ORLANDO, FL - Call it against the run of play. Call it a smash and grab. Call it whatever you want, but the fact of the matter is that the Vancouver Whitecaps strutted out of the Citrus Bowl tonight with all three points in hand.
Carl Robinson's team featured three changes to the starting XI compared to the team that took to the pitch against the Chicago Fire last weekend. Nicolas Mezquida, Gershon Koffie and Diego Rodriguez all drew into the side and replaced Mauro Rosales, Russell Teibert and Pa Modou Kah respectively.
One may assume that Robbo was making a tactical switch by pairing Koffie alongside Matías Laba in a defensive midfield role in order to make life a little more difficult for Kaká, and it's questionable whether or not the gamble worked. Previously when Robbo has started Koffie instead Teibert the Ghanian midfielder's performances have not completely justified the manager's decision to make the switch.
This afternoon Koffie had a tough start and was eventually shown the yellow card in the 20th minute for what one can only assume was for persistent fouling after he chopped down Orlando's Eric Avila. Once he was on a card it was fairly apparent that he was playing somewhat restrained, and the Caps did not look as strong down the middle thereafter.
But I digress.
Whitecaps striker Octavio Rivero, who was looking to make it three goals in three matches, was denied an early penalty when he was pulled down inside the Orlando 18-yard box by OCSC's Seb Hines in just the 5th minute. Vancouver's appeals for a penalty kick fell on deaf ears as referee Jorge Gonzalez waved play on.
Barely two minutes later Orlando had their first opportunity going forward after Pedro Morales clumsily gave the ball away in the midfield. Orlando's Kaká and Kevin Molino looked dangerous as they exchanged passes, but the play was broken up calmly by Vancouver's Rodriguez, who was making his MLS debut. Rodriguez had a solid outing on Vancouver's backline partnering well with Kendall Waston.
The Caps dodged a bullet just after the half hour when Waston charged into Molino inside the Caps' 18-yard box. Molino had beaten the big Costa Rican and was racing to catch up with the ball. Perhaps it was partially due to the fact the Molino was unlikely to reach the ball, or perhaps it was because the referee didn't get a clean look at the incident that kept him from pointing to the spot. Whatever the reason, Waston and the Whitecaps were very fortunate not to have given away a penalty on that occasion.
Ironically, despite the numerous turnovers and the severe lack of anything from the the Caps in the Orlando third of the pitch during the first half, it was the Vancouver who had the two best opportunities to head into the break with the advantage.
In the 34th minute a combination of an inch-perfect pass from Morales and the speed of Rivero caught the Orlando backline off guard. Rivero managed to put the ball under City 'keeper Donovan Ricketts, but the big Jamaican managed to get a tiny piece of the ball. As the shot skipped lazily towards the Orlando goal Rivero and the Whitecaps could only watch helplessly as the ball missed the near post by a matter of inches.
Two minutes later the largely anonymous Kekuta Manneh floated a cross deep into the OCSC box. The Lion's Hines managed to get a head to the ball, but instead of clearing the danger the ball instead dropped to the feet of Rivero, who fired a shot off the crossbar.
After the match restarted it was business as usual - Orlando not making the most of their chances and the Whitecaps' attack failing to produce in the Orlando third of the pitch.
Just after the hour mark Robinson prepared to make his first changes to his team, but he almost had to deal with having a man sent off when Manneh was given a yellow card for a dangerous two-footed lunge at Aurelien Collin. It was his final say in the match because shortly thereafter Robbo brought on Kianz Froese and Erik Hurtado for Manneh and the equally unimpressive Mezquida.
In the 70th minute there was a scary moment when Whitecaps fullback Sam Adekugbe collided with Ricketts deep inside the Orlando box. Adekugbe lay on the ground writhing in agony for several minutes before he was eventually taken off the pitch on a stretcher. At the time of publication of this article there has been no update on his condition, but the official Whitecaps FC Twitter account has confirmed that Adekugbe has been taken to a local hospital for further examination.
As the match entered it's final stages both sides tried desperately to find a goal. The Whitecaps came very close five minutes from full time when Waston almost poked a Steven Beitashour cross into the back of Ricketts' goal.
Both sides exchanged chances in the dying moments, but it was the Whitecaps that stole all three points like a thief in the night. As the final seconds of stoppage time ticked away the Caps were awarded a free kick deep inside the Orlando half. Morales put the ball into the box and Rivero calmly met it with a diving header. Ricketts was unable to stop El Cabeza's third quality scoring chance of the match, and just like last week the Uruguayan's late goal won the match for the Whitecaps.
Three goals in three matches, including two match winning goals on the road, has taught us something:
Octavio Rivero is the real deal.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Octavio Rivero
Referee: Jorge Gonzalez
90' + 6' - VAN - Octavio Rivero (Pedro Morales)
Shots: Orlando 12 - Vancouver 9
Shots on Target: Orlando 1 - Vancouver 3
Saves: Orlando 2 - Vancouver 1
Fouls: Orlando 17 - Vancouver 6
Offsides: Orlando 1 - Vancouver 0
Corners: Orlando 4 - Vancouver 3
22' - VAN - Gershon Koffie
36' - VAN - Sam Adekugbe
44' - VAN - Octavio Rivero
65' - VAN - Kekuta Manneh
78' - ORL - Aurelien Collin
90' + 5' - VAN - Jordan Harvey
Orlando City SC
1.Donovan Ricketts; 27.Rafael Ramos, 78.Aurelien Collin, 3.Seb Hines, 20.Brek Shea; 5.Amobi Okugo, 17.Darwin Ceren; 18.Kevin Molino, 10.Kaká, 12.Eric Avila; 15.Pedro Ribeiro (21.Cyle Larin 72')
Substitutes not used
36.Earl Edwards, 4.Sean St Ledger, 6.Tony Cascio, 14.Luke Boden, 23.Conor Donovan, 35.Bryan Rochez
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour, 4.Kendall Waston, 18.Diego Rodríguez, 3.Sam Adekugbe (2.Jordan Harvey 75'); 15.Matías Laba, 28.Gershon Koffie; 9.Nicolás Mezquida (38.Kianz Froese 67'), 77.Pedro Morales, 23.Kekuta Manneh (19.Erik Hurtado 67'); 29.Octavio Rivero
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 11.Darren Mattocks, 26.Tim Parker, 31.Russell Teibert