Action-packed is perhaps the best way to describe a dramatic opening 15 minutes of Vancouver Whitecaps' match at New York Red Bulls on Saturday evening.
That spell provided three key game defining moments, with New York missing a penalty and going down to ten men, before Kekuta Manneh gave Vancouver a lead they never gave up.
The 'Caps were certainly made to work for their three points in the end as the Red Bulls pushed for an equaliser, missing another penalty on the way before substitute Kianz Froese gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead with 13 minutes remaining.
Even then, New York pulled one back five minutes later, but Vancouver held out for a huge three points.
It looked to be the worst possible start for Vancouver when a rash Steven Beitashour challenge sent Sam Zizzo crashing down in the box just four minutes in. The contact seemed to be just outside and the player fell inside and referee Jorge Gonzalez pointed to the spot, in the start of what was to prove to be a busy night for the official.
Bradley Wright-Phillips stepped up but his kick was saved by a diving David Ousted, his first penalty save as a Whitecap.
It was yet another massive game-changing moment for Vancouver from the Dane, but it was equalled five minutes later when New York defender Sacha Kljestan was sent off for a kick on Kendall Waston in the 'Caps box as they awaited a Red Bulls corner to be taken.
The Whitecaps were now in the ascendancy and they made it pay in the 15th minute when Manneh finished off a pinpoint Beitashour cross, after Cristian Techera had set the right-back free up the wing.
Five minutes later and Octavio Rivero nearly doubled the 'Caps lead, crashing a 25 yard effort off the right post.
Vancouver smelled blood with their man advantage and pushed hard for the killer second but when it didn't come they slowed the pace down and controlled the rest of the half to head into the break with the one goal advantage.
The question now was whether Carl Robinson would be happy with his lot and just see out the victory or go for a confidence-boosting win by a couple of goals.
New York had no option but to come out and take the game to Vancouver in the second half, and they did just that, having the Whitecaps on the back foot.
The Caps seemed happy to soak up the pressure but were offering little of their own in return.
The Red Bulls were thrown a lifeline in the 63rd minute when they were awarded a second penalty after Beitashour was adjudged to have tugged Abang's jersey. Wright-Phillips stepped up once again, this time hitting it hard straight down the middle, but Ousted produced another huge save to keep Vancouver's lead.
It was only the third time in MLS history that a keeper had saved two penalties during a game and the first time that the same player had missed two spot kicks in one match.
Two pivotal saves from Ousted and New York were soon to be punished.
Nicolas Mezquida had been having a fairly quiet night starting in the number 10 role for the injured Pedro Morales, but he finished leading the team in shots and let rip from 25 yards out in the 74th minute, forcing Luis Robles into a sprawling save for a corner, which came to nothing.
The Whitecaps finally got the second goal they craved 13 minutes from time and in true Vancouver road style, it came from a quick breakaway as Rivero set up Kianz Froese and the Residency alumni raced in on goal and coolly slotted past Robles for his first ever pro goal.
If Vancouver thought they had killed the game off, New York had other ideas and they pulled one back five minutes later when loose marking allowed halftime sub Anatole Bertrand Abang to fire home.
Ousted was forced into a sprawling save from a bobbling shot in the closing minutes, but that aside, the 'Caps easily held out for a crucial three points that sends them back to the MLS summit in a tie with Seattle.
FINAL SCORE: New York Red Bulls 1 - 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
NEW YORK: Luis Robles; Chris Duvall, Ronald Zubar (Matt Miazga 68), Damien Perrinelle, Roy Miller; Dax McCarty; Felipe, Sam Zizzo (Anatole Bertrand Abang 46), Sacha Kljestan, Mike Grella, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Manolo Sanchez 77) [subs Not Used: Kykle Reynish, Sean Davis, Dane Richards, Connor Lade]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba (Deybi Flores 70), Gershon Koffie, Cristian Techera, Nicolas Mezquida (Russell Teibert 88), Kekuta Manneh (Kianz Froese 71); Octavio Rivero [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Tim Parker, Mauro Rosales, Eric Hurtado]
On the match:
"It was a bizarre game, I think that is a fair way to explain it. It was a game that had a little bit of everything: a sending off, two penalties, a couple of goals, a lot of intense high energy pressure as well so we are delighted. It's a tough place to come. They're a good team. They play a certain way and we were lucky to come away with three points tonight."
On Ousted's performance:
"He's been outstanding, but up to this point he hasn't saved too many penalties. He guess right on the first one, Bradley [Wright-Phillips] stepped up and obviously I know that that's his favorite way, and then credit to David on the second one, he guesses right again. I have to give Bradley Wright-Phillips a lot of credit for stepping up on the second penalty because that's one of the hardest things in football. Once you've missed a penalty, to step up again, and it just wasn't his night - it was my goalkeeper's night, and my team's night and I'm delighted."
