Seven games in to the new MLS season and do we really know just what sort of team Vancouver Whitecaps are this year? We've seen the good, the really good, the bad and the ugly so far, with the latter being served up in San Jose on Saturday evening as the 'Caps went down 1-0 to a 75th minute Sanna Nyassi goal.
Neither team really deserved anything from the match. Chances were at a premium, while a lot of the postgame analysis will focus on how the team leading MLS in not just the standings, but also in shot and shots on target, couldn't muster up one single shot on goal during the entire match.
The did manage to rack up the cards though, six in total, with five yellows and a late red card to captain Pedro Morales. It basically summed up a dreadful trip to California.
Carl Robinson had promised there would be changes for his tired players and the Whitecaps made four changes to the starting line-up from the midweek draw with Columbus. After coming on as a 14th minute sub against the Crew, Pa Modou Kah came in for basically his third game in eight days, while Jordan Harvey returned to the starting line-up at left-back for the first time since the season opener.
In the midfield, the young Honduran Deybi Flores came in for his first MLS start in the DM role, while Darren Mattocks made the move to the right wing and Kekuta Manneh returned to the left.
The first half had a kind of school playground feel to it, as both teams seemed spend a lot of energy simply running around but without creating any clear cut chances or generating any shots on target.
The referee in the meantime was busy dishing out yellow cards, showing four in total before half time, three of them to Whitecaps. And he was nowhere near finished.
Mattocks got the first, just three minutes in, and he also booked San Jose keeper David Bingham in the 11th minute for a deliberate handball outside of the box. That should have been a red in our mind as Bingham clearly knew where he was and knocked the ball away from Octavio Rivero.
Adam Jahn did have the ball in the net for San Jose in the 8th minute but was flagged offside. For Vancouver, Kekuta Manneh had a nice run to make room for himself but finished it off with a dreadful shot, while the lethal Rivero wasn't given a sniff.
It was a dreadful half and no surprise when both teams went in at 0-0.
The second half started livelier, which would have been hard, and Chris Wondolowski flashed a shot wide left two minutes in, as the home side took the game to the Whitecaps.
But then the action died again, or I may have fallen asleep, although the way that time felt like it stood still, I may have been transported to another dimension. Hopefully one that had games with some excitement there.
Jahn had a low shot for the Quakes just past the hour mark before Manneh nearly lit up the game with some fantastic footwork in the box as he weaved through the San Jose defence. But not for the first time, the Gambian took too many touches and didn't get off a shot. It's something he seriously needs to work on in his game.
San Jose had what was the best chance of the game so far in the 69th minute when Clarence Goodson stuck out a leg and saw his effort fly narrowly right.
The game finally came to life in the 75th minute after a spell of pressure from San Jose. The Quakes had a couple of chances blocked by the Whitecaps defence before the ball finally broke to a free Sanna Nyassi, the 'Caps first pick in the 2010 MLS Expansion Draft before being immediately traded, and the Gambian made no mistake in burying high into the net, giving David Ousted no chance.
Fair to say it was a bad day at the office for the Whitecaps, and it was a day that was still to get even worse as 'Caps captain Pedro Morales was sent off along with the Earthquakes Jahn in the 88th minute.
Jahn was on the deck after a tackle from Whitecaps sub Russell Teibert. With the ball between his legs, Morales tried to kick the ball out, leading to the Quakes player kicking out at the Chilean's shinpad.
It was a bizarre incident that didn't really seem to merit a red card for either player, and in particular Morales, but referee Edvin Jurisevic had set the tone early and sent both players off. Just the last in a string of poor decisions he had on the night.
Morales told Robinson after the match that he hadn't heard any whistle and felt the ball was there to be won. He clearly didn't aim to kick the player, while Jahn did definitely kick out.
With both teams reduced to ten men, the Whitecaps never looked like grabbing a late share of the points, although sub Kianz Froese had a late effort that didn't trouble Bingham.
