Playing their first match in the month of September, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4W-13L-10D) had to settle for a 1-1 away draw with Eastern Conference club New York Red Bulls (6W-6L-15D) on Saturday evening.
A fine first-half performance by Whitecaps FC at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, saw 'Budweiser Man of the Match' Davide Chiumiento give the visitors a well-deserved halftime lead with an excellent strike. Although they played just over half the match with ten men following the sending off of Jan Gunnar Solli, the Red Bulls earned a point at home when substitute Juan Agudelo equalized midway through the second half.
It was a pulsating fixture between these two clubs, with chances and incidents occurring throughout the contest. Whitecaps FC, however, will feel disappointed to have only taken a point from Saturday's game after initially taking the lead and playing with an extra man in the second half. The result leaves Vancouver still searching for their first away win as an MLS club, with only two away matches left in their inaugural regular season schedule. As for New York, their struggles in 2011 continue, as the draw extends the Red Bulls' winless run in the league to eight matches. In fact, New York have only won two games in their last 20 MLS contests.
"I was very pleased with the first half. I think that we established a game plan and the guys carried it out very well," said Whitecaps FC head coach Tom Soehn. "We found a lot of space with Davide (Chiumiento) like we thought we would and he made a real difference in the hole. His distribution got Camilo and Shea (Salinas) involved in the game. Coming in at halftime, the one thing we didn’t want to change was what our tactics were. I thought the first ten minutes of the second half went well, but it hurt when Davide went out because he was a big difference today. At that point, our mentality went down and New York actually controlled the tempo of the game, which can’t happen when you’re a man up."
Soehn made two changes to the side that started the home victory over Houston Dynamo two weeks ago. Camilo returned from suspension to play on the left-hand side of midfield, while Houston match winner Shea Salinas started on the right flank. The former D.C. United head coach also shifted John Thorrington to the right fullback position, while Chiumiento partnered Eric Hassli in attack. Jonathan Leathers and Mustapha Jarju started the game on the substitutes' bench. New York head coach Hans Backe, meanwhile, gave two of his Designated Players in striker Thierry Henry and defender Rafael Marquez their first appearances against Vancouver.
In a match that was full of entertainment, it was fitting that both clubs put in a spirited effort on such a sombre occasion for the people of New York City and the United States. Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the 'September 11 attacks' on New York and Washington, D.C., and in honour of those that lost their lives and made sacrifices following the attacks, players throughout MLS wore black armbands during their respective weekend matches, while Red Bulls fans waved American flags during the match at Red Bull Arena.
What the crowd of 19,684 saw was one of Whitecaps FC's best halves of soccer in this inaugural MLS season. The visitors created several quality chances and scored a fine opening goal before the break. Salinas and captain Jay DeMerit had headed opportunities for the Blue and White, but it was the tricky pair of Camilo and Chiumiento that really opened up the Red Bulls backline.
On eight minutes, a fine give-and-go with Hassli on the edge of the New York box allowed Camilo to get in behind Red Bulls left fullback Chris Albright before slotting a strike into the net from a tight angle. However, match referee Terry Vaughn inexplicably called a foul by the Brazilian on Albright in the process. Three minute later, the impressive Chiumiento took a Hassli pass near the halfway line before making an excellent run towards the New York goal. With only Coundoul to beat, the Swiss playmaker's shot was well saved by the Senegalese shot-stopper.
Having seen their hold on an MLS Cup Playoff spot become ever more tenuous in recent weeks, the Red Bulls looked an increasingly frustrated bunch during the opening 45 minutes. Henry himself grew more frustrated after missing the target with two good chances in the first 10 minutes of the game, while 'Caps goalkeeper Joe Cannon did well to deny the Frenchman on 20 minutes, as the former Arsenal and Barcelona forward got on the end of a fine through ball.
