Playing their third training match in a week, Vancouver Whitecaps FC recorded their second victory of preseason after an impressive 2-1 result versus Major League Soccer rivals Columbus Crew in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday afternoon.
Second-half goals by substitutes Atiba Harris and Omar Salgado capped a fine preseason performance by the Blue and White at Phoenix's Reach 11 Sports Complex. Columbus' lone goal came through Eddie Gaven from the penalty spot in the second half.
"Today was a great performance by our side, and was a good game involving two good teams," Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson told whitecapsfc.com. "I'm very happy and impressed with the shape we had in the game today, both defensively and offensively. We battled hard and looked difficult to beat, while we had great rhythm in attack. I'm actually a bit surprised that we are already producing performances like today, so I'm very happy about that."
The result completed Vancouver's set of training matches during this first training camp in Arizona. The 'Caps not only defeated the Crew, but fellow CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinalists Real Salt Lake in an extended contest this time last week. The other training match ended in a narrow defeat to Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders FC on Friday.
Playing a standard 90-minute match in two 45-minute halves, Thordarson saw his squad dominate proceedings in the first half, but unable to claim a halftime lead.
Columbus' first-half goalkeeper - former FC Dallas and Portland Timbers shot-stopper Ray Burse - was tested early. On the quarter-hour mark, Davide Chiumiento's back-heeled pass allowed midfielder Terry Dunfield to put a strike on target from the edge of the Crew box, with Burse forced to make a good save. A minute later, the Columbus keeper needed to stop winger Shea Salinas one-on-one after the former Philadelphia Union man was put through on goal by left fullback Alain Rochat.
Chinese striker Long Tan and Tanzanian winger Nizar Khalfan had further chances to score for Vancouver just after the half-hour mark, while centre back Greg Janicki was off-target with a header from a Salinas corner before just the break. The Crew's only notable first-half chance was a Chad Marshall header that flew over the 'Caps crossbar from an Emmanuel Ekpo free kick.
On 41 minutes, Whitecaps FC had a major opportunity to take the lead when the dangerous Salinas was brought down in the Columbus box for a penalty. Chiumiento stepped up to take the spot kick, but Burse was on hand to deny the Swiss international from giving Vancouver the advantage at halftime.
The start of the second half saw Harris and Canadian youngster Kyle Porter enter the action for Whitecaps FC, while the Crew changed their entire line-up before the restart. Chances were traded at both ends, with 'Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly making his first save of the match from Crew striker Justin Meram just after the hour mark.
Then on 62 minutes, a fine pass from Dunfield allowed the unmarked Harris to move in on goal and round Columbus' second-half keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell before finding the back of the net for his first Vancouver goal. Columbus restored parity from the penalty spot on 76 minutes after Nolly had brought down Gaven, with the Crew midfielder converting the spot kick to make it 1-1.
However, that scoreline lasted only a minute. After Thordarson had introduced centre back Jay DeMerit and midfielder John Thorrington to the match, Harris found strike partner Salgado with a cross from the left. The United States U-20 international headed home his first Whitecaps FC goal to make it 2-1.
There was no reply to Salgado's strike from the Ohio-based outfit, as the final whistle capped a fine Whitecaps FC display versus an established MLS club. Tuesday's win also concluded the club's first camp in Arizona, with the squad set to return to Vancouver on Wednesday before returning back to Arizona later this month for more training and preseason matches.
"It's been important for us to have this time together as a team," Thordarson said of this first Arizona camp. "We have been able to get to know each other and to train on the things that we want to train on. It's easier in a warm climate to train on tactical things, so this camp here in Arizona has been very important for us."
With CONCACAF Champions League action just around the corner, Columbus return to preseason action on Thursday when they take on Seattle in Avondale, Arizona.
62' - VAN - Atiba Harris (Terry Dunfield)
76' - CLB - Eddie Gaven (penalty)
77' - VAN - Omar Salgado (Atiba Harris)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 4.Alain Rochat, 33.Michael Boxall (34.Bilal Duckett 63'), 14.Greg Janicki (6.Jay DeMerit 76'), 25.Jonathan Leathers (8.Wes Knight 59'); 29.Nizar Khalfan (3.Kyle Porter 45'), 26.Gershon Koffie (11.John Thorrington 76'), 7.Terry Dunfield, 22.Shea Salinas (15.Philippe Davies 70'); 28.Davide Chiumiento (9.Atiba Harris 45'), 23.Long Tan (17.Omar Salgado 59')
Columbus Crew - First half XI
34.Ray Burse; 21.Sebastian Miranda, 14.Chad Marshall, 6.Andy Iro, 29.Shaun Francis; 2.Rich Balchan, 17.Emmanuel Ekpo, 11.Dilly Duka, 18.Robbie Rogers; 33.Jeff Cunningham, 20.Emilio Renteria
Second half XI
25.Caleb Patterson-Sewell; 28.Ben Sippola (26.Cory Elenio 72'), 27.Kwaku Nyamekye, 23.Alex Fraga, 3.Josh Williams; 12.Eddie Gaven (4.Santiago Prim 89'), 15.Kevin Burns (19.Cole Grossman 68'), 22.Dejan Rusmir, 8.Bernardo Anor; 31.Andy Adlard (13.Leandre Griffit 70'), 9.Justin Meram