Playing their final match in the month of July, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-11L-9D) suffered a 4-0 defeat at home to Western Conference leaders LA Galaxy (12W-2L-9D) on Saturday afternoon.
After giving the best side in MLS a stern test for much of this weekend contest on Bell Pitch at Empire Field, the pedigree of the Galaxy proved telling in the end, as LA scored four goals in the game's final half-hour to earn their sixth away win of the season. Landon Donovan struck twice - the second coming from the penalty spot - before Sean Franklin and substitute Adam Cristman sealed LA's first league win on Canada's west coast and inflicted the worst defeat in MLS on the Blue and White. Saturday's result extended Vancouver's winless run in the league to six matches, while victory for the Galaxy extended their unbeaten run in MLS to 14 games (8W-0L-6D).
"We are obviously disappointed and today shows what a good team is all about," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "When LA get chances, they punish you. We came out with the idea of wanting to create a lot and get one in, so that way we could open the Galaxy up. Yet, when you don’t put away chances against a good team, they are going to come back and haunt you, especially guys like Landon Donovan."
With more of his squad available for Saturday's match, Soehn gave left fullback Jordan Harvey and striker Mustapha Jarju their MLS home debuts for Vancouver, while centre back Alain Rochat also returned after missing the draw at San Jose Earthquakes to be at the birth of his third child. Soehn also played an attack-minded midfield that featured Davide Chiumiento's return to the starting XI for the first time since the June 25 defeat at Sporting Kansas City. Though star midfielder David Beckham was unavailable through suspension for the Galaxy, Donovan served as LA's captain, while Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel started up front for the Southern California outfit.
The match started out in gorgeous weather, but it seemed fitting that early evening clouds rolled in by the time the final whistle was blown, as Whitecaps FC's promise of causing an upset evaporated in the final third of the match. In the end, LA showed the cutting edge in front of goal that was missing for Vancouver, with the four-goal defeat leaving Whitecaps FC a frustrated bunch in front of a sold-out Empire Field crowd of 27,500.
Like in so many home matches this season, Whitecaps FC were the brightest side through the first quarter of an hour, as they had the Galaxy on the back-foot with some quality chances. In most instances, Chiumiento was the conductor of Vancouver's attacks, with the Swiss playmaker creating the first chance of the match on four minutes when he found striker Eric Hassli on the left. The Frenchman then picked out Jarju with a good pass, but the West African struck his shot over LA's crossbar. The Gambian would also squander a feed from Chiumiento minutes later, while Camilo headed a neatly-taken cross by Chiumiento wide of the near post.
Likely the best MLS side that Vancouver have faced to this stage of the season, it was not until the halfway point of the first half that LA tested former Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon through a fierce A.J. DeLaGarza shot on target. Cannon would also make routine saves from Donovan and Angel before the break.
The home side kept the pressure on the Galaxy, and it nearly turned into a major bit of fortune on 25 minutes. However, after Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders and defender Todd Dunivant got their wires crossed in the LA box, the 'Caps could not take advantage. Four minutes later, Saunders was forced into a speculative clearance of Chiumiento's curling cross from the left in the six-yard box, as Jarju closed in on the LA shot-stopper.
As good as the 'Caps looked, the pedigree of Bruce Arena's side turned the momentum towards the visitors in the final stages of the first half, as LA created a set of excellent chances themselves. Cannon had to make big saves from Juninho's half-volley and Gregg Berhalter's header from Donovan's subsequent corner, while Franklin missed a glorious chance to give LA the lead with a close-range chance on 40 minutes.
The first-half events seemed a mere appetizer for what occurred after halftime, as both clubs came flying out of the blocks after the restart. Cannon was busy again in the 'Caps goal after making further saves from Juninho, Donovan, and Mike Magee. Vancouver, meanwhile, threatened at the other end through two chances from Hassli and a strike from Camilo that Saunders struggled to collect.
The game's turning point came around the hour mark. Whitecaps FC's best opportunity to score came through 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Shea Salinas, who struck the base of the post with a low drive after a fine run in from the right flank on 59 minutes. Two minutes later, the Galaxy scored their winner in fortunate circumstances. Franklin's forward ball reached Donovan, with the LA captain able to break in on goal after 'Caps centre back Michael Boxall slipped in the process of making his adjustment to close down the United States international. Donovan duly converted his 10th goal of the season for a 1-0 Galaxy lead.
Whitecaps FC responded to falling behind, but a Camilo free kick and a glancing header by Whitecaps FC captain Rochat did not bring the desired equalizer on 73 minutes. Instead, the match was put out of Vancouver's reach when match referee Baldomero Toledo awarded the Galaxy a penalty after he adjudged Harvey to have handled Dunivant's long ball into the Vancouver box. Donovan stepped up to slot home the spot kick for his 11th goal of the season and a 2-0 LA advantage on 75 minutes.
The penalty took the wind out of Vancouver's sails and the Galaxy went on to add two more goals in the dying stages. On 80 minutes, a fine counter-attack saw Donovan make a dangerous run down the left flank before striking a low ball across the face of Cannon's goal, where Franklin slid in to convert his second goal of the season for a 3-0 Galaxy lead. In the 90th minute, LA made it an emphatic road victory with a fourth goal through substitute Cristman. The LA striker took advantage of poor Whitecaps FC defending to loop a close-range header over Cannon and into the net for the 4-0 result.
Whitecaps FC will now look to regroup from this heavy defeat when they host Eastern Conference side Chicago Fire on Sunday, August 7. The Galaxy, meanwhile, continue their road trip through the Pacific Northwest when they make their first league visit to Portland Timbers on Wednesday night.
61' - LA - Landon Donovan (Sean Franklin)
75' - LA - Landon Donovan (penalty)
80' - LA - Sean Franklin (Landon Donovan, Todd Dunivant)
90' - LA - Adam Cristman
Shots: Vancouver 20 - Los Angeles 15
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 14 - Los Angeles 4
Saves: Vancouver 9 - Los Angeles 4
Fouls: Vancouver 9 - Los Angeles 19
Offsides: Vancouver 5 - Los Angeles 4
Corners: Vancouver 2 - Los Angeles 4
65' - LA - Michael Stephens
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 26.Jordan Harvey, 4.Alain Rochat, 2.Michael Boxall, 25.Jonathan Leathers (33.Peter Vagenas 73'); 37.Camilo, 28.Gershon Koffie, 20.Davide Chiumiento (13.Michael Nanchoff 81'), 22.Shea Salinas; 29.Eric Hassli, 7.Mustapha Jarju (16.Nizar Khalfan 62')
Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 8.Wes Knight, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 14.Greg Janicki
12.Josh Saunders; 2.Todd Dunivant, 3.Gregg Berhalter, 4.Omar Gonzalez, 20.A.J. DeLaGarza; 10.Landon Donovan (25.Miguel Lopez 84'), 19.Juninho, 26.Michael Stephens (15.Dan Keat 85'), 5.Sean Franklin; 18.Mike Magee, 9.Juan Pablo Angel (17.Adam Cristman 67')
Subs not used: 24.Brian Perk, 16.Hector Jimenez, 27.Bryan Jordan, 30.Paolo Cardozo
Budweiser Man of the Match: Shea Salinas