Playing their first-ever away match in Major League Soccer, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-1L-0D) suffered a 1-0 defeat at Eastern Conference club Philadelphia Union (2W-0L-0D) on Saturday afternoon.
Guatemalan international Carlos Ruiz's first goal for the Union gave Philadelphia their second-straight victory of the season, though Whitecaps FC will look to the sending off of striker Eric Hassli for a second bookable offence as the turning point at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. Forced to play with ten men for the last third of the game, Vancouver worked hard to try and claim an away point, but instead, fell to their first defeat as an MLS club.
"I thought we played quite well today," Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson said after the match. "However, to lose a man like we did in the second half, that had a huge influence on the game. With ten men, we couldn't keep the ball up the pitch as we would have liked and struggled to attack as well as we did earlier in the game. I'm not unhappy with the way we played, just with the result. We had better chances than them in the first half and should have scored on those chances."
Playing in their all-blue kit for the first time, Thordarson made four changes to the line-up that started last weekend's MLS debut win over Toronto FC. Joe Cannon made his competitive debut in place of an injured Jay Nolly, while Blake Wagner came in at left fullback, with Budweiser Man of the Match Alain Rochat moving to centre back for the absent Jay DeMerit. Greg Janicki also made his Vancouver MLS debut in place of Michael Boxall. There was also a first MLS start for Nizar Khalfan on the right-hand side of midfield for the injured Davide Chiumiento. Union head coach Peter Nowak, meanwhile, gave striker Danny Mwanga the start in place of midfielder Justin Mapp.
Sunshine and a stiff breeze in Delaware County greeted both sets of players in this first-ever home opener for the Union at PPL Park, with a sold-out crowd of 18,591 taking in Saturday's match. What they saw was a solid first-half display from Vancouver, who created the majority of the goalscoring opportunities.
The game's first chance came after just 12 seconds, with youngster Russell Teibert rolling a shot just wide, while Whitecaps FC stand-in captain Terry Dunfield had a fierce shot blocked in front of the home side's goal by Union defender Jordan Harvey on three minutes.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, struggled to create chances against a well-organized Whitecaps FC backline in the first half. The Union's best chances drew offside decisions on Sebastien Le Toux on 19 minutes and experienced MLS campaigner Ruiz just before the break.
It was also a very physical first 45 minutes, with match referee Yader Reyes issuing five yellow cards. This included bookings to the Vancouver pair of Hassli and Khalfan.
The half ended with the 'Caps testing Union captain Faryd Mondragon with shots from Khalfan, Gershon Koffie, and Atiba Harris. Those efforts did not affect the scoreline, as both sides went to halftime goalless.
With the match well poised at the start of the second half, there was more purpose to both teams' play when action resumed. In particular, Philadelphia tried to take command of the contest, but Ruiz and Le Toux were off-target with free-kick opportunities on 49 and 52 minutes respectively.
Then the moment that changed the match for both clubs. On 57 minutes, Hassli's late challenge on Union defender Carlos Valdes resulted in a second booking and a red card from referee Reyes, with Vancouver forced to play the remainder of the game a man down.
Hassli's red card not only made the visitors' quest to claim a result on the road more challenging, it gave Philadelphia a new lease on life, as Nowak's side proceeded to push forward in search of a winning goal.
Ruiz had two fine chances to break the deadlock for the Union. On 65 minutes, Cannon made a brilliant save from the Central American's overhead kick after a Kyle Nakazawa swung Philadelphia's first corner of the game into the Whitecaps FC box. Eight minutes later, Ruiz could not keep his close-range chest control and strike on target after Union substitute Roger Torres played a fine ball forward to the striker.
As the pressure mounted, the Union finally made the breakthrough on 77 minutes. Stefani Migliorani's shot was inadvertently headed into the path of Le Toux by Janicki on the right-hand side of Vancouver's goal. The former Seattle Sounders FC man quickly played a pass across the edge of the six-yard box to Ruiz, who beat a diving Cannon for Philadelphia's match winner.
The goal forced the ten men of Whitecaps FC to press forward in search of an equalizer, but despite their best efforts and more than three minutes of time added on, it was Philadelphia that celebrated a second MLS win with their home fans.
Whitecaps FC will return home for their next two MLS matches, beginning with next Saturday's game against Sporting Kansas City at Empire Field. Philadelphia, meanwhile, head to Southern California for a meeting with Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday.
77' – PHI – Carlos Ruiz (Sebastien Le Toux)
Shots: Philadelphia 13 - Vancouver 11
Shots on Goal: Philadelphia 4 - Vancouver 3
Saves: Philadelphia 3 - Vancouver 3
Fouls: Philadelphia 18 - Vancouver 23
Offsides: Philadelphia 4 - Vancouver 2
Corners: Philadelphia 3 - Vancouver 3
25’ - VAN – Eric Hassli
26’ – PHI – Kyle Nakazawa
31’ – PHI – Danny Califf
35’ – PHI – Danny Mwanga
45+’ – VAN – Nizar Khalfan
48’ – VAN – Alain Rochat
57’ – VAN – Eric Hassli
57’ – VAN – Eric Hassli (second caution)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 25.Jonathan Leathers, 14.Greg Janicki, 4.Alain Rochat, 19.Blake Wagner; 16.Nizar Khalfan (23.Long Tan 88’), 7.Terry Dunfield, 28.Gershon Koffie, 31.Russell Teibert (8.Wes Knight 65’); 9.Atiba Harris (37.Camilo Sanvezzo 83’), 29.Eric Hassli
Subs not used: 24.Brian Sylvestre, 3.Bilal Duckett, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 32.Kevin Harmse
1.Faryd Mondragon; 25.Sheanon Williams, 5.Carlos Valdes, 4.Danny Califf, 2.Jordan Harvey (19.Jack McInerney 67’); 7.Brian Carroll, 9.Sebastien Le Toux, 6.Stefani Migliorani, 13.Kyle Nakazawa (8.Roger Torres 67’); 20.Carlos Ruiz, 10.Danny Mwanga (15.Gabriel Farfan 83’)
Subs not used: 24.Thorne Holder, 11.Levi Houapeu, 12.Chris Agorsor, 21.Michael Farfan