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Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo

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It was a could have been, would have been, should have been sort of night at BC Place as a last minute equaliser rescued a point on home soil for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Friday night’s festivities at BC Place started under the warm and welcoming sunshine of a beautiful May evening in Vancouver. It has to be noted though that while the weather was great, the numbers that arrived at BC Place certainly reflected the general mood around the Vancouver Whitecaps. Many supporters arrived late, or not at all, as slews of grey and red seats could be seen around the stadium.

While the viewing of the home support wasn’t the best, those that did arrive were clearly hoping for a turnaround in fortune following last week’s disappointing 1-0 loss to Minnesota United.

Carl Robinson shuffled his line-up, partly as a reflection of said 1-0 result, and partially out of necessity as Stefan Marinovic suffered a sprained left knee during training making way for Brian Rowe to make his first start for the ‘Caps.

Brett Levis also lost his place in the team after completely losing his man at the back post and allowing Miguel Ibarra in to score the winner in Minnesota. In his place, Marcel de Jong stepped in at left back.

On the whole though, Robbo opted to maintain the 4-4-2 formation the team had been working with, and started Anthony Blondell up top in partnership with Kei Kamara. While I personally felt Nico Mezquida’s contributions last week should have earned him another berth in the starting eleven, that wasn’t to be.

Almost from the kick-off, the formation and the decision to put both Kamara and Blondell nearly paid dividends as in the 2’ minute Bernie Ibini put in a first time ball that found Kei Kamara free at the back post. The rust from missing the past few weeks (save the limited minutes in the Minnesota match) showed as Kei used the pace from the cross to get power into his header, but didn’t get over top of the ball and sent it well over the crossbar.

Going into the match, it had been noted by several people including our own Ian Jones, that the danger posed by Alberth Elis down the Houston right wing would be something to watch out for. In the first half, Elis looked lively and continually took on Marcel de Jong. While the Newmarket born left back held his own quite well, Elis finally made the pressure pay in the 35’ minute as he worked a square ball into the path of Tomas Martinez. The young Argentine controlled well and quickly buried a low shot past Brian Rowe. 0-1 to the visitors.

It was deflating to say the least when it went in. It looked like Rowe had a chance to get a palm to the ball, and on the whole you have to say that the ‘Caps could have defended it better as it was a long raking diagonal ball from Boniek Garcia that picked out Elis on the left flank. Marcel de Jong stood off Elis far too much for me, and allowed him the space to control and pick out Martinez with an easy pass after that.

Encouraging signs came after that though, and I will definitely say this, the Whitecaps that many of us expected to see heading into the season were on display for parts tonight. The set piece delivery and movement, namely the delivery from Felipe Martins, was dangerous throughout the match.

In the 44’ minute Kendall Waston found himself wide open off the dead ball, and then did his best Alphonso Davies impression taking on Mauro Manotas who was back defending the set piece as a makeshift left back for Houston. Waston used a touch to poke the ball past Manotas and raced to the touchline before squaring it for his defensive partner Jose Aja at the near post.

Now I was in attendance tonight, and honestly I jumped up as soon as this went in, but the majority of people around me were stunned this found the back of the net. From nearly an impossible angle Aja’s right footed effort snuck in at Joe Willis’ near post, and upon replay my goodness it’s a thing of beauty. There are plenty of forwards in the league that would love this as their first goal, and even better as a belated 25th birthday present.

That would be it for the first half as the teams went in level.

It took some time for the second half to really get going, but the introduction of Yordy Reyna for Anthony Blondell really kicked the ‘Caps into gear. Reyna has come under scrutiny from many corners of the fanbase but he was back to his spark plug self tonight. He came on in the 69’ minute and immediately caused Adolfo Machado problems. By my count Machado fouled him three times in the channel before referee Hilario Grajeda awarded a free kick.

From the ensuing dead ball, Felipe - who’s delivery was spot on all evening - played a delicious ball for Kendall Waston to get his head on at the near post, only for Tico to be denied by a miraculous save from Willis.

I don’t play goal, but if I was a keeper, this sucker is on my highlight reel.

Reyna kept it coming after that, and following a really nice piece of play from Marcel de Jong, Yordy got into the Houston penalty area where he kept Alejandro Fuenmayor guessing, before he squared for Brek Shea who absolutely should have scored. I’m sure Brek would tell you the same thing, but he missed the sitter of sitters. It was on his left foot, and I don’t know what more Reyna could have done but that has got to find the back of the net. It just has to if you’re going to win matches.

It just felt like after that miss that it wasn’t going to be our night. Things even compounded in the 89’ minute when a deflected effort from Arturo Alvarez fell kindly to Manotas on the edge of the 18 yard box. With a quick touch Manotas swiftly smashed an effort past Brian Rowe to give the Dynamo a 2-1 lead heading into second half stoppage time.

People swore. People groaned. People left. BC Place was stunned.

For all the pressure the ‘Caps had, and the chances they created, they were trailing on home soil to a Houston team that has lost 6 times on their trips to Vancouver, and already fell to this ‘Caps team this season.

Then as the game was in its dying moments, the ‘Caps won a free kick about 30 yards out. For all the missed chances, this was one of the reasons that makes you love football.

Look the ‘Caps had a boat load of chances, and they should have won, but they cashed one in that literally snatched a point out of the jaws of defeat.

In the 93’ minute, Felipe played the dead ball out wide to Kei Kamara who headed back across the face of goal. The weight was good and both Efrain Juarez and Kendall Waston raced towards the ball. With Willis stranded having come towards Kamara off the free kick Waston had a wide open net to nod in his first goal of the season.

I know the comments coming. This was disappointing not to win. There were slews of chances in the second half. Cross bars were hit, sitters were fluffed, so on and so forth. But the team got a result and responded to a late goal from the visitors. Am I slightly disappointed? Yes. Did I jump up and down hugging people when that equaliser went in? ABSOLUTELY.

What were your thoughts from tonight? How did you think Yordy Reyna fared? Did you enjoy seeing two strikers up top and a genuine desire to score some goals? How about birthday boy Jose Aja getting a peach for a first MLS goal? Join the discussion and let us know.