Two wins on the road, and a first-ever victory in an Eastern Conference city.
