In their fifth away match of their inaugural Major League Soccer season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-5L-5D) fell to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at Eastern Conference side New England Revolution (3W-3L-4D) on Saturday evening.
An early second-half penalty from Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph earned New England all three points after match referee Chris Penso adjudged Wes Knight to have fouled Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber in the Vancouver box. It was a frustrating end to a solid road performance by Whitecaps FC, as a younger-looking Vancouver side gave their hosts a real battle on the turf at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Saturday's defeat extends the 'Caps winless run in the league to 10 matches, with the Blue and White still to win away from home as an MLS club. Victory for New England ends a two-match winless streak for Steve Nicol's side.
"I’m obviously disappointed with the result, but at the same time, we dominated the game," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "We didn’t create too many goalscoring opportunities, but we had some of them, especially in the first half. That was basically the same with New England. They had a lot of dangerous corners and free kicks, and we knew that’s what they’re good at. We kept our heads up and continued to play, but unfortunately, we didn’t manage to create too many goal chances, and they were given a penalty."
In the midst of a very busy schedule of games, Thordarson freshened up his side by starting several of his younger players in New England. There were two changes in Vancouver's backline, with captain Jay DeMerit making his first start in just over a month at centre back, while Blake Wagner replaced the rested Alain Rochat at left fullback. There were also two changes in midfield, with 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Gershon Koffie and youngster Russell Teibert returning to the line-up. Thordarson also changed his attack pairing by playing youngster Omar Salgado with Chinese striker Long Tan, who earned his first MLS start in the weekend match.
Going into Saturday's game, much of the talk was about how New England could possibly take advantage of a match-weary Whitecaps FC side. What the home side did not expect was Vancouver showing lots of energy and purpose with their re-tooled starting XI, as the 'Caps carried much of the play in the first half at a rainy Gillette Stadium. On six minutes, winger Shea Salinas forced New England goalkeeper Matt Reis to knock away his dangerous cross with a diving save in his six-yard box.
With a week to prepare for Saturday's game, New England's attack was relatively tame in the first half. The home side's best chance came on 19 minutes, as recent acquisition Feilhaber had a close-range header blocked away for a corner by 'Caps centre back Mouloud Akloul after the United States international got on the end of Chris Tierney's cross from the left.
Instead, it was Whitecaps FC that finished the opening half strongly with a decent set of chances. Tan nearly got on the end of Knight's cross from the right on 26 minutes, while Salinas had a dangerous run and shot blocked away by the home side nine minutes later. Just before halftime, Salgado did well to test Reis with a low strike.
It was an encouraging first half from Vancouver, but the onus was on the home side to try and take back the initiative. Nicol's halftime team talk to his Revolution squad seemed to have the desired effect, as New England looked sharper after the break.
That new-found energy resulted in the decisive moment of the match, as referee Penso awarded the Revolution a penalty after Knight stepped on the foot of Feilhaber just inside the Whitecaps FC box, with the midfielder going to ground. Joseph stepped up to take the spot kick with his right foot and beat Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jay Nolly with a solid finish for a 1-0 Revolution lead on 49 minutes.
It was a frustrating way to start the second half for Vancouver, with the visitors now needing to find a way back into the contest. Thordarson used his three substitutions after the break, including two attack-minded moves with the introductions of Nizar Khalfan and Davide Chiumiento.
Yet, it was Salgado that had one of Whitecaps FC's better chances on 70 minutes, as he forced Reis into another good save at his near post with a downward header. New England, meanwhile, kept Vancouver on their toes defensively. Feilhaber and substitute Sainey Nyassi forced Nolly into a pair of good saves with their respective goal-bound efforts.
As the match entered the dying moments, Vancouver created the last chance of the game on 89 minutes. A fine cross from Salinas found Tan at the far post, but his side-footed volley went straight into the arms of Reis. Nearly four minutes of time added on were played before the final whistle confirmed a third home win for New England and more frustration on the road in MLS for the 'Caps.
Whitecaps FC will now turn their attentions to winning their first Voyageurs Cup title in club history, as they host MLS rivals Toronto FC at Empire Field on Wednesday night in the first leg of the 2011 Nutrilite Canadian Championship final. New England, meanwhile, travel to Northern California next Saturday for a meeting with Western Conference side San Jose Earthquakes in MLS.
49' - NE - Shalrie Joseph (penalty)
Shots: New England 8 - Vancouver 11
Shots on Goal: New England 4 - Vancouver 6
Saves: New England 6 - Vancouver 3
Fouls: New England 14 - Vancouver 12
Offsides: New England 2 - Vancouver 1
Corners: New England 6 - Vancouver 6
6' - VAN - Jay DeMerit
62’ - NE - Zak Boggs
66’ - NE - Stephen McCarthy
New England Revolution
1.Matt Reis; 30.Kevin Alston, 45.Ryan Cochrane, 5.A.J. Soares, 25.Darius Barnes; 33.Zak Boggs (17.Sainey Nyassi ’74), 26.Stephen McCarthy, 21.Shalrie Joseph, 22.Benny Feilhaber; 8.Chris Tierney; 10.Rajko Lekic (11.Kheli Dube 82’)
Subs not used: 34.Bobby Shuttleworth, 2.Franco Coria, 7.Kenny Mansally, 15.Zack Schilawski, 28.Pat Phelan
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 8.Wes Knight, 6.Jay DeMerit (14.Greg Janicki 64’), 50.Mouloud Akloul, 19.Blake Wagner; 22.Shea Salinas, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 28.Gershon Koffie, 31.Russell Teibert (20.Davide Chiumiento 79’); 23.Long Tan, 17.Omar Salgado (16.Nizar Khalfan 74’)
Subs not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 7.Terry Dunfield, 25.Jonathan Leathers, 37.Camilo