On the play of Kianz Froese and his first goal:
"That's what we're all about as a club. We've got a certain way of trying to build here and I think that optimizes it today because New York is a good team, they put us under pressure, they have nothing to lose going down to ten men, the crowd was brilliant, and because they have nothing to lose, they can play longer and more direct and they might as well concede a second or third goal because they when you're at home it puts you under a little pressure. I would have like to have caught them on the break a little bit more in the first half because we had three or four dangerous chances, but we couldn't tuck them away. It was nice for [Froese] I'm sure he'll talk to his parents tonight and it's a proud night for him."
On the play of Kekuta Manneh:
"He was excellent in the first half, a constant threat. The front four attacking players were all a constant threat in the first half. As good as we were in the first half, I thought we were a little bit disjointed in the second half because against ten men we should be getting more chances, especially in the second half, but it's not easy to play against ten men. Since I've been here we've played against ten men and we haven't won, and we've gone down to ten men and haven't won so I thought we'd make that happen tonight."
On Kendall Watson playing in front of his mother for the first time:
"I think it would mean everything to him. I mentioned it to the group after the game, don't forget about your family and loved ones back home or wherever they are watching. Kendall's mom got to watch him tonight, I'm sure she was proud as punch about his performance. Obviously she would be disappointed in his yellow card just as much as I was in the last few minutes, but I think it was fitting that she was there tonight, and it was fitting that it's Father's Day tomorrow. I'll address the group again tomorrow but it's a special day, Father's Day. You have to enjoy it, pick up the phone and call [your father] because sometimes they leave you early which unfortunately mine did."
On if tonight's win was extra special:
"It's always special when you come here. As I said, this is a special organization. They've got some good people here, a lot of good people. They gave me an opportunity on my first step of the land here, and I'll never forget that. I'm very grateful to them and I'm very humbled for that opportunity, but it's always nice to come back here and win because it's not an easy place to win. They're a good team. I hope they go on and reach the playoffs because I want the organization to continue to do well and I always will."
On another road win:
"It's never easy to win on the road, and I think every team knows that. When you got an opportunity to go on the road you have to be disciplined, and you need to be organized and take your chances, and we played that way last week and came away 1-0, and today was another very difficult place to go to, but the spirit in that group is fantastic and you get your reward, not just in football but I any walk to life. You put hard work in and you get your reward, and tonight we put the hard work in, we didn’t make it easy, but we got our reward. We will enjoy it but we will prepare because we have a big game in New England next week, which we're looking forward to."
On saving two penalties in one game for the third time ever and which was more important:
"I think the first one was really important. They came out guns blazing and that would have capped a good first ten minutes for them. Its important to save that and keep us in the game. Right after that they get the red card and we go up and score, so that was definitely important. The second one even more keep the lead for us and kept us going forward. They were two important pk’s."
On what was more important, his saves or the red card:
"That’s always difficult to answer. I think both are equal I’ll say even after the red card I think New York showed they wanted to go forward and press us especially in the second half. They did well, but luckily we got away with the win."
On what was going through his mind when the second penalty was called:
"I stayed positive. My mind goes straight to where he can shoot. Big credit to the guys who do our video every time we play, He shows me ten pks and what the guys normally do on pk’s. Its a big job they do to keep me ready. My thoughts were to go in there and save the second one."
On Kendall Waston’s performance:
"This team [shows] all the time that we're a family and I think we showed today that we played today for Kendall he was playing in front of his mom for the first time so that meant a lot to everybody. We played for Carl Robinson being back here in his own home. We wanted to get a win. You can see how this team is getting closer and closer. We do feel like a family. We do want to fight for each, and I think we showed that we can do that today."
On Kianz’s first goal at the MLS level:
"Just fantastic it was a great goal. I feel very calm when he is finishing and a great little slot next to the keeper, so I'm glad for Kianz getting that goal he deserved it."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
On the first 15 minutes:
"The first fifteen minutes definitely set the tone for the rest of the match. Crazy for the game to go from a penalty to a missed penalty to a red card to down a goal, it’s just the game was flipped on end. There was fanatic energy on the field when we went down a man and the guys tried to push with urgency but it was border-line panicky. That led to us giving up the goal and then tried to get them on the field to calm down and still play the way we know we can a man down. Second half I thought we gathered ourselves, came out second half and controlled a lot of the match even though we were a man down, but just weren’t able to tie it up and went down 2-0, then you’re chasing the game."
On Wright-Phillips taking second penalty kick:
"I was happy to see Bradley step up and have the confidence to take it again. I certainly wasn’t going to pull him off the ball. Ousted makes two good saves, not two of Bradley’s best pk’s by any means, but this stuff can happen sometimes and it’s important as an important guy on the team and a good attacker he finds a way to not let this dig a huge hole into his mentality. He needs to now stay focused and finds way to make it up to his team. This happens at different moments with different players whether it’s Wondolowski at the World Cup or different players that have missed important chances for teams, and it’s important to come back and show you’re a man of character and show that you can handle the tough moments. I have no doubts that Bradley is that kind of man and that he’ll come back and find a way to do that."
On Kljestan’s red card:
"He absolutely has to be smarter, that was a terrible red card."
On what’s worse—missed penalties or red card:
"I don’t know, they’re both painful. It was a crazy game, a game where we dug a hole for ourselves. You make your own breaks and in some ways we’re now making our own breaks against ourselves."
On if Kljestan’s red card impacts team morale:
"I would say no because our team responded really well. They stuck together on the field and pushed the game really hard. Again, I look at myself, and if my players aren’t clear about what kind of behavior they have to have on the field then I look at myself. I’m taking responsibility right now and I’m going to find a way to get us out, I’m in this all the way. I’m not panicking right now but we need to find a way to do better. It starts with me, period. It starts with me."
If this losing streak is similar to anything else he has endured in coaching career:
"It certainly feels like right now things are going against us. If you dwell on that then it’s being a loser. Quite honestly, if we start to feel sorry for ourselves then we’re going to dig even a bigger hole. Right now I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I’m ready for this challenge, we’re going to figure out a way to get out of it and, again, it starts with me."
On goalkeeper’s perspective on penalties:
"Well, my initial thought was that I felt bad for Brad; the ‘keeper made some good saves on the PKs. Maybe he was trying to go down the middle on the second one and it was a little too much to the side. But, at the end of the day, I think it was our mistakes that cost us. Sure, we missed 2 PKs but we were still creating chances and then on the backend, they were only dangerous on the counter. They got two good opportunities off the break and they capitalized. We continue to minimize chances. I said this before and I’ll continue to say it; our defense minimizes a lot of the chances, whereas in the past I’m making a lot of saves. The problem is we are getting caught on the break because we are turning the ball over. When we make mistakes, we are getting punished for them."
On the first 15 minutes:
"The red card didn’t help. Of course when he missed the PK, I was still very confident in our ability to respond and I felt that we did respond but there was once incident that occurred with Sacha being sent off, that all of a sudden swung momentum and put us on our back foot."
On the red card and was it a selfish play:
"I think selfish is the wrong word there. Any one of us under the right circumstance can react emotionally. We do our best as professionals to maintain a certain cerebral approach to the game but emotions are part of it and at that moment, it seemed that his emotions got the best of him. He was very remorseful in the locker room and he apologized but I think it’s going to come down to what we said and what Jesse said - we aren’t making plays. Our record speaks for itself. At the end of the day if we want to be a winning team and a team that we say we are going to be, it requires the effort but it also requires us making those plays."
On taking second penalty:
"I wanted to take it. I was confident I’d score. The keeper wanted a battle today. I suppose that’s how it goes."
What goes through his head on second penalty kick:
"I was just trying to get my team back in the game. If I score that first penalty it’s a different game, and if I don’t miss either it’s a different game. I thought even in the second half, with a man down, I felt like we dominated. It’s a tough one to take, especially missing two penalties."
If he’s ever missed two penalties in one match:
"Never. I only started taking penalties when I got here last season, so I guess there will be a lot of twists and turns. It’s something I have to deal with, we’ve got another game Wednesday. I guess my team needs me though so I can’t dwell on it. I just have to get over it."
On directing the penalty kicks:
"I decide at the time. I usually pick a way and try to hit it hard. I think I’ve done that with both the penalties. The second one, I tried to go down the middle, I don’t know where it hit him but he made a good save."
On Kljestan’s red card:
"We don’t need to be playing with a man down. Sacha has already apologized. These things happen in football just like missing two penalties, you have to play with a man down. Like I said before, if these things don’t happen it’s a totally different game. I think we would’ve won that game. Sacha and I disappointed the team a bit today."
On one win in six matches:
"You can’t say we deserve more from the game because we haven’t done it, you make your own luck. There’s something we’re not doing. I do feel like in the games we’ve never been under too much pressure, I don’t think the other teams have dominated us. There’s something missing and we’ll find out what it is."
On the cause of the red card:
"It was a stupid play by me. I take responsibility. Waston is hugging me in the box and I threw an elbow towards him to get rid of him. I didn't connect on the elbow and then I don't know if the ref gave the red card for the elbow or for Waston standing over me and I tried to push him back and put my leg up and he acted like I stepped on him. I have to take responsibility for what I did. I made a stupid play and an idiotic decision in the heat of the moment and I have to take responsibility for losing this game for us because I think if I stay on this field we win the game."
On what he said to his teammates:
"I gave my apologies to them at halftime for putting them in that position and having to run so much more and work so much harder and put them in a position to be fighting and playing a man down so I apologized to my teammates and they know how sorry I am."
On Abang getting the call on the penalty kick:
"I appreciate that. I appreciate that we got a penalty for a chance in the box where we can't make a play because we're being held."