The Whitecaps five match unbeaten run has now come to an end, but it was the flat nature of it that will be concerning Robinson the most.
FINAL SCORE: San Jose Earthquakes 1 - 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
ATT: 18,000 (sell-out)
SAN JOSE: David Bingham, Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez, Clarence Goodson, Cordell Cato, Fatai Alashe, Sanna Nyassi, Matias Perez Garcia (Tommy Thompson 80), Shea Salinas, Chris Wondolowski (J.J. Koval 64), Adam Jahn [subs Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Ty Harden, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Leandro Barrera, Mike Fucito]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Kendall Waston, Pa Modou Kah, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba (Kianz Froese 80), Deybi Flores (Russell Teibert 68); Darren Mattocks (Erik Hurtado 72), Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh; Octavio Rivero [subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Sam Adekugbe, Nicolás Mezquida, Tim Parker]
On the overall performance (on TSN radio):
"I thought we were way below the levels that I expect and the players expect. We didn't get a shot on target, we didn't have enough of the ball, we didn't pass well enough. We looked flat and this game was always a concern for me, being the third game in a week. We weren't at the races. I'll take responsibility for that, and we move on."
On the standard and consistency of the refereeing (on TSN radio):
"As you all know, it's very difficult for me to comment and I am unable to comment. What I can say is that I can analyze my performance and my team's performance and we didn't deserve anything from the game based on the way we played. But, I think there's another analysis that needs to be done as well because my team picked up five yellow cards. It seems to be repetitive and it's a concern of mine because I don't think it was a nasty game at all. Both managers were voicing their frustration because there were throw-ins that were given the wrong way, there was corners that were missed, there was simulation, there was bad decisions and you pick up yellow cards for innocuous challenges, but that's not for me to discuss, but I'll analyze my team, I can't analyze anything else."
"Whether I agree with the yellow cards or not, or decisions or not, I could comment here and I'll be out of pocket every week because it is frustrating. When both managers agree on certain things, whether it's for your side or against your side, I think it's pretty simple. Whether we get a reputation or not, I want to get a reputation for playing fantastic football and winning. Unfortunately we didn't win, we didn't play fantastic football today and we lost."
"When you get a yellow card after three minutes and 17 fouls in the first half, then I think the tone is set. Nothing surprises me in this game, unfortunately, but the beauty of this game is that there's always another game next week."
On Pedro Morales' red card (on TSN radio):
"I spoke to Pedro after the game. The ball is inbetween the boy's legs, as he's on the floor, the linesman is flagging, but there's no whistle heard by Pedro and he tried to kick the ball out of the boy's legs, which you're allowed to do if he's holding the ball on the floor. The boy kicked out at him afterwards, and I'm not saying that was a sending off, but if the ball's inbetween the legs of a player on the floor and no whistle is heard then I don't know what you tell your player to do."
On Game (scrum):
"Not a very good match to be fair. We didn’t play well. I don’t think we deserve anything from the game. We didn’t get a shot on target. You don’t get a shot on target, you don’t get to score goals. So, we’ll analyze our performance – my team’s performance – because third game in a week is always going to be difficult."
On Deybi Flores' performance (scrum):
"I thought he was good. I thought he showed energy. I thought he grew into the game. He was keen, he liked to get on the ball and stuff and I thought it was a really positive performance."
On overall game:
"We gotta keep the ball. We didn’t keep the ball tonight. I don’t know what it was. Might have been that three game in a week but we just gotta keep the ball, possession, open up the field and just do differently than we did tonight."
On overall game:
"Obviously we are all disappointed after a match like that, but what can you say about it, right? We’re just going to put our heads down, work hard in training the next week and prepare for the next match."
