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  • Report and Reaction: Darren at the double as Whitecaps chop down Norwegian wood

    Michael Mccoll


    Another game in Portland, another win. It's getting all so predictable!

    A Vancouver Whitecaps side made up of fringe players and youth put in a dominant first half performance and a shaky second in a 3-2 victory over Norwegian side Stabæk at Piggy Park on Wednesday evening.

    First half goals from Nicolas Mezquida and a Darren Mattocks brace set them on their way and there was no looking back, although the 'Caps failed to add to their tally in the second half and were pegged back after conceding two sloppy goals.

    Mostly, it was just what Carl Robinson wanted to see, fight and hunger from the fringe guys, giving him some things to think about, but the poor defensive display in the second half and the number of overall squandered chances will be a cause for concern.

    Stabæk had looked not too bad at times on Sunday against a very poor looking Chicago Fire side and had a few forays forward in the opening exchanges of this game before Vancouver took control.

    Mezquida opened the scoring in the 14th minute, running through unmarked to get on the end of a delightful Marco Bustos ball and poking past Stabæk keeper Mande Sayouba with aplomb from the edge of the box.

    Vancouver nearly doubled their advantage minutes later when Erik Hurtado fired a rocket just over that had Sayouba at full stretch.

    That second goal did come in the 22nd minute when Diego Rodriguez was flattened in the box after some pushing and shoving on both ends. Mattocks stepped up to fire home from the spot with ease and it was 2-0 'Caps and already looking like game over.

    Stabæk fought back though and much of the next phase of the game was played in the Whitecaps half.

    As the half ticked down, Paolo Tornaghi was forced to come up with the save after a 'Caps giveaway but Vancouver made it 3-0 moments later in the 44th minute when Mattocks grabbed his second with a nice finish from a quick break from Mezquida and Ben McKendry.

    Any thoughts that Vancouver were going to now go out and run up the score were mistaken and it was actually Stabæk who came out in the second half meaning business, after making a string of changes at the break.

    Tornaghi made a great reaction save in the 53rd minute as the Norwegians continued to press but the 'Caps responded and Mattocks nearly grabbed his hat-trick with a great lobbed effort from an angle that was spectacularly turned over by substitute keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

    In what was looking like a familiar pattern, Tornaghi once again came up with the big save to keep Stabæk off the scoresheet on the hour mark, before Mattocks was denied his hat-trick when he was played in brilliantly by Mezquida by another great stop from Sandhu.

    Hurtado was next to come close to adding a fourth for the 'Caps in the 64th minute, after another great ball from Mezquida, before Stabæk finally got the goal their play deserved.

    The goal came from a penalty, after Diego Rodriguez was adjudged to have committed what looked at first glance a lazy foul in the box, but at second may not have even been a penalty at all. Anders Trondsen made no mistake in firing past Tornaghi.,br>

    The goal signalled a slew of Whitecaps substitutions, as both sides swapped possession, with the Norwegians looking the more dangerous.

    Stabæk blasted a good chance over in the 78th minute before they Stabæk made it game on with nine minutes remaining when trialist Harold Gomez turned a low cross into his own net, although Emil Ekblom was all set for the tap in.

    That was to be all the action, however, and the 'Caps closed the game out without any further setbacks to make it two wins from two, with a game on Saturday against Chicago Fire still to come.

    FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 - 2 Stabæk

    VANCOUVER: Paolo Tornaghi; Ethen Sampson (Jackson Farmer 84), Diego Rodriguez (Tim Parker 68), Christian Dean, Sam Adekugbe (Harold Gomez 80); Gershon Koffie (Mitch Piraux 80), Ben McKendry (Kianz Froese 68), Nicolas Mezquida, Marco Bustos (Robert Earnshaw 68), Erik Hurtado (Ruben Anchico 80); Darren Mattocks (Caleb Clarke 84) [subs Not Used: Marco Carducci, Spencer Richey]

    STABÆK: Mande Sayouba (Gurpeet Singh Sandhu 46); Morten Skjonsberg (Cornelius Benscik 46), Ville Jalasto (Andreas Hanche-Olsen 79), Nicolai Naess, Birger Solberrg Meling (Daniel Granli 46); Luc Kassi, Cole Grossman, Anders Trondsen (Emil Dahle 79); David Estrada (Erik Haugstad 68), Giorgi Gorozia (Thor Lange 46), Kamal Issah (Emil Ekblom 46)



    Overall thoughts on the game and performance:

    "i think in the first half we played very well, we took our chances and the game's about taking your chances. We did that. We played some excellent stuff at times. When you make changes towards the end then obviously the rhythm gets upset.

    "Stabæk are a good team. They're very organised. Bob's got them fantastically well drilled. They pressed like hell and we had to play quickly today. It was good for the young boys to learn how to do that because the peak teams aren't going to let you play and they certainly didn't. They went from the first minute to the 90th minute pressing us. Yes we made mistakes but at times we cut through them as well."

    On the play of Darren Mattocks:

    "He was outstanding and the play of Nico as well in those two forward areas were both outstanding. I keep saying to him if you put the hard work you'll get the rewards out of it and today he got the rewards. He looked sharp, he looked energised, he got his two goals and he maybe should have scored one or two more. He was good to watch."

