On a rainy night in the Rose City the Vancouver Whitecaps staved off a late Stabæk comeback to win their second game of the Simple Invitational 3-2. A fast start and several deadly attacks put the ‘Caps comfortably up 3-0 at halftime before a couple of unlucky goals brought the Norwegians to within one. Nicolas Mezquida opened the scoring with a neat finish past Stabæk’s stranded keeper in the 13th minute, and then Darren Mattocks converted a penalty (23rd minute) and slotted in another goal just before halftime. Notably, Marco Bustos assisted on Mezquida’s goal (Bustos’ third point in three games) and Ben McKendry set up Mattocks’ second with a stylish through ball.
Despite the dominant first-half score line, the ‘Caps back-line looked shaky at times. A number of Stabæk passes opened up acres of space in behind Diego Rodriguez and Christian Dean, and the skillful, direct dribbling of the Stabæk forwards put the Whitecaps under a lot of pressure. If it weren't for some great goalkeeping from Paolo Tornaghi and a couple of shanked Stabæk shots, the game could have been much closer.
The second half was full of missed opportunities for both sides. Darren Mattocks couldn’t quite find his hat-trick goal and Stabæk seemed to be channeling the Whitecaps’ 2014 striker corps. It wasn’t until a (rather soft) penalty was called against the ‘Caps in the 67th that the Norwegians finally found the net. Next, a few subs were made, giving us a chance to see Vancouver’s two new Colombian trialists: Harold Gomez and Ruben Anchico. Unfortunately, Gomez’s first real influence on the game was a sloppy own goal, but he later seemed to make amends with a couple of strong tackles. Anchico, on the other hand seemed entirely un-noteworthy. Of course, it’s difficult to tell how good players are based on so little playing time, but it’s also incredibly fun, so feel free to debate in the comments down below.
On the bright side, the Whitecaps attack looked refreshingly sharp. Nicolas Mezquida was buzzing all night and Darren Mattocks showed flashes of goal-scoring form. There was more of a counter-attacking style to the Whitecaps’ play tonight, and it made the game more open and exciting. Carl Robinson usually favours a more possession-based style of play, but tonight’s game offered something a bit tactically different, and I liked it.