Playing their third consecutive midweek match, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-4L-5D) left it late to earn a 1-1 draw with Western Conference rivals San Jose Earthquakes (1W-4L-3D) in Major League Soccer on Wednesday evening.
Davide Chiumiento was Vancouver's hero in time added on at the end of the match, as his dangerous curling ball into the Earthquakes box found the back of the net to cancel out Chris Wondolowski's first-half strike for the visitors on Bell Pitch at Empire Field.
It was a welcome result for the Blue and White, who struggled to make many openings during this inaugural MLS clash with their Northern California-based opponents. While the draw earned Vancouver another valuable point in MLS, the result extended the club's winless run in the league to nine matches. San Jose also saw their winless run in MLS extended to six games after this midweek stalemate.
"We don’t make things easy for ourselves, as it seems to be a habit now to make things exciting," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "We didn’t create so many chances in the first half, but in the second part of the second half when we started taking risks, we made a change on the field by playing three at the back. We were struggling a bit energy-wise and that is understandable, but I want to say one more time that I am impressed by the character of the team. We fought back into it and equalized."
Thordarson made three changes to the side that started last Saturday's goalless draw at Chicago Fire. After starting in all 11 previous games for Vancouver this season, Jonathan Leathers made way for Wes Knight at right fullback. Two more changes were made in midfield, with Shea Salinas earning his first competitive start for the Blue and White on the right-hand side of midfield in place of Blake Wagner. In central midfield, Jeb Brovsky came in for Ghanaian youngster Gershon Koffie. Captain Jay DeMerit was fit enough to make the substitutes' bench.
Though it was a cold and wet night on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds, the elements did not have an adverse effect of both sets of players, as they contributed to an entertaining game in front of a crowd of 15,608 in East Vancouver.
Whitecaps FC looked bright and sharp in possession in the early stages of the contest, with Chiumiento forcing a routine save from Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch on four minutes, while Eric Hassli had a shot blocked at close range by San Jose defender Ike Opara after Salinas picked out the big 'Caps striker in the Earthquakes box.
Having had a week to prepare for this visit to Vancouver, it did not take long for San Jose to put their Canadian hosts under pressure, as Frank Yallop's side dominated the statistics in shots, shots on goal, and corners in the first half. Early chances from Scott Sealy and Steven Lenhart kept Whitecaps FC on their toes, while the impressive Ryan Johnson was just off target with a dangerous run and shot on 12 minutes. Armed with last season's top goalscorer in MLS, Wondolowski showed his quality on set-pieces by testing 'Caps goalkeeper Jay Nolly with a free-kick strike on 25 minutes.
While there was intent, a goal seemed a distant possibility, as proceedings headed towards halftime. On 39 minutes, however, the Earthquakes drew first blood with a fourth goal of the season from Wondolowski. From a spell of San Jose pressure, midfielder Sam Cronin drew a fine diving save from Nolly with his goal-bound strike. The rebound fell kindly to Johnson on the left, and his first-time pass was neatly flicked home at close range by Wondolowski to give San Jose a 1-0 lead at the break.
It was another frustrating scenario for the 'Caps to be in at home, as they started the second half looking to find a way to get back into the match. Camilo tested Busch seconds after the restart, while Chiumiento curled a dangerous cross into the Earthquakes box that the San Jose number one did well to save on 53 minutes. Still, the Swiss playmaker's effort was one he would get to try again at the end of the game.
To their credit, the Earthquakes maintained enough of a threat to seal all three points on the road with a second goal. Johnson and Lenhart had opportunities after the break, while Cronin struck a shot just wide of Vancouver's goal after eluding a challenge from Knight.
Needing some inspiration, Thordarson brought on youngster Omar Salgado for Hassli in attack, Russell Teibert for Salinas in midfield, and club captain DeMerit for his first appearance since last month's defeat at Houston Dynamo. The changes saw 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Greg Janicki finish the match at right fullback, while Alain Rochat pushed up from left fullback into midfield.
Those changes brought some life to the home side. On 72 minutes, Brovsky took a Camilo lay-off before hitting a fine strike that was well saved by Busch for a corner. Two minutes later, Camilo himself was unable to direct Chiumiento's cross on target. Then on 83 minutes, substitute Salgado curled a shot wide from the edge of the San Jose box.
As Vancouver's pressure mounted, the match just entered three minutes of time added on when Chiumiento scored his first goal in a Whitecaps FC uniform to level the match. Much like his curling ball into the San Jose box earlier in the half, the Swiss international took a quick throw-in before receiving the ball back from fellow midfielder Terry Dunfield on the right. From near the top corner of the visitors' box, Chiumiento struck another dangerous curling ball that caught Busch out of position and flew into the far corner of the goal to make it 1-1.
It was a confidence-boosting equalizer from Chiumiento, and the 'Caps went about using up the remaining time that was added on to press hard for a winner, as the Empire Field crowd got behind the home side. Though they tried, San Jose held Vancouver out for a share of the spoils, though neither side are unlikely to be satisfied with the result.
Whitecaps FC will now make another quick turnaround in this busy month of action, as they travel to Foxborough, Massachusetts, for a return MLS meeting with Eastern Conference side New England Revolution on Saturday. San Jose, meanwhile, return home to host an Eastern Conference opponent of their own, as Columbus Crew meet the Earthquakes in Northern California on Saturday.
39' - SJ - Chris Wondolowski (Ryan Johnson)
90' + 1 - VAN - Davide Chiumiento (Terry Dunfield)
Shots: Vancouver 9 - San Jose 20
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 3 - San Jose 5
Saves: Vancouver 4 - San Jose 3
Fouls: Vancouver 10 - San Jose 12
Offsides: Vancouver 3 - San Jose 2
Corners: Vancouver 2 - San Jose 6
34' - VAN - Terry Dunfield (reckless tackle)
77' - VAN - Mouloud Akloul (handball)
86' - VAN - Jeb Brovsky (tactical foul)
86' - VAN - Jay Nolly (dissent)
90' - SJ - Steven Beitashour (reckless tackle)
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 8.Wes Knight (6.Jay DeMerit 75'), 14.Greg Janicki, 50.Mouloud Akloul, 4.Alain Rochat; 22.Shea Salinas (31.Russell Teibert 72'), 7.Terry Dunfield, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 20.Davide Chiumiento; 29.Eric Hassli (17.Omar Salgado 66'), 37.Camilo
Subs not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 16.Nizar Khalfan, 19.Blake Wagner, 28.Gershon Koffie
San Jose Earthquakes
18.Jon Busch; 33.Steven Beitashour, 6.Ike Opara, 2.Bobby Burling, 12.Ramiro Corrales; 9.Scott Sealy (7.Khari Stephenson 64'), 4.Sam Cronin, 5.Brad Ring, 19.Ryan Johnson; 8.Chris Wondolowski, 24.Steven Lenhart
Subs not used: 13.Andrew Weber, 21.Jason Hernandez, 3.Chris Leitch, 14.Brandon McDonald, 11.Bobby Convey, 25.Ellis McLoughlin