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Report Card: The 2014 Cascadia Cup Champions!

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There's not much to criticize on a night when a forward finally scored, the Caps won a trophy, a homegrown player made his debut, and the playoffs inched even closer. However, it is a report card, so I'll try.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

What a result.

Friday night’s game is sure to stay fresh in the memories of Whitecaps fans for years to come. After all the overtly pessimistic pre-match talk, I was almost prepared to write more of an obituary than a report card. What kind of a team could ever overcome the top-of-the-west, DP-loaded Seattle Sounders at a packed CenturyLink Field? The Vancouver Whitecaps, of course.

Russell Teibert (A)

An A+ performance if it weren't for the hair (I’m joking, but it does look ridiculous)… The Whitecaps’ "future captain" was at his best today. It seems the young Canadian has been well imbued with the leadership qualities of former Caps like Nigel Reo-Coker and Jay DeMerit. Players like Teibert, who exude spirit and heart, are what glue a team together. When Gershon Koffie was injured over two months ago, many fans (myself included) worried that Teibert, who, up until that point, had been used mostly as a utility player, would have trouble filling the Ghanaian’s boots. However, after enduring a tough run of games, it seems Teibert and Matias Laba have found some much needed chemistry. They defended the backline resolutely and allowed the forwards to counter quickly and with freedom.

Kekuta Manneh (A)

It’s amazing how a goal can completely overhaul a fan’s perspective. At the start of the game I found myself watching a nervy looking Manneh being shut down by a sturdy Seattle defence. He seemed a shadow of the phenom we’d witnessed at Centurylink last year. There was a chance at goal, and things looked promising, but the game settled back down. Then came Obafemi Martins. His cleat to Manneh’s hip looked painful, but it did the trick in knocking the jitters right out of the young Gambian. After a short stint on the sidelines for treatment, Manneh rocketed onto a sublime Morales pass and deked out a helpless Chad Marshall. Manneh then slotted the ball through the legs of Stephan Frei. Of course, adrenaline rushes only last so long. Manneh’s hip didn't make it past halftime. Fortunately for the Caps, it didn’t need to (see Kianz Froese below).

David Ousted (A+)

There were no amazing reflexes or fingertip saves on display from the Great Dane, but there didn’t need to be. The Whitecaps’ defence was rock solid, and Ousted did his part to calmly claim countless crosses (say that five times fast) and smash the ball out of harm’s way all night long. It speaks to the quality of the keeper when the only way Seattle could get a clear-cut chance was to cynically foul him. Shutting out the Sounders in Seattle to win the Cascadia Cup warrants an A+ every day of the week. Not to mention, Ousted is now the league leader in clean sheets.

The Entire Backline: (Steven Beitashour, Andy O’Brien, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey) (A+)

It takes some nerve to park the bus for practically an entire half over just a 1-0 lead. Carl Robinson acknowledged the "Soccer Gods" for the clean sheet after the game, but credit must go to a fantastic back four. Much has been made of Kendall Waston’s contributions since his mid-season transfer from Saprissa, and despite his (inevitable) yellow card and ensuing suspension, I have nothing but praise for the way he played. However, the defence is not just a one-man show. There were three other players that were just as instrumental in the clean sheet and the win: Andy O’Brien, who showed all of his premier league experience in shutting down Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey; Steven Beitashour, who made numerous important blocks and worked tirelessly to cut off Lamar Neagle; and Jordan Harvey, who commanded the left back position and was strong in his shielding of the ball. For all the gripes this year over our lack of scorers, it must be said that the Caps' backline is near the best it’s ever been.

Substitutes: (Kianz Froese, Mehdi Ballouchy, Nicolas Mezquida) (A)

At first glance, the Whitecaps’ list of substitutes looked the thinnest it’s been this season. Suspensions, injuries and international call-ups meant that Kianz Froese, one of the Caps newest homegrown signings, made his way onto the bench. This in itself was only a minor note. The bench is usually as far as the Caps’ homegrown players get. Bryce Alderson and Caleb Clarke will surely testify to that. However, with the sudden injury to Kekuta Manneh, the pitch didn’t look so distant to Froese after all. As it happened, the young Canadian was Robbo’s first choice of replacement. With "Kianz" emblazoned above the number 38, and his rookie haircut still freshly apparent, Froese trotted out to the left wing to pick up where Manneh had left off. Now, over the past few years, Whitecaps rookies have tended to be pacey, exciting, dangerous, but overwhelmingly raw. Hurtado, Mattocks, and even Manneh have been known for coughing up the ball and unfortunate loose touches. Froese exhibited none of these attributes. His touch was sublime, and his strength was apparent. Apart from appearing out of position a couple of times, his debut was everything a Caps fan could hope for.

Ballouchy and Mezquida were very solid as well.

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