Completing a two-match home stand, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-3L-3D) suffered their first home defeat in Major League Soccer after a 2-1 loss to Western Conference rivals FC Dallas (2W-3L-1D) on Saturday afternoon.
Things looked promising for a second Whitecaps FC win on Bell Pitch at Empire Field after 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Alain Rochat gave the 'Caps a 1-0 halftime lead with his first goal of the season. However, George John's equalizer early in the second half for The Hoops set up substitute Eric Avila's winning strike, as the 2010 MLS Cup finalists earned their second win of the season in East Vancouver, BC.
"Obviously, we are very disappointed with the result," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "I was quite happy with the first half, as it was a good battle between two quite even teams. We were maybe a bit lucky to go in at halftime with a 1-0 lead, as they missed a penalty, but I definitely felt that in the second half, we lost our focus a little bit and didn’t manage to come out as strong as I thought we would."
Thordarson made one change to his line-up for Saturday's match. Terry Dunfield replaced fellow local product Kevin Harmse in central midfield, with the Vancouver native wearing the captain's armband. FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman also made one change to his starting XI, with the Brazilian Jackson replacing Zach Loyd in the visitors' backline.
Basking in warm sunshine on the Pacific National Grounds, a sold-out crowd of 21,000 saw an open and entertaining first meeting between these two clubs, with 'Caps fans enjoying the first half much more than the events after the break.
Both sides threatened to break through in the early stages of the game. Rochat did well to block Andrew Jacobson's goal-bound strike for FC Dallas, while Ferreira rolled a shot wide for the Texas outfit. Whitecaps FC's chances first fell to Davide Chiumiento, who forced FC Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman into an important intervention on the edge of the visitors' box, while Dunfield was unable to connect with a close-range chance following a Chiumiento free kick on 16 minutes.
The competitive and lively nature of the contest resulted in the opening goal on 25 minutes, and for Swiss international Rochat, it was an historical moment for the defender. FC Dallas failed to properly clear Chiumiento's initial free kick, with Jeb Brovsky winning possession and feeding the ball out left to Chiumiento. The winger's first-time cross found his fellow countryman Rochat at the far post, and his header flew past a diving Hartman for his first-ever goal for the Blue and White.
The opening goal not only livened the Empire Field crowd, it also livened up the match, with FC Dallas responding immediately to going behind by earning a penalty on 27 minutes after match referee Juan Guzman adjudged Rochat of using his arm to block Jacobson's shot in the Whitecaps FC box. 2010 MLS Most Valuable Player David Ferreira stepped up to take the spot kick with his right foot, but the talented Colombian put his effort wide of goal to the left - much to the delight of Vancouver supporters.
Though disappointed to have not restored parity, FC Dallas then came close with two good opportunities through midfielder Marvin Chavez. The Honduran's best chance came on 39 minutes when he struck a shot over the Whitecaps FC crossbar from a tight angle.
Though Camilo rolled a strike just wide before the break, the 'Caps took a one-goal lead into halftime, as they looked to secure all three points in the second half.
For all the optimism that was generated after the opening half of play, FC Dallas turned the match around by drawing level on 53 minutes from a well-hit Chavez corner. Jackson flicked the Honduran's set-piece into the path of John, who duly headed home at close range to make it 1-1. It was the defender's first goal of the season and second of his FC Dallas career.
John's equalizer seemed to shift momentum in the Texas club's favour, and two minutes after levelling matters, Brek Shea had a fine chance to give the visitors the lead. Yet, with all of the net to aim for, the midfielder's shot flew high over the Whitecaps FC goal.
The match then settled into an even exchange, but with both clubs pressing forward in search of a second goal. Vancouver's best chances fell to Camilo at close range on 67 minutes and a Rochat indirect free kick strike that was well off target on 78 minutes. At the other end, FC Dallas substitute Milton Rodriguez came close to punishing the home side with a strike that flew just wide of the target following 'Caps defensive mix-up.
There was disappointment for Vancouver on 80 minutes after striker Eric Hassli - who had battled all day with FC Dallas' defenders - was booked after a tussle for the ball with John. It was the big Frenchman's fifth booking of the season, which means he will be suspended for next Saturday's league match at Columbus Crew.
Three minutes later, matters took a turn for the worse for Whitecaps FC, as Avila struck FC Dallas' winner with a fine low strike past 'Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly. As the visitors broke forward down the left flank, Jair Benitez's dangerous cross was flicked on by Rodriguez and into the path of an unmarked Avila, who made no mistake with his strike from the edge of the box.
Now needing to find a way back into the contest, Whitecaps FC were unable to create that second breakthrough, as the match entered four minutes of time added on. Their best opportunity fell to former FC Dallas man Blake Wagner following a Dunfield corner, but the left fullback was unable to test Hartman with his effort.
The final whistle confirmed a disappointing home result for Whitecaps FC, with Vancouver now seeing their winless run in MLS extended to six matches. The 'Caps now turn their attentions to Wednesday night and the first leg of their 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal series, as they visit North American Soccer League side Montreal Impact in Quebec. FC Dallas, meanwhile, return home to face Western Conference rivals Los Angeles Galaxy in MLS action next Sunday.
25' - VAN - Alain Rochat (Davide Chiumiento, Jeb Brovsky)
53' - DAL - George John (Jackson Goncalves, Marvin Chavez)
83' - DAL - Eric Avila (Milton Rodriguez, Jair Benitez)
Shots: Vancouver 9 - Dallas 13
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 4 - Dallas 7
Saves: Vancouver 4 - Dallas 3
Fouls: Vancouver 22 - Dallas 15
Offsides: Vancouver 3 - Dallas 5
Corners: Vancouver 3 - Dallas 4
30' - DAL - Ugo Ihemlu
66' - DAL - Andrew Jackson
80' - VAN - Eric Hassli
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 25.Jonathan Leathers, 2.Michael Boxall, 4.Alain Rochat, 19.Blake Wagner; 8.Wes Knight (16.Nizar Khalfan 61'), 7.Terry Dunfield, 12.Jeb Brovsky (32.Kevin Harmse 77'), 20.Davide Chiumiento (17.Omar Salgado 84'); 37.Camilo, 29.Eric Hassli
Subs not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 23.Long Tan, 31.Russell Teibert, 50.Mouloud Akloul
1.Kevin Hartman; 6.Jackson Goncalves, 3.Ugo Ihemelu, 14.George John, 5.Jair Benitez; 2.Daniel Hernandez; 18.Marvin Chavez (24.Eric Alexander 71'), 10.David Ferreira (12.Eric Avila 55'), 4.Andrew Jacobson, 20.Brek Shea; 15.Fabian Castillo (7.Milton Rodriguez 45')
Subs not used: 30.Chris Seitz, 13.Maykel Galindo, 19.Zach Loyd, 34.Ruben Luna