The brightness and attacking intent from Whitecaps FC paid dividends on 23 minutes, as Chiumiento struck his second goal of the season in spectacular fashion. Camilo took a pass from Hassli on the left flank before beating Solli to the New York byline. The South American's exquisite cutback found Chiumiento, and his sublime turn and volley beat Coundoul before hitting the underside of the bar and nestling in the back of the net for a 1-0 Vancouver lead.
It was one of the 'Caps finest goals of the season and gave Soehn's side real belief that their first away win may come in New York. As the match entered three minutes of time added on at the end of the first half, referee Vaughn reduced the Red Bulls to ten men after adjudging right fullback Solli to have deliberately pulled down Camilo in his own half after a flowing Whitecaps FC attacking move.
Solli's red card before halftime meant Whitecaps FC would play the second half with an extra man and aiming to build on their slender one-goal lead. Instead, the talented Red Bulls found a way to earn a share of the spoils.
Camilo and Hassli had efforts on the New York goal shortly after the restart before Backe made an important substitution by bringing on top American youngster Agudelo for recent acquisition Stephane Auvray just after the hour mark.
The move paid off, as Agudelo took advantage of a Vancouver lapse in concentration to equalize on 68 minutes. Marquez was given time to play a ball into the Whitecaps FC box from the right flank that the Red Bulls striker steered first-time past Cannon to make it 1-1. It was Agudelo's sixth goal of the season.
The goal swung the momentum in favour of 10-man New York, and Cannon was called on to make a couple of important saves to preserve an away point for the 'Caps. The experienced shot-stopper did brilliantly to stop an Agudelo header on 80 minutes before blocking away a well-hit Henry free kick seven minutes later.
As the match entered four minutes of time added on, there were gaps through midfield that allowed both sides to have late forays forward in search of a winner. It was Whitecaps FC that came closest to doing so when Camilo curled a fine shot agonisingly wide of Coundoul's far post.
The final whistle from referee Vaughn brought another intriguing MLS encounter to an end, with both Whitecaps FC and the Red Bulls looking a far-from-satisfied bunch of players at taking a point-a-piece in New Jersey. Vancouver will now turn their attentions to another challenging away match, as they visit top MLS club LA Galaxy in Southern California next Saturday night. New York, meanwhile, face an equally difficult trip to Texas to play Western Conference side FC Dallas next Saturday.
23' - VAN - Davide Chiumiento (Camilo)
68' - NY - Juan Agudelo (Rafael Marquez)
Shots: New York 15 - Vancouver 12
Shots on Goal: New York 6 - Vancouver 4
Saves: New York 5 - Vancouver 3
Fouls: New York 8 - Vancouver 15
Offsides: New York 2 - Vancouver 2
Corners: New York 1 - Vancouver 2
31' - NY - Rafael Marquez
73' - NY - Thierry Henry
45'+1 - NY - Jan Gunnar Solli
New York Red Bulls
18.Bouna Coundoul; 3.Chris Albright, 5.Tim Ream, 44.Carlos Mendes,, 8.Jan Gunnar Solli; 20.Joel Lindpere, 4.Rafael Marquez, 11.Dax McCarty (9.Luke Rogers 81'), 25.Stephane Auvray (17.Juan Agudelo 61'); 19.Dane Richards; 14.Thierry Henry,
Subs not used: 31.Alex Horwath, 10.Mehdi Ballouchy, 15.Matt Kassel, 22.Stephen Keel
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon; 26.Jordan Harvey (23.Long Tan 90'+2), 4.Alain Rochat, 6.Jay DeMerit, 11.John Thorrington (25.Jonathan Leathers 78'); 37.Camilo, 8.Peter Vagenas, 28.Gershon Koffie, 22.Shea Salinas, 20.Davide Chiumiento (7.Mustapha Jarju 57'), 29.Eric Hassli
Subs not used: 18.Jay Nolly, 2.Michael Boxall, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 17.Omar Salgado
Budweiser Man of the Match: Davide Chiumiento