    Three goals, but disappointed that they didn't take more of their chances?"

    "You can look at it like that. Obviously winning the game is important. It's preseason but if you don't play to win there's no point playing the games. It's nice to get three goals because you always want to win, but there were a number of chances missed. We know that and that's why we're working on it every day and we're on the training field every day to improve, and we're needing to improve that area."

    On balancing dealing with young players when they don't perform well or make mistakes:

    "My job is to allow them to make mistakes and not jump on them and not criticise them, but of course give them constructive criticism about what they need to do, but also encourage because you can slog a horse till it's dead but I don't want to do that and I won't do that with my young players because if I do, I'll set these young players back a season or two and I don't want to do that."

    On the physical nature of the Whitecaps right now:

    "Listen, in any walk of life, nice people tend to get walked over unfortunately. It's professional sport. You can be as nice as you want off the field, but when you step on the field, you're fighting for your living. I want to stress that here because if we want to be a winning club and win and compete for MLS Cups, we've got to get that winning mentality in us. It takes time, you can't get it overnight, but bit by bit, the training has improved. The guys want to win in training and obviously when it comes onto games, it festers on to that. It's an important factor."

    Is he worried that the team will get the "dirty" tag and that may affect referee's perception of how they play?

    "Nah. Nah, not at all. I just want the team to play when we have the ball and when we don't have the ball I want us to try and win the ball back. It's two sides of the game that you need to try and do."

    On Ben McKendry's performance and giving him the start:

    "Ben's been excellent. He's a very talented, tidy footballer. He keeps the balling moving very well and after watching Stabæk play against Chicago in the first game, they pass and move the ball very well, as you saw again tonight. I wanted us to do that and I thought that [ben] was the right decision."

    What are you looking for from Saturday's game?:

    "It's the last game from us in preparation for the season, hopefully. We go in with the same mindset. We've got to be in the right frame of mind coming in to the Toronto game, so Saturday we'll try and win the game again. We'll try and do things right. We'll try and pass the ball, we'll try and win the ball back quickly when we can, which we've done very well in the first two games. And we'll enjoy the game. I think you'll see my guys there play with a smile on their face and we'll do that, as we did last year. Yes we'll win games and unfortunately we'll lose games along the way, but they'll be a happy group."

    What kind of team can be expected against Chicago on Saturday?:

    "I've got a few boys banged us, so I'll see how they are. With a mind on Toronto I'll try and play a strong team. Will that consist of the team that played on Sunday? I'm not sure yet because some of them have knocks, so we'll wait and see. Two or three of the young kids were outstanding today, so don't be surprised if you see one or two of them in."

    It may just be preseason but what would it mean to win back to back Portland tournaments?

    "Winning's a habit. Say what you want, whether it means anything or not, but I want to win everything I'm involved in. Whether it's to win at cards, a game of darts or heads or tails. So any chance you get the chance to win something you want to take that and we get the chance to win this."


    On the game and his performance:

    "Good game, good result. The team did really good. I'm just focussing on the team right now. That's the big thing. Two games, two wins, that's really positive this preseason."

    What scoring two goals means for his confidence:

    "It's good but I'm always going to be confident. But all the work I've been putting in this preseason, it showed and that's a good thing, but I'm not going to get ahead of myself. After all it's just preseason, but hopefully I can translate tonight into the rest of the games in the preseason and into the season."

    On nearly getting his hat-trick:

    "I thought I had it but he was very athletic. He did a great job. I got to give the goalkeeper credit to pull that one out."

    On the performance of Nicolas Mezquida:

    "Nico is just a fantastic player. I love playing with him. He works extremely hard. Working with someone like that, not just Nico but the team in general, we were a pretty young team tonight, but we showed guts, we showed character."

    On letting a three goal lead slip:

    "Up 3-0 and we win 3-2, but three points is three points. It's something we could work on, doing better to finish the game, but we're not going to get too critical and say we lost two goals."

    On what he learned for developing his game on his two recent training stints in Europe:

    "I think getting my teammates in the game more. As a number 9, you've got to hold the ball really well to get your teammates involved. In England and in Turkey, that's one of the big things I took. So yeah, going forward, I think that's definitely going to happen and I'll improve my game."

    What does he feel he has to do now to get a starting spot and more minutes?

    "I think you know the starting eleven already, huh?! [laughs] I'm not worried about being a starter, I'm worried about working hard for the team. And hopefully if that's what it takes to be a starter, then sure."

    On being hard to ignore if he scores two goals in games and plays like he did tonight:

    "If the entire team plays like this, it's going to be really hard. That's a good thing for us but that's a bad thing for Robbo!" [laughing again before people slaughter him!!]


    On the overall game and team performance:

    "I think the game was a perfect example of what our younger team can do. Going out there against a young team that was about the same age as us was good. It was a chance for us, especially against European competition, to show what we can do. It was another first team opportunity for everybody on the field. i thought we showed we can play. We got a little bit unlucky with the goals, obviously. I thought overall we played really well as a team."

    On the difference in the performances between the two halfs:

    "The first half we came out with a lot of energy then second half we gave up two goals. It's kind of hard, you get a little stale when you think you're ahead. We became kind of too confident and we gave away a PK, not really sure it was a PK, but it happens. Then after that we kind of got back in the game."

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