In what seems to be a recurring theme for the season, the Vancouver Whitecaps were forced to see out a match with only 10 men on the pitch. But instead of having to battle back from a deficit the Whitecaps dug in their heels with a fine defensive effort to earn a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City.
With only four days of rest after last Saturday’s victory over FC Dallas, the Whitecaps rested Andrew Jacobson, Kekuta Manneh, Octavio Rivero and Nicolás Mezquida in favor of Russell Teibert, Christian Bolanos, Masato Kudo and, most notably, Pedro Morales, who was returning from injury.
Similarly, Sporting Kansas City were only on three days rest and also made four changes to their lineup, resting Tim Melia, Dom Dwyer, Graham Zusi and Brad Davis after Sunday’s loss to San Jose.
The Whitecaps held a slight edge in possession for the first ten minutes, continuing with the calm starts they've had against Dallas and Real Salt Lake, making moves only when opportunities presented themselves. On the 13’ minute mark, Teibert stripped the ball away from Benny Feilhaber and sent Kudo on a long run from center. Though Kudo’s shot was ultimately blocked, success was right around the corner (sorry for the pun).
Reminiscent of Jordan Harvey’s goal from Saturday, Tim Parker was able to flick Cristian Techera’s first cornerkick on to Kendall Waston on the edge of the six-yard box, only to have Amadou Dia block the effort and force a second, and much more fortunate, corner.
On Techera’s next identically-placed corner, he instead found Bolanos roughly 12 yards off the endline, who was able to drive a leaping, left-footed volley into the top corner of the net:
Vancouver would not make it out of the first half with the lead, however, as Sporting was able equalize only 13 minutes later.
A pressing Saad Abdul-Salaam was able to return a flicked ball back to Lawrence Olum, who turned to fire from roughly 22 yards out. His shot, though not well struck, led Vancouver’s backline to begin clearing out the penalty area, just as Diego Rubio timed a perfect run to deflect Olum’s shot past David Ousted:
Minutes later, SKC forced Ousted to conjure some more magic to keep the score even at one-all:
From then on, the first half proved to be rather mundane, save for the ominous yellow card to Waston, for repeatedly knocking at the heels of Rubio.
And why did this foul prove to be so ominous? Why, we were treated to another Waston yellow card only six minutes in from half time! Albeit, this was a necessary professional foul after an awkward back pass, but the foul forced referee’s Armando Villareal, and unfortunately that hand was holding a red card.
With the Whitecaps reduced to 10-men, SKC coach Peter Vermes went in for the kill, bringing in Dwyer (57’), Davis (64’), and Zusi (75’) in short order. The irony in all of this is that Dwyer only appeared after Waston’s dismissal, meaning we were not going to get the ferocious showdown we were previously promised.
Nevertheless, the Whitecaps were forced to defend, defend, defend for the last forty minutes, resulting in the early substitution (and limited return to action) of Morales for Pa Modou Kah.
As you can imagine, Sporting held the majority of possession for the remainder of the match; Vancouver ended up finishing with a total of 31 clearances, 9 of which came in the last 10 minutes, to SKC’s 11 for the entire match (and the overall possession was still nearly 50/50).
Ultimately, Vancouver held down the fort until a last gasp effort in extra time where a free kick was earned along the left flank.
At first I thought it was for a foul earned by Manneh (don’t get me started on some of Villareal’s wrong-way calls against both teams tonight), but a recording I watched later (thank goodness for PVR) shows the referee looking to his fourth official for confirmation on a hand ball. A quick rewind, and I can plainly see Roger Espinoza shove the ball while on the ground after running into Matt Besler.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t an intentional hand ball a straight red card?
That may be too much to ask for in injury time, as was a possible PK for Nuno Coelho hacking down Harvey on the ensuing free kick, but the Whitecaps held on for a 1-1 draw, and now move on to face New York City FC next Saturday.