Defence saves the Whitecaps

Home team hands Montreal initiative in second half but hangs on to win season opener

Ian Walker
Vancouver Sun

Monday, April 14, 2008

So much has been made of the Vancouver Whitecaps' new attacking style this season.

It only figures then that team defence turned out to be the difference in their 1-0 victory over the Montreal Impact to open the 2008 United Soccer Leagues First Division season on Saturday.

The retooled Whitecaps were the aggressors on offence from the opening kick, attacking on both flanks and creating a number of scoring chances in the first half. Still, if not for goaltender Srdjan Djekanovic's diving fingertip stop before the game was 30 minutes old and some timely defending in the second half, the immediate outlook would be more bleak than bright for a Vancouver team desperate to regain the trust of supporters following the disappointment of last season.

"All in all, we did well," said Whitecaps defender Adrian Cann, following Sunday's mid-morning practice at the team's training facility on the Simon Fraser University campus. "We dropped off in the second half a little further than we intended and Montreal took advantage, but I was pleased with the defensive effort overall. We need to be better at communicating and with our physicality, but all in all we did well."

The result extends the Whitecaps' unbeaten run in home openers to seven years.

The victory was Vancouver's first against Montreal at Swangard Stadium since August 21, 1996 and Eddy Sebrango's piledriver marked the Whitecaps' first goal against the Impact at home in 10 years. Sebrango, who led the Whitecaps with seven goals last season, took a pass from midfielder Steve Kindel and collided with a Montreal defender before working his way into the box and unleashing an unstoppable right-foot shot past goalkeeper Matt Jordan in the 33rd minute.

"I feel we had a very good game, especially in the first half," said Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson, who was making his North American coaching debut. "It was not planned to back off -- we gave the initiative away -- but we had some chances in second half. It was a combination of good defence and we caused a lot of trouble in first half by being well organized."

Just as important as the victory, was the opponent it came over. Montreal is considered among the elite of the USL-1 and is coming off its longest training camp in franchise history, including exhibition games in Italy, Portugal and Florida.

"I feel excited for many things," said Thordarson, whose team does not play again until April 26 when the Minnesota Thunder come to town. "We were playing a good team -- one of the best in the league -- and we did most of the things we wanted. It's a good start to the season. When you do these things and play entertaining football it is quite satisfactory."