If it was a showcase, at least it was an entertaining one.
A red card helped give the Vancouver Whitecaps space to run to a 2-0 win over FC Edmonton on a brisk Wednesday night at B.C. Place. Because of manager Martin Rennie’s rotation strategy, you couldn’t call it a reserve team, as it was a side of players who are being surveyed for their usefulness in the harder days to come and veterans given a chance to answer for themselves. For this year’s talented crop of Whitecaps rookies, it was a great time. For Darren Mattocks, it was not.
Edmonton, who play in the second-division North American Soccer League, had given the ‘Caps trouble in the away leg of the home-at-home Voyageurs Cup semifinal. But though they tried (and largely, succeeded) to fill the space in the first half, they couldn’t get the ball up the pitch with any speed to try and counter attack.
By the second half, the opportunity was lost. Vancouver attacked with heavy pressure in the opening, and six minutes in Adrian Leroy clipped Corey Hertzog, the last man back. It wasn’t vicious, and it may not have been intentional, but there was contact and it was denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity. It had to be red. Edmonton’s wings were clipped, and the Whitecaps were free to romp.
Romp they did. A host of youngsters got their chance, and the offense in the second half felt like a fun place to be. Between Kekuta Manneh, Tommy Heinemann, Erik Hurtado and Corey Hertzog, players who have seemed to be easing into their roles got a chance to run rampant. Hertzog’s stunner was amazing, launching a cannon from forty yards that bounced past Edmonton’s Lance Parker. When Teibert’s ghostly corner got in, a gift from Edmonton that sealed the end of their night, he was mobbed on the sideline. Heinemann got a ovation on his exit, a sign of a crowd warming to his robust play after an uneven start to the season.
If the second half was a new-look 4-3-3, the first half was an old-school 4-4-2 diamond, with Jun Marques Davidson, who didn’t do much, in the pocket and Camilo, who was great, up top reminiscent of 2012. But there wasn’t as much of the air of mirth due to the continuing trials of Darren Mattocks.
Mattocks is snake-bit. He’s looked rough before, but this wasn’t rough; he was much better today at getting into position. But things just aren’t going his way. Opportunities burble over the line into goal kicks. His brightest moment, a great ball from Gershon Koffie, rocketed into the crossbar. Rennie made the call at the half-time whistle to give Mattocks a rest, which bore out in a win, ultimately. Mattocks can only solve this cold streak with a goal, but a night like tonight proves that people are ready to take him on.
The defensive side of the field was fine, and with a lack of pressure it’s hard to pass judgement or declare great performances. Brad Knighton, amid speculation that he could swing for Joe Cannon’s starter spot again, had neither an outstanding or a bad game, as befits a three-save clean sheet. Neither did Johnny Leveron, the Honduran centre-back easing his way to fitness after visa trouble.
Ultimately, after the red card, less and less was at stake. But after a couple of weeks of tough, dour fare, a respectable crowd of 14,000 was pleased with a win and a shot at Canadian championship gold. Montreal, fresh from an unbelievable 6-0 romp of TFC, await.
Stats after the jump.