Playing the second match of a two-game road trip, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-4L-3D) suffered a 2-1 defeat at Eastern Conference club Columbus Crew (3W-1L-3D) in Major League Soccer action on Saturday evening.
Two second-half goals by Crew striker Emilio Renteria - the first coming from the penalty spot - extended Columbus' unbeaten streak in the league to six matches. Though it was a third straight MLS defeat on the road for the Blue and White, youngster Omar Salgado made the weekend contest interesting with a well-taken consolation strike on his first-ever start in MLS at Columbus Crew Stadium in Ohio.
In fact, Whitecaps FC were unlucky not to take something from the game, as they created some excellent chances in the dying stages to earn at least a draw in the Ohio state capital. Saturday's loss was Vancouver's second straight in the league and extended their winless run in MLS to seven matches. It was also the first-ever defeat to an Ohio-based club, and in the state of Ohio, in 'Caps history.
"I thought we played well, even though we decided to play a bit differently than we would normally. We allowed Columbus to have possession in their own half and looked to hit them on counter-attacks," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "Unfortunately, we made mistakes that led to their goals in the second half, so that was disappointing to see. However, to see Omar score his first goal tonight will be special for him because this was his first real start in MLS. In fact, he was unfortunate not to score two or more goals tonight."
Following the midweek win over Montreal Impact in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinals, Thordarson altered his starting XI for their visit to Columbus. In the backline, fit-again Greg Janicki returned to partner Mouloud Akloul in the centre of defence, with Akloul earning his first start of the season at centre back. Alain Rochat returned to left fullback, as he replaced Blake Wagner. After returning from international duty with Ghana's U-20 national team, Budweiser Man of the Match Gershon Koffie was back in central midfield, while Wes Knight came in on the right-hand side of the middle line, with Davide Chiumiento moving to the left flank. Those changes meant Canadian youth international Russell Teibert made way. In attack, Salgado became the 12th youngest player to ever start an MLS match, as he replaced the suspended Eric Hassli.
It was a pleasant night for a game of soccer in Columbus, and the Crew did not disappoint, as they made their possession and passing football count for a third league win in five games. In the first half, the Ohio-based outfit controlled much of the play and pressed forward, but struggled to turn their possession into goalscoring chances.
In fact, Whitecaps FC showed the early intent to attack on the break. On eight minutes, Vancouver captain Terry Dunfield struck a shot wide from a Chiumiento forward ball. Three minutes later, a lively looking Chiumiento made a dangerous run inside from the left flank before hitting a right-footed shot wide of the Columbus goal. Later in the half, Rochat was unable to direct his header from a Dunfield cross on goal after he pushed forward from his left fullback position.
As the opening half wore on, Columbus started to gain control of proceedings, having created the best chance before the break through a Robbie Rogers strike that Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jay Nolly did well to stop on 12 minutes. Vancouver's defensive rearguard was then tested just before the half-hour mark, with captain Dunfield doing well to block a close-range shot from Dejan Rusmir before making an important tackle on Kevin Burns at the edge of the 'Caps box.
As they applied plenty of pressure in the latter stages of the first half, the Crew earned a sixth corner of the match in the one minute of time added on. Striker Eddie Gaven's set-piece reached Crew captain Chad Marshall at the far post, but opposing skipper Dunfield did well to throw off the centre back, as Marshall's header went wide of the target. It resulted in a goalless scoreline at halftime.
After the break, Robert Warzycha's Crew went about claiming control of the game from the restart. On 50 minutes, Columbus made the breakthrough when Renteria tried to get on the end of a loose ball in the Vancouver box, which resulted in Nolly being called for bringing down the striker for a Crew penalty. The Venezuelan international stepped up to put his spot kick past Nolly for his second goal of the season.
With Columbus drawing first blood, the match opened up and the Crew showed more confidence in their passing play. It was from such a sequence that Renteria's winner arrived on 59 minutes. Rusmir slipped a through ball to the big striker, who got a step on Akloul. His first-time finish beat Nolly for a well-taken third goal of the season and a 2-0 Columbus lead.
