In The Cold Light Of Day: Winning Start For Work In Progress
'First Kick' is in the record books. Three points, a clean sheet, a debut goal for Sebastien Le Toux and a winning start for Martin Rennie's Whitecaps era.
If you were writing the script the night before, you wouldn't have gone down a much different path than this. Maybe add in a few more goals and some Montreal red cards, but all in all it was a very pleasing afternoon.
There were a lot of positives to take from the match, but, strange as this will sound to some, one of the most pleasing aspects of the performance for me was that the 2012 Whitecaps are still very much a work in progress.
If we'd got off to a flyer, winning by five goals, everything clicking in to place, total domination, then where do you go from there? How do you keep the players' feet firmly routed on the ground for the long season ahead? How do you stave off the media hype and fan expectations?
Instead we had a hard fought victory against a Montreal side that gave a better account of themselves than I expected.
And there was room for improvements.
So nothing for us to be getting too carried away with just yet, as Head Coach Martin Rennie acknowledged after the match:
<i>"It's a great three points for us, but at the end of the day, that's all it really is so far, three points."</i>
Nice to have a bit of grounding in the team this season.
I had hoped for more goals. I'm sure a lot of us did. We looked dangerous going forward, but Montreal defended resolutely for most of the game and it was two defensive lapses that led to the Caps goals.
As long as we can break down defences at least once a game, I'd happily take 1-0 and 2-0 wins all season. But can we do that and can we do that away from home in particular? What happens when we don't get the breaks? How will team react? Will they have the fight to grind out wins? These are all questions we'll see answered soon enough.
The build up play for both goals was delightful. We're building from the back a lot and already knocking the ball around the full width of the pitch to good effect. So many neat, first time touches too.
Sebastien Le Toux had a blinding debut, and his fourth minute goal was the fastest goal to open a MLS season so far.
He adds a leadership quality on the pitch and works as hard off the ball, as on it, covering a lot of ground and filling any gaps as players rush forward or defend.
Eric Hassli may not have found his way onto the scoresheet , but was fundamental in both goals, although he only gets the credit of one assist, having been hacked down in the build up to the second one.
Rennie has been telling us that he wants to work on Hassli's aerial threat and we already saw that come good with a lovely flick on for Le Toux's opening goal.
They're going to form a formidable partnership as the season goes on. There was a little bit of rustiness yesterday, understandable considering the pair didn't play a match together down in Orlando, but there was even more understanding between them and that bodes very well for the weeks and months ahead.
When speaking to Le Toux after the match he was saying how nice it was to be able to speak French to Hassli during the game. I'm sure the Montreal fans would love such a pairing!
Camilo was just Camilo. I personally regard him as the key to our attack. Sure Le Toux will bury the chances, but the Brazilian is key to him getting a lot of them this year and it was a nicely taken goal to ease the nerves in BC Place.
I would have loved to have seen what damage Darren Mattocks could have done to a tiring Montreal defence. He drew a foul within 30 seconds of coming on. Bringing him on in the 89th minute wasn't the most magical MLS debut for the guy, but he'll get his chances to shine.
You just know he would have been so fired up to play against Montreal and I think he would have got more time on the pitch if Vancouver hadn't reacted the way they did after going two up, as Martin Rennie explained post-game:
<i>"After we scored the second goal we were a little bit nervous and maybe could have calmed down a little bit quicker. But once we got calm and kept possession of the ball, I thought we managed it well and didn't give up too many chances after that."</i>
The Impact contested the game well for long periods, but definitely seemed to lack the firepower up front and the organisation at the back to be anything but basement dwellers this year.
They were somewhat fortunate to finish the game with eleven men. Felipe Martins should have picked up a second yellow for a late foul.
There is the groundings for a potentially not bad side though and if it weren't for goal-line clearances from Tyson Wahl and Davy Arnaud efforts, who knows what the result might have been.
The Caps defence looked solid, but Montreal did get past the centre half pairing a few times. I still think that needs a little bit of work. It was great having Jun Marques Davidson ready to be there for the last man tackle.
Y-P Lee had an excellent game and gets up and down that right wing like a train. He really is an immense pick up for us.
I liked what I saw of Matt Watson in the few minutes he got on the pitch. I would still like to see what he can offer in the middle instead of Gershon Koffie, who looked a little out of place at times yesterday without the guiding hand of a veteran like Peter Vagenas alongside of him.
There is still a little worry about the centre of the park and that is a weakness that faster, more dangerous teams will exploit. There were a few sloppy passes all round yesterday.
It was nice to see Bryce Alderson on the bench for his first match as a MLS player. I know the injuries to John Thorrington, Michael Nanchoff and Atiba Harris forced Rennie's hand there, but what an experience that was for the young Canadian.
So all in all, a good day's work at the office. Next week should provide a slightly tougher test on the pitch, but with the Caps having no wins on the road last season, how they perform against Chivas could give us an indication of just how far they've come.
It's good to be back to real action and a win just makes it all the sweeter. Two for two anyone?
'Mon the Caps.
Having done this for years, on both sides of the Atlantic, I should probably pony up for a trophy on the Whitecaps side this season, to match the East Fife award.
For those new to the site/award, we give three points to who we feel is the best Whitecaps player of the game, two for the second best, and then one for the third. Points are tallied up at the end of the season and we have a winner!
We introduced it to the Southsiders two years ago too, so now there's two such awards kicking around. So much silverware for the players to win this season!
So kicking off our first 3-2-1 for 2012....
3 points - ALAIN ROCHAT (Rennie has unleashed an even more attacking side of his game. One of most dangerous attacking threats yesterday.)
2 points - SEBASTIEN LE TOUX (Fantastic debut. Worked hard both on and off the ball. First goal of many.)
1 point - Y-P Lee (Had a very solid game at the back and did well going forward. Important goal-line clearance too.)