Caps make an impact at home opener

Whitecaps' sole goal was their first against Montreal in a decade

Marc Weber
The Province

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Vancouver Whitecaps promised entertainment this season. They also promised results.

In their home- and season-opener Saturday against the Montreal Impact, they delivered both in a 1-0 win in front of a sellout crowd of 5,288 at Swangard Stadium.

About the only thing missing on the clear, sunny evening was a waterfront stadium.

Teitur Thordarson has put his attacking stamp on this team and they were the clear aggressors in the first half, coming at Montreal with purpose and generating six corners.

Forward Eddy Sebrango made sure the Whitecaps were rewarded for their efforts in the 33rd minute. The former Impact striker shed his defender near midfield, cut into the box from the left side and pounded a shot past keeper Matt Jordan inside the far post.

Remarkably, it was the first home goal for the Whitecaps against the Impact in a decade, and it proved to be the only strike they would need as Vancouver improved to 5-0-2 in home openers since 2001.

Montreal hadn't lost at Swangard since 1996.

"We're still learning the system, we're still learning each other, but it's always good to start with a win, especially against Montreal," said Sebrango, who led the Whitecaps with seven goals last season.

Perhaps as a result of their impressive preseason schedule in Europe, the Impact appeared to have more in the tank for the final 45 minutes. They made the Whitecaps prove they can still defend and Vancouver survived the test.

Montreal's best chances came in the final 20 minutes. Pizzolitto's close-in header was saved and held by Srdjan Djekanovic in the 73rd, and Mauro Biello sailed his attempt from just inside the box high when a miscommunication between Djekanovic and defender Lyle Martin freed up space in the 84th.

"When you leave a team in it they're going to push back at the end and we had to do a lot of defending," said midfielder Steve Kindel, who took a hard clearance attempt to the midsection in the first half and was then hammered by a ball to the face in the second.

"A win's a win. But we don't want to play too many second halves like that. If we've got a one-goal lead we don't want to be defending for 30 minutes."

For Djekanovic, who earned the starting nod from Thordarson on Friday after a tight preseason battle with Jay Nolly, this marked his first regular-season game for the Whitecaps, despite spending parts of three previous seasons with the club.

His best work was midway through the half when he dove to his left and steered aside Roberto Brown's low corner attempt with his fingertips.

"I felt he had a very good game," Thordarson said. "He did what he had to do and I was very satisfied with him."

A pair of Whitecaps newcomers looked impressive in their debuts. Japanese defender Takashi Hirano was solid at the back and made a couple of nice runs down the left side. Vicente Arze, a Bolivian-born midfielder from Mercer University in Georgia, created chances on the right side before rolling his right ankle early in the second half and subbing off.

The Whitecaps don't play again until April 26 when they host the Minnesota Thunder in the second of three home games to open the season.