Finally, in their fourth MLS match away from home, Vancouver Whitecaps FC earned their first point on the road, as they battled to a 0-0 draw against Chicago Fire at Toyota Park on Saturday evening.
The match really could have gone either way, but Teitur Thordarson has to be pleased with the result, considering his team had only two days' rest after an exhausting 120-minute affair against Montreal Impact in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinals on Wednesday.
With two changes from the line-up that played on Wednesday, and the same backline for the third straight match, the ‘Caps banded together to limit Chicago to few overall chances throughout the match.
“It’s important that we have continuity in our line-up, as I don’t like to make too many changes,” said Thordarson.
However, tired legs also made it a struggle to create any clear scoring opportunities before the break.
"They dominated us in the first half," added the head coach. "We dropped too deep, which was not the plan, but we managed to correct that at halftime and came out strong."
Part of the reason the ‘Caps dropped back was because of the threat of Chicago’s creative playmaker Marco Pappa, who nearly set up a goal from Diego Chaves in the 44th minute, with only the post saving Vancouver.
"We knew about the danger on the right flank," said Thordarson. "That caused us some problems, and maybe because of that, we were a little afraid of stepping up and coming up higher."
While the ‘Caps were lucky in the first half and satisfied with the point, they picked up their attack in the second half and could have had all three points, had Designated Player Eric Hassli finished a breakaway opportunity in the 75th minute.
"That’s actually the first time I’ve ever seen him miss a chance like that, in practice or a game," said midfielder Shea Salinas. "With the pedigree that Eric has, he’s going to score goals."
One positive for Hassli, however, was that he played his first MLS match without receiving a card, while also registering his first full 90 minutes on the road this season after missing out on previous affairs due to suspension.
Not getting booked is no doubt a positive, but Hassli never quite looked himself against the Fire, perhaps weary of catching the referee’s attention. The fear of another suspension seems to have disrupted his play the past couple of matches and it appears that the challenge of finding the proper degree of physicality could be one that he faces throughout the season.
Salinas, meanwhile, continues to shine as he energizes the ‘Caps while coming off the bench, taking on defenders and sending dangerous crosses into the box whenever he’s on the pitch.
"Teitur tells me when I go on that my first responsibility is being defensive," said Salinas. "But knowing my character, he knows that when I get the ball, I want to be dangerous. The second that I get the ball, I'm looking to either score or get an assist."
Whitecaps FC will need that attacking mindset, if they hope go a step further and get their second MLS win of the season against San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday.