CARSON, CA - The Vancouver Whitecaps tried once again to get their very first win at the StubHub! Center in Los Angeles, but fell behind early to the LA Galaxy and had their hopes effectively snuffed out by the half hour mark.
This was never going to be a an easy match for the Whitecaps considering midfield stalwarts Gershon Koffie and Matías Laba were not available due to injury and suspension. Without his usual pair of defensive midfielders available, manager Carl Robinson switched formations from his favored 4-2-3-1 to a 4-4-2 diamond featuring Russell Teibert at the base of the diamond and Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks as the attacking duo up top. Despite the makeshift midfield, Whitecaps fans were hoping that the Whitecaps would have an advantage over a Galaxy team that was playing their third match in just a week.
It did not start well for Vancouver.
Coming into the match LA forward Robbie Keane already had two points from the previous two meetings between these clubs in 2014, and he increased his point tally just four minutes into the match when the soon-to-be-retired Landon Donovan managed to get a foot on Keane's shot-cum-cross to open the scoring. This also marked the end of David Ousted's run of clean sheets as he conceded his first goal in 325 minutes of play.
Despite conceding the early goal, the Whitecaps did attempt to get back into the match and controlled the possession and tempo of the match for some time. Sadly for the Whitecaps and all their hard work, the Galaxy bagged another goal just after the half hour mark when Keane misfired on his shot and the ball landed at the feet of the fortunate Marcelo Sarvas, who also benefited from some shoddy marking and ball watching from the Whitecaps to put LA in in firm control of the match.
After the break Robinson attempted to inject some life into his squad by bringing on the newly acquired Mauro Rosales for Sebastián Fernández in the Caps' midfield. Although the introduction of Rosales, and the subsequent substitutions of Erik Hurtado and Kendall Waston, did not produce any goals for the Whitecaps, we saw the energy, grit and determination that is an integral part of Rosales' game. This type of grit is exactly what the rest of the team will have to find and play with if the Caps are to secure a post-season berth for just the second time in club history.
The match ended on somewhat of a sour note in the 90th minute when defender Johnny Leverón was issued a straight red card for his tackle on former San Jose Earthquake Alan Gordon. Replays showed that while the tackle was a foul, it was not worthy of a red card, and one would hope that the Whitecaps will shortly be in touch with the MLS Disciplinary Committee to appeal referee Allen Chapman's rash decision.
After it was all said and done, the Whitecaps floundered to a 2-0 defeat and could only manage three shots on Jaime Penedo all evening long. The Galaxy, on the other hand, managed 22 shots, out of which seven found their way on target. LA also bettered Vancouver in other statistical categories as well, most noticeably in possession in which they dominated Vancouver 60.2% to 39.8%.
Despite the disappointing result, the play of Rosales and Waston provided a glimmer of hope for Vancouver fans. The Whitecaps still have managed to hang on to the fifth, and final, playoff spot, but could drop out of the top five if the Portland Timbers defeat the Seattle Sounders Sunday night.
Current calculations and predictions put the cut off to make the MLS Playoffs at around 48 points, so the Caps will need to find another 15 points from their remaining 10 games to qualify for the playoffs. For a team that has only won two matches in the past two months, this seems like a tall order considering the massive games that are coming up in the coming weeks. It's time to start taking care of business or their post-season aspirations may soon slip through their fingers.
It doesn't get any easier with a huge Cascadia Cup match against the Timbers at BC Place next weekend. Buckle up, Whitecaps fans - it's gut-check time.
Man of the Match: Kekuta Manneh
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