The Vancouver Whitecaps have a pulse, and they're back in the post-season picture. After a crushing 3-0 loss to the Portland Timbers last week, the Vancouver Whitecaps regrouped at their fortress and topped a very good Real Salt Lake side by a 2-1 final score. It looked like the Whitecaps would be shooting blanks again after a scoreless first half ended with a missed Pedro Morales penalty, however the Captain was able to regain his footing, and scored twice in the second half to stake the club to victory.
The Whitecaps went with the exact same starting eleven as last week, with Erik Hurtado the lone striker up top. However, the story of this match was all Pedro Morales. It was mentioned a few times in the TSN broadcast that Morales was fighting fatigue, having effectively played for seventeen straight months. Nonetheless, he was in the thick of the action all night, starting with a nice chance at the 4th mintue. Sebastian Fernandez danced past Kyle Beckerman before feeding Morales with a quick pass in the box, but Morales redirected the ball over the net.
Morales was center stage again right before the half, as the Whitecaps were awarded an admittedly weak penalty kick. Morales, who had been perfect through six attempts on the season, was stopped cold by 25 year old Jeff Attinella. Morales didn't seem to get everything on his low shot to the left, and Attinella read the play well, diving down and stopping the shot with his outstretched arms.
In the second half, RSL added to the 'Caps woes with a goal by Nat Borchers in the 57th minute, a header off a corner. The 'Caps were suddenly playing from behind, and it looked like they may be in for yet another choke job. The football gods were obviously appeased with some sort of sacrifice the team made before the game though, as the 'Caps were given another chance in the 62nd minute when they were awarded a much more deserved penalty, this time on Erik Hurtado. Morales stepped up to the line again and this time made no mistake, rifling the shot home to knot things up at 1-1.
With some swagger back in their play, the Whitecaps smelled blood and pushed ahead for the second goal. It came in the 77th minute, started by a great play from second half substitution Kekuta Manneh. Manneh took the ball deep on the left side, carrying it almost to the goal line before sending it back into the middle. Steven Beitashour read the play well and jumped in, launching a shot that Morales was able to deflect into the net. Morales went a bit overboard in his celebrations, ripping his shirt off in front of the 19,000 strong at BC Place. He was awarded a yellow card for his actions, but to be honest, I don't think anybody in the building cared too much.
The Whitecaps have let us down plenty in recent weeks, but not this time. They dug deep, they rose to the occasion, and they reclaimed 5th place in the Western Conference. That being said, we thought they had turned a corner when they topped the San Jose Earthquake 2-0 back on September 10th, only for the club to drop important games to FC Dallas and the Timbers in the next two weeks. While the club scored twice today, the offensive issues remain; Namely, Pedro Morales cannot be the only person on this team to score goals.
However, I'm being an optimist today, because there were some really good signs. Sebastian Fernandez looked better, Kekuta Manneh looked good, and Erik Hurtado put in a nice, hardworking shift as well. They beat a good team, the Captain earned his paycheque, and the 'Caps live to fight another day.
Now, let's hope the next effort is this good.
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