What's the old saying? Something like, you have to be good to be lucky, or lucky to be good? In any case, it looks like the football gods smiled upon the Vancouver Whitecaps in San Jose last night, as the 'Caps were extremely lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw.
Lineup gets Overhaul
With Kenny Miller out with injury, it was thought that Camilo would once again take his spot in the starting 11. Well, Martin Rennie went in a different direction, making three crucial changes to the lineup that loss to Chivas USA a week ago. First, Darren Mattocks was taken out, probably more for rest than anything. Corey Hertzog took his place. Then, Camilo had his spot nabbed by the young Erik Hurtado, who seems to be gaining favor with Martin Rennie every time he steps foot on the pitch. Lastly, Russell Tiebert, who most fans have been hoping to see for a while now, took the spot of Gershon Koffie.
Wondo Was Wonderful
We spent the better part of a week discussing Chris Wondolowski and his struggles so far this season. Just two goals on 20 shots, with his club sitting at a .500 record. Well, Wondo must've heard, because he came storming out of the gates against the 'Caps. Before he opened the scoring 18 minutes into the match, Wondo had two great chances to beat Joe Cannon and begin a rout. The first was a great ball from the dangerous Alan Gordon that found Wondo deep inside the box. It was a little too deep though, as Cannon found the ball first and was able to cover up. That one happened just five minutes into the match.
11 minutes later, Nigel Reo-Coker turned the ball over near the center line. One quick pass to former 'Cap Shea Salinas, who's deft pass found a streaking Wondo, and Joe Cannon was forced to, again, come up big. He wouldn't be that lucky six minutes later though; Alain Rochat would turn the ball over deep in 'Caps territory, and once again, two quick passes would spring 'Wondo. This time Salinas started the chain of events, feeding Gordon, who's beautiful touch pass found Wondo behind the backline. Wondo made no mistake, placing a perfect shot top right corner where Cannon had no chance to stop it.
The 'Caps didn't have much of an answer for the 'Quakes high powered attack. Corey Hertzog got his first chance of the night on 24 minutes, but he couldn't convert a Daigo Kobayashi ball. The creativity that had been lauded earlier this season from Reo-Coker and Kobayashi was not to be seen early in this match. The 'Caps were having trouble getting anything going.
At 46 minutes, Shea Salinas made the Whitecaps wonder why they dumped him, going around the usually-solid Alain Rochat and getting a shot on Joe Cannon. Cannon was easily the best 'Cap on the pitch this day, and was able to make the save.
The second half was different though; The 'Caps showed some pushback as they tried to equalize. Erik Hurtado showed off his elusiveness and speed, breaking into the box to get a quality shot off. Unfortunately, he also showed his trouble with finish, as the shot was high and wide. Hurtado is going to be a great player in this league, and perhaps beyond, but right now he's cursed with a rookies finish.
Remember, I used the term 'lucky' in the opening of this review. I say lucky, because, well, you all know what happened at 63 minutes.
Alan Gordon and defender Victor Bernardez needed to change their boots, racing off the pitch to do so. That put the Earthquake down two men, and guess what? They weren't allowed back on until play was stopped. The rule was not well known, (especially by Gordon, in a piece that came out today) and it gave the 'Caps the break they were looking for. As the Earthquake scrambled to cover the extra ground, Daigo Kobayashi found himself with the ball just outside the box. He turned and tried a shot that deflected right to Corey Hertzog, who immediately smacked the ball past Keeper Jon Busch, who looked completely surprised. Like I said; luck. Perhaps my favorite quote of the night came from the dumbfounded San Jose broadcast, which said, "The Quakes were voluntarily playing 2 men down. They were voluntarily... A powerplay! I mean, come on guys!"
The last ten minutes of the match had nothing to do with luck, and everything to do with Joe Cannon. The final 9 minutes of the match would feature an incredible 6 corner kicks for the Earthquakes, who were throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the boys from 'Van City. The best chance came at 3 minutes into the 4 minutes of stoppage time, when 'Quake Sam Cronin took a header from Steven Lenhart. Cronin walked in off the right side, picked his place, then rattled his shot off the framework. The rebound landed at the feet of Wondolowski, while Joe Cannon raced to get back into position. Simultaneously, Wondo began to take his shot, Cannon dove to get in the way, and YP Lee got in the shooting lane. It would be Lee that would ultimately block the shot which was then cleared away. Wondo couldn't believe it; neither could the fans. Hell, I think some of the Whitecaps were perplexed to not see the ball go in.
Cannon would be pressed into action seconds later on an Earthquake corner, punching the ball out of bounds. That lead to yet another corner, which found the head of Defender Dan Gargan. His header looked to be spot on, but Cannon went to the ground to deflect the shot, saving the Whitecaps proverbial bacon yet again. He made me look like a complete idiot, because I've been clamoring for a Brad Knighton appearance for a couple of weeks now.
In any case, that would be it, as the 'Caps escaped with 1 point on their three match road swing.
We've been wondering for a while if the loss of Jay Demerit would truly impact this club, given three defenders on the backline are more than capable to shoulder the load in his absence. Last night was the first true indication, as Brad Rusin struggled with Chris Wondolowski all night long. Wondo had a slew of chances and easily could have had three or four goals on the night. If Rusin can't keep up his play, then we might be looking at someone else filling the void. How's Johnny Leveron doing?
This was, by far, a banner match for the Whitecaps. When San Jose put it into full gear, it looked like the Whitecaps just didn't have any answers. They needed a two man powerplay to score a goal, and even then, it took a deflection in the box that landed right on Corey Hertzog's feet to make that happen. I'm not saying the 'Caps were horrible, but it's clear there are tons of improvements still to be made for this club. In the post match chat on here, one of the comments referred to the 'Caps as 'green.' Sounds about right.
Man of the Match?
Joe 'Freaking' Cannon. 5 saves, all of the incredibly difficult variety.