With two games in five days against Seattle, competition priority was a hot topic in Vancouver this past week. In the first match of a busy eight game August, 'Caps coach Carl Robinson put out the strongest line-up available to him for the MLS encounter at the Sounders. And it worked a treat.
A two goal burst from veteran center back Pa Modou Kah at the start of each half had Vancouver looking comfortable. Pedro Morales' late free kick stunner had them ecstatic.
Vancouver looked in an attacking mood from the off and took the game to their fierce Cascadian rivals. And they got the reward for their endeavours early.
The 'Caps won a free kick to the right side of the box six minutes in. Nicolas Mezquida floated the kick in and it was met by the head of Kendall Waston but his effort was straight at Brad Evans' chest. The rebound bounced off the Sounders defender straight into the path of Kah, who showed remarkable composure and skill to volley home the opening goal.
The Whitecaps kept pressing and the Uruguayan trio of Mezquida, Cristian Techera and Octavio Rivero were linking up superbly.
Rivero had a couple of half chances, then Mezquida forced a save from Stefan Frei as the 'Caps went for the killer second, but it wasn't to come.
Seattle had a couple of what couldn't even really be called half chances, and David Ousted was having a quiet night.
The 'Caps nearly got that second with six minutes of the half remaining when Rivero played a neat touch outside to the overlapping Jordan Harvey but the left-back's fierce shot rattled of the stanchion from a tight angle.
Vancouver survived a penalty shout on a handball on Kah and a subsequent goalmouth scramble that saw Ousted produce a fine point blank stop and the 'Caps went in at the half with a one goal lead.
If there were fears that Seattle might regroup and come out looking a different team, then Vancouver extinguished them quickly and added a second four minutes into the second half, and it was that man Kah again!
The 'Caps won a corner on the left and Techera played it short to Kekuta Manneh, who had all the time in the world to give it back to the Uruguayan who hit a low first timer into the box and Kah deftly backheeled it into the net.
It was some goal and gave Vancouver a little bit of breathing space.
Mezquida nearly added a third when his free kick crashed of the left post on the hour mark and Laba nearly got in on the act minutes later when his fierce rising long range drive was just held by Frei.
Seattle pushed to try and get something going but they fell three behind in the 75th minute when substitute Pedro Morales curled a beautiful free kick through the wall and past Frei from 20 yards out.
The Sounders had a couple of chances for a consolation but nothing too threatening, with Lamar Neagle's deflected shot that landed on the roof of the net, the closest they came.
It was a great win for the 'Caps. One of their best in MLS. We've been here before though. It counts for nothing if they can't keep it going. The way the team is playing though, you feel that this time could be different.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 0 - 3 Vancouver Whitecaps
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Tyrone Mears, Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Dylan Remick; Erik Friberg, Gonzalo Pineda (Cristian Roldan 60), Osvaldo Alonso, Thomas (Andy Rose 76); Clint Dempsey, Chad Barrett (Lamar Neagle 63) [subs Not Used: Troy Perkins, Oneil Fisher, Darwin Jones, Zach Scott]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Gershon Koffie, Cristian Techera (Russell Teibert 85), Nicolas Mezquida (Pedro Morales 72), Kekuta Manneh (Darren Mattocks 79); Octavio Rivero [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Tim Parker, Deybi Flores, Erik Hurtado]
On the match:
"It was a really positive and strong performance by the guys tonight and I’m absolutely delighted for all the guys because they put a huge amount of work in, which is what you need to do when you play Seattle away. And you get your rewards and we got our rewards tonight so we’ll enjoy it. The performance was absolutely fantastic and every single one of my players tonight carried out the instructions I asked them to do because we need to be organized and disciplined to play against a very good team. They did it to a tee so I’m delighted about that."
On starting the upcoming stretch against Seattle in this way:
“Yeah, but they beat us in our backyard, which was a tough one to take even though we played very well. We played very well today and won the game so we’ll enjoy it, but get back to work on Monday because we’ve got another huge game against Seattle on Wednesday. We need to try and get as many fans out as we can – Vancouverites – to put them under pressure because this is a hostile place. It’s tough to play.”
On taking the initiative in the counterattack in the first 10 minutes:
“It was a little bit the personnel that I have. We were very young in the front six players – I think the oldest player we have is 23 years of age. We just thought the enthusiasm of the young players – we’ve got a young squad – and the energy they can bring to the table would go out and surprise them a little bit. And that’s exactly what happened – we played some of the best football of the season in the first half.”
On playing a down Seattle team:
“We got the result today. They’re a top team, without a doubt, but going through a tricky patch at the moment. Every team goes through tough patches. You just look across the league – last year as an example with New England. They didn’t win nine or 10 games then managed to get to MLS Cup Final. Without a doubt, [seattle] is a good team.”
On the unlikely heroes tonight:
“Yeah, it’s a team effort. As I say, there’s no ‘I’ in team – that’s a big slogan in our dressing room and I make sure the boys know it. It’s not about any individual – it’s about the team. I think spreading the goals is nice, but when our strikers catch fire, we’ll be okay.”