Facing an uphill task, Whitecaps FC's response was positive, as they looked to find a way back into the contest. On 69 minutes, club and league history was made, as Salgado gave Vancouver a fighting chance in the game with his first goal in MLS. Chiumiento took advantage of a Columbus turnover and made a forward run before passing to an overlapping Rochat. The defender then played a pass to Dunfield, who then teed up a fine cross into the Columbus box to Salgado from the left. The United States U-20 international got between his Crew markers and powered home a near-post header to make it 2-1.
Salgado's goal restored belief in Thordarson's side, and the 'Caps went searching for an equalizer. With Shea Salinas being one of three Whitecaps FC substitutes in the second half, the former San Jose Earthquakes and Philadelphia Union man had an impact in place of Knight on the right flank. On 70 minutes, Salinas got by the Crew's Josh Gardner before hitting a cross that Columbus defender Julius James did well to clear in front of a threatening Salgado. Moments later, Rochat almost found substitute striker Nizar Khalfan at the far post with dangerous low cross.
Salgado seemed well poised to become Vancouver's hero. On 77 minutes, he nearly found the back of the net again after Chiumiento found the youngster in the Columbus box. After initially being bumped by Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer, Salgado's turn and shot was well saved by the Columbus shot-stopper.
Chances were then traded in the dying stages. Columbus could have put the match away through substitute Leandre Griffit, but his point-blank strike went straight at Nolly following a Columbus break. At the other end, 'Caps substitute Jeb Brovsky almost scored his first MLS goal with a low left-footed drive after Khalfan found the University of Notre Dame product on the edge of the Crew box. Then in the three minutes of time added on, Rochat put the Columbus defence under pressure with a curling free kick into the Crew box, but Warzycha's side were able to clear the danger and hold on for the home victory.
Whitecaps FC now turn their focus back to the Nutrilite Canadian Championship and Wednesday's semifinal, second leg, clash with Montreal on Bell Pitch at Empire Field. Columbus, meanwhile, will prepare to host another Pacific Northwest club in Seattle Sounders FC next Saturday.
50' - CLB - Emilio Renteria (penalty kick)
59' - CLB - Emilio Renteria (Dejan Rusmir, Dilly Duka)
69' - VAN - Omar Salgado (Terry Dunfield, Alain Rochat)
Shots: Columbus 12 - Vancouver 11
Shots on Goal: Columbus 4 - Vancouver 4
Saves: Columbus 2 - Vancouver 2
Fouls: Columbus 13 - Vancouver 20
Offsides: Columbus 1 - Vancouver 1
Corners: Columbus 7 - Vancouver 2
37' - VAN - Jonathan Leathers
57' - VAN - Greg Janicki
90' + 1 - VAN - Omar Salgado
1.William Hesmer; 21.Sebastian Miranda, 14.Chad Marshall, 26.Julius James, 31.Josh Gardner; 11.Dilly Duka (13.Leandre Griffit 88'), 22.Dejan Rusmir, 15.Kevin Burns (17.Emmanuel Ekpo 67'), 18.Robbie Rogers; 12.Eddie Gaven, 20.Emilio Renteria (33.Jeff Cunningham 78')
Subs not used: 30.Andy Gruenebaum, 4.Andy Iro, 10.Andres Mendoza, 23.Korey Veeder
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 25.Jonathan Leathers, 14.Greg Janicki, 50.Mouloud Akloul, 4.Alain Rochat, 8.Wes Knight (22.Shea Salinas 66'), 7.Terry Dunfield (12.Jeb Brovsky 74'), 28.Gershon Koffie, 20.Davide Chiumiento; 37.Camilo (16.Nizar Khalfan 56'), 17.Omar Salgado
Subs not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 2.Michael Boxall, 19.Blake Wagner, 31.Russell Teibert