley Wright-Phillips, Lloyd Sam RBNY