On Pa-Modou Kah’s finishes:
“He says he [has good finishes], but he talks a lot. I haven’t seen them, but I’m delighted for him because he’s been brilliant since he joined the club at the start of the year. He got a little bit of criticism early on – unfairly criticized because he’s so important to me. From a young manager’s point of view, you need your senior players to come up big from Monday to Friday and sometimes on Saturday, and that’s what he’s done today. He’s so important in the locker room for me.”
On if Kah’s performance sends a message to the critics:
“Listen, football is a brilliant game and opinions in this game vary. Some people think you’re the best player and some people think you’re the worst player. No one is right and no one is wrong –it’s the reality of the game we’re in. He’s played better this season for me, but I’m sure you’ll talk about him more this game than games where I think he’s played better for me.”
On Matias Laba:
“We talk about Mati week in and week out. I said when I signed him that he’s arguably the best midfield player in the league, or one of the top, top midfielders, without a doubt. He’s getting stronger and better and continues to improve. He’s the youngest one in the league, but he’s outstanding. I wouldn’t swap him for anyone, I’ll tell you that. And I mean it.”
On expecting a little more chippy match between these teams:
“Well, we’re not playing netball, we’re playing soccer, so that’s what happens.”
On the decision to be more aggressive with the fullbacks:
“I thought they were trying to get Clint underneath, and Clint is a massive danger for you if he gets underneath to one strike you. I thought it would be Obafemi, but it wasn’t, it was Chad [barrett] so we gambled a little bit with the fullbacks. We were aggressive and it worked tonight because we got a positive performance and a good result. If it didn’t, and the result was the other way, I’m sure you would’ve said why did you attack with your fullbacks so much so today is our day.”
On getting the players’ chemistry going:
“I keep stressing to you – we’re young. And when you’re young, you make mistakes. When you make mistakes, sometimes people are overly critical. When you’re critical, players lose confidence. I try to be super positive with these guys. Yes, they make mistakes, but I’ll back them to the hilt, and I’ll continue to do that because I haven’t met a player yet that plays brilliant every single minute of every single game. The group I’ve got in there, it’s a pleasure to work with day in and day out. I’m going to push them because I think they’re a special group, but they’ve got to be willing to buy into that. You see today that they are, and all season they have been.”
On how big of a statement this result makes:
“We won the game. It’s not a big statement for us at all. We take three points off Seattle, which is going to be there without a doubt to win the Supporters’ Shield. We’ll enjoy the occasion and we’ll get better with Monday so for me, no statement.”
On the clean sheet by the defence:
“Yeah I thought we played well. Kah’s two goals is one thing, I congratulated him, but even better I thought we defended fantastically all night The back four was very solid and the midfield did an incredible job. So, I’m delighted to come here and get a clean sheet and a big win.”
On the importance of a big win in Seattle:
“I think the performance is a huge milestone for us, I haven’t seen us play this well in a very, very long time. And that’s almost more important than the result for me. Seeing us obviously win, but with a performance like that is massive.”
On why they were able to play so well:
“You know what, I think we had a good idea of what we had to do. We had good tactic coming in here, we needed to move the ball and not get in too much of a scrap with them. They’re a physical team, and they’re a good team at that [physical play], so moving the ball and keeping them away from us and the ball was huge. We did that so well tonight.”
On the importance of playing Seattle again on Wednesday in CONCACAF Champions League:
“It is [important], we want to do well in CONCACAF. Obviously it’s a little weird having them three days after this one. But, we go in with a lot of confidence now and we know what we have to do Wednesday. It’s going to be more tough on Wednesday because they want to get revenge for this one coming into our backyard, so we need to be on our toes.”
On the importance of the entire group scoring goals:
“I think it says that things are starting to work now. I think we are a team who could be really good on set plays, and we haven’t scored enough goals so far. Now they’re coming. Hopefully we’ll continue doing that, and hopefully Mati [Laba], Pa [Modou Kah], and Mauro [Rosales] continue and a few other guys step in. Pedro steps in today and makes an incredible free kick goal, and we know what Octavio [Rivero] can do, we know what Nico [Mezquida] can do, so I believe the goals are coming. We train hard, and hopefully that pays off.”
On both his and the team’s performance:
“First of all, I am very happy with the team. The way we played today was a really true professional football game, like from the first minute to the 90th minute we played fantastically. It’s just amazing because we have a special group here and we can go a long [way], but every day we have to come in to work and work hard, and we really did that today. It’s also good for the team, and also for the Cascadia rival, because it’s a derby game and you come in the backyard of one of the best fans in the league and you beat them 3-0.”
On the Whitecaps’ tactics in the game:
“I think it was not only about counter [attacking], like I think we also played very well in possession. We kept the ball and we were cutting them through the middle, and they really had no answer to us. You know, that’s the way football is. But today, we played very well. The whole team, I’m very proud of the guys. But that’s something we have to keep going because we can always improve, and we are going to keep on improving. Now this game is done, because we have the first-ever Champions League game for the Whitecaps coming up Wednesday, against the same opponents. So it’s up to us now to prove that what we did today, we can also do on Wednesday.”
