Solid goaltending helps Whitecaps win game one of playoffs 2-0
Justin Moose was too sick to start, but he was sure fit to finish.
The Vancouver Whitecaps most electrifying player came off the bench late and added a hugely important goal in the 89th minute as the Caps beat the Minnesota Thunder 2-0 in the first game of their USL-1 quarterfinal in front of 4,943 fans at Swangard Stadium on Friday.
The two-game, aggregate-goals series now shifts to St. Paul, Minn., on Sunday (3 p.m. PST, webcast at USLlive.com).
If the teams are tied on goals at the end of two games, they play two 15-minute overtimes (no golden goal), followed by penalty kicks.
By virtue of their second-place finish, the Whitecaps earned the right to choose whether they started the playoffs at home or on the road.
Conventional soccer wisdom dictates that starting on the road is favourable, as you can play for the tie and then take your chances in front of your home fans.
However, with the considerable travel distance involved in this series (2,300 km), the Caps felt it advantageous to open at home and force the seventh-place Thunder to travel twice.
That put Vancouver under some serious pressure to score - something they've struggled to do against Minnesota this season with just one goal in three head-to-head games through the regular season.
An own goal off the head of defender Jon Greenfield in the 26th minute opened the scoring, but it's Moose's marker that would prove the key strike.
The shifty midfielder - who missed practice time this week - came on in minute 76 and broke in alone one minute from time, sprung by some tidy passing from substitutes Charles Gbeke and Jason Jordan.
Moose was initially stopped by Minnesota goalkeeper Nic Platter, but he buried the rebound.
Vancouver was perhaps lucky to walk away 2-0 winners, though they did have a goal called back when Eddie Sebrango was deemed offside in the first half, and could have been awarded a second-half penalty when Takashi Hirano was taken down in the box in minute 73.
Minnesota, though, also had a goal called back, and caused Vancouver some problems on the counterattack.
Jay Nolly had to be sharp in the Vancouver goal, most notably beating Thunder striker Brian Cvilikas to a ball around the penalty spot, and later diving to his left to steer Jeremiah Bass's 28-yard drive off the post - both in the first half.
The field was in poor condition due to a Simon Fraser University football game in the pouring rain last Saturday.
City of Burnaby crews worked hard all week to fix the mess, but there was only so much they could do. Think makeup on Amy Winehouse.
Both teams struggled at times to maintain possession through midfield.
Elsewhere in playoff action, the fourth-seeded Rochester Rhinos beat the fifth-seeded Charleston Battery 2-0 at home, and the sixth-seeded Seattle Sounders claimed a 2-1 home win over the third-seeded Montreal Impact.