On difference between first half and second half:
"I thought we were playing pretty good. We weren’t bad, we were just a little bit disconnected at times. But I thought our energy level was definitely better. We were moving the ball quicker and therefore guys were finding little gaps in the field, which made it easier to attack. And I think at that point we were playing in their half of the field rather than our half of the field. They may have been a little fatigued as well, they’ve had a tough week and put together some good results. But I can’t speak for them, I only speak for us, and I thought we were due a goal. We were knocking on the door, we were getting in around it, our last pass was just a little bit of a pinch off. We were kind of letting them off the hook. But good for us to get the win."
On no shots on goal in first half:
"Sometimes we rush ourselves. We were kind of getting there, and then when we got there, we made the wrong decision. At times we could have been a little bit more unselfish. You also have to give the other team credit. They’re a good defensive team. Those two in the middle, [Pa Modou] Kah and [Kendall] Waston are tough ones. I think we had more possession in their half in the second half, therefore we were holding the ball a little bit better. One shot that was on goal went in, so that’s what I’m happy about."
On performance of the defensive back four:
"I thought the whole back four played well. Cordell [Cato], being an emergency left back, looked comfortable. I think everyone talked about their speed out wide before the game started. So for us to counter it with speed was a good idea, and I thought both Marvell [Wynne] and Cordell had good games. Through the middle, Victor [bernárdez] and Clarence [Goodson] have been playing good together. It’s a pretty solid partnership. And then quietly Fatai Alashe I thought had a really good game tonight. He was on and around [Pedro] Morales as much as possible and that’s what we wanted him to do. He broke up a lot of plays. To see him [goalkeeper David Bingham] facing no shots on goal is obviously a great thing for us."
On Adam Jahn:
"In watching Vancouver play, with Waston and Kah, they’re probably two of the more physical guys as far as defensive partnerships in the center defence. So it was important for him to take his licks today, because he had to, to be helpful for us, and I think he did that well. He’s a bit of a battering ram at times. He keeps his game simple. He provides a great service for us. I think in the second half too, he was taking more two and three-touches, rather than one or four or five, and that’s why we were having more possession in the field. Obviously at the end, he loses his head a little bit, but I thought the last couple games he’s helped us out a lot. I’d like to see him get a goal for all his hard work. He’s putting himself in good spots, but obviously it’s a bit difficult to do. But I think he’s having a good season for us so far."
MATIAS PEREZ GARCIA
On overall match:
"We knew coming in to this match that it was going to be a test. In the first half, we weren’t sharp and running without assignment. We knew in the second half that we needed to play better and it showed. We created multiple chances and I feel that calmed us down a bit. We continued to attack, we scored the goal and that’s why we won tonight."
On Earthquakes' possession:
"We had more touches in the midfield. Guys found the open spaces and we were moving the ball. We need to continue playing at this level, especially after a rough loss like last week. We came out empty-handed then, but tonight the ball found the back of the net for us and we leave with three points."
On team playing through injuries:
"We have a very deep team. The guys coming off the bench can start as well. Everyone is fighting for a spot to play. The players we didn’t have available tonight are good players, but we have the depth to pick up some of those pieces. We are confident either way."
On clean sheet:
"It was big for us. Credit to guys like [Clarence Goodson], Victor [bernardez], Marvell [Wynne] and Cordell [Cato]. David [bingham] did a great job out there communicating with the backline. The defenders were winning balls in the air; getting in on good tackles. The shutout is a credit to them, but also to the whole team collectively. We played good team defence starting from the top in Chris [Wondolowski] and Matias [Perez Garcia]. It feels good to get that first shutout. Hopefully there are many more to come."
On returning to line-up:
"When you’re not playing, you always feel that if you were out there, you’d make a difference. There was nothing in particular that I saw fault in the defensive play as of late, but I just really wanted to get back out there and play my own game and contribute."
On pace of match:
"It felt like we were in command of this game. We came in at halftime and the feeling amongst us was we can win this game. We knew we did not let them get any shots up to that point so we tried to keep it going. We felt our play deserved three points and we just went for it."