On whether he has scored as good goals as he did today:
“Yes. I have one of the best goals, when I was playing Holland it was one of the best goals of the year. It was crowned one of the top 20 goals of the year in Europe. But, to have two finishes like this today it is just unbelievable, especially two days after my 35th birthday. Like I said earlier, there’s ten goals a year [on set pieces]. I put my two goals so I’m done for the year hopefully. Now it us up to Octavio [Rivero], Kekuta [Manneh], and the rest to score.”
On the importance of Ousted’s kick-save toward the end of the first half:
“Like I said, there is a reason David’s an All Star, and he proved it today again. That was a wonderful save. He didn’t have much to do, but when he was called upon he came strong and that is what we need.”
On the overall game:
“Obviously it was a disappointing match for us…It’s one of things where a team is already in a rut and then you take an early goal, and everyone’s head drops a little bit. I think it took us a while. I thought towards the end of the half we started to play a little better – I thought we could come back in the second half and do well – and we take another early goal in the second half off of their corner kick, and everyone’s head drops a little bit. We got ourselves a bit back into the game – obviously we had more looks on goal, more shots than in the previous few weeks – at the end of the day it wasn’t good enough.”
On Clint Dempsey:
“The plan was for him to go all 90 minutes. We weren’t worried about that based upon what he had done, so his performance was like everybody else’s. Sometimes I felt we forced some balls into him, we needed to go somewhere else with it. I thought Vancouver did a good job of killing that space in front of their center backs, making it tough to play into Clint.”
On the starting line-up:
“It’s a disappointment because we had different starters from the last game, and I don’t think anyone in that locker room is pleased with the result. It’s disappointing because we felt we had a good week of practice, even though Clint and Chad Marshall weren’t here the whole week, but it is something we need to do better.”
On establishing connections between players:
“It’s never going to be that easy. I tried to caution people who thought, ‘OK everybody is back so it will be snap of the fingers and it’s going to all happen again.’ That’s not the way it works. You’ve got to get players back to playing again and on the same page. [Erik] Friberg has never played with Dempsey before, today is his first game playing with Clint – we tried him in a slightly different position to begin the game, so that was an adjustment. Clint hasn’t play with Thomàs, so there are connections there that aren’t established.”
On the reaction of the Vancouver players at the final whistle:
“They went out and celebrated on our field a little bit and that pisses us off. We’ve got to make sure that we right that and we pay them back for that. I don’t think teams should come in here and be taking snapshots and pictures on our field. It pisses me off and I think it pisses off our players. When you play back-to-back and close together, that maybe heats up things.”
On what he could have done differently on the goals:
“I have to go back and look at it. There’s always something you probably could have done better but disappointed to give up three goals on set pieces.”
On giving up goals on set-pieces:
“Well the third is probably a good finish. In general we just gave away too many silly free kicks around the box and maybe one was just in a nice sweet spot for him to take advantage and obviously he took advantage of it. A center back with two goals for them is right spot at the right time but still we have to be in the right spot at the right time. You can’t just always say it’s bad luck. We have to win individual battles, we have to be sharp defensively on set pieces and do better.”
On the need for the team to come together as a team:
“It’s huge; I think we’ve been trying to take it one game at a time. People might say this is an important game or that is an important game. I think any game is a chance to get out of a slump and any game is a chance to get back on a run. Whether that is on Wednesday or the following game, right now Wednesday is our next game and we have to prepare for that so tomorrow we have the day off. We’ve got to make sure we take care of our bodies and after that we have limited time on the field to get ready but we have to make sure we get better in those limited days.”
On Vancouver's celebrations at the end of the game:
"To me, if you take a team picture like you just won a trophy on an enemy's field , so to speak, I take that personally. If somebody comes up to me and tells me I played a good game and laughs in my face, I take that personally."
On the potential for revenge on Wednesday:
“Yeah, not so much revenge. We’ve just got to back to playing our style of soccer and get back to our winning ways so our focus is on us, not on the other team.”
On what went wrong:
“Three set piece goals. The first one takes a deflection off my hip and bounces straight to Kah and he bangs it in. The second one, short corner, shoots, and Kah gets another cheeky little touch, little back heel. And the third one the wall separates and he bangs it in. So that’s a consolation goal at the end and team-wise we have to defend as a team and offensively as a team too so not good on both ends tonight.”
On the loss being different with more guys back:
“No, I think every loss is crappy, obviously. Considering the circumstances and losing so many in a row now is not an ideal situation but the only thing we can do is put a smile on, come into practice and get back to work. I say put a smile on but we’ve all got to have good attitudes moving forward so we can’t sink the ship right now. So, if changes need to be made that’ll come from up top but we’ve all got to come in and work. We’ve got a big one on Wednesday night.”