It was a chance for both Vancouver’s newest striker and an old familiar face to get 45 minutes on the pitch.
New designated player Kenny Miller started and Atiba Harris replaced him at half time as the Vancouver Whitecaps reserves fell 3-1 to the Chivas USA reserves Monday. It was the first reserve team match in a month, and both an attempt to get perennial first team bench-sitters some minutes and give Whitecaps U-23 players something to do after the end of their league’s season.
As a result, the Caps had plenty of effort forward, but unsurprisingly little clicked. Scotland captain Miller, fresh from his rousing 78th minute cameo against San Jose the night before, started the game and ran hard in the misty morning at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium.
Like against San Jose, he was pacy and had a couple promising runs in on goal, though he was frustrated in his attempts to bag a first goal in a Whitecaps shirt. His last contribution to the half was being hauled down by Chivas keeper Tim Melia in the box for a penalty, after which he needed treatment but picked up no knocks.
The penalty was the highlight of an interesting day for Michael Nanchoff, who played in the centre of midfield rather than in his usual left-wing position. Unlike the rest of his performance, however, which was promising, Nanchoff’s penalty–taken, you remember, with a DP striker on the pitch–ran straight into Melia’s chest.
The penalty miss upended the flow of the game, which to that point was largely in Vancouver’s favour; a Chivas goal before half time further changed the complexion of the affair. Russell Teibert was in his best form in the first half, with a number of strong runs marking the Canaidian midfielder with distinction.
Miller gave way to Atiba Harris at half time, making his first appearance since a muscle tear on May 25. Harris wasn’t poor, but he didn’t shine in a half where the Whitecaps–21 shots on the game, with 11 on goal– were frustrated. The moment belonged to Kianz Froese, who had a solo run to bury in the Chivas net after burning three defenders. It would stand as the Caps’ only goal.
Froese was one of five PDL players to get a look at the reserve level, a reflection of the lack of games for U23 players after the league closes for the summer and lack of development opportunities overall. (Michael McColl of AFTN has a great piece on this, and I wrote about it for the Ubyssey in April.) Overall, of the 15 players who figured in Monday’s game, 10 have played 90 minutes or less in the MLS all season. Of the other four, Atiba Harris has been injured for two months, and Matt Watson hasn’t played in three months.
There are only three reserve games left. That should be enough.
Paul Rennie, Whitecaps FC assistant coach
On whether the playing time benefited Kenny Miller:
“Yeah, he needs minutes. I thought, you see the first half performance from Kenny, his movement and the chances he creates, the space he creates for a lot of players. Kenny Miller will be a fantastic addition to the squad and he’s someone I can’t wait to be working with on a regular basis.”
On the lesson Nanchoff learned in the game:
“Nanchoff played a different position from where he usually does, he was in the middle of the park and he was very, very busy, as he usually is. He missed his penalty, it’s the first penalty he’s missed in 24, 25, he was telling me, but these things happen. I think his reaction after that shows that he’s got the hunger and desire to do well. He was fantastic today.”
On how Harris looked coming back:
“Great. Atiba’s been out for a long time, and he looked a little bit rusty at the start, but as the game went on I think he grew in confidence and had some great touches. It was good to have him back on the field. We need options now and we won’t rush him. He was on the bench yesterday and we’ll use him sparingly at the moment until he’s fully up and running. But I thought he contributed in the second half, he’s a great big target man to have and he’s excellent with his feet and he’s a great lad as well, so I’m delighted with his performance.”
Vancouver Whitecaps FC reserves: Brad Knighton; Jordan Harvey (Bobby Jhutty 63’), James Farenhorst, Carlyle Mitchell, Greg Klazura; Etienne Barbara, Matt Watson (Alex Marrello 78’), Michael Nanchoff, Russell Teibert; Kianz Froese (Gagandeep Dosanjh 72’), Kenny Miller (Atiba Harris 45’)
Unused subs: Brian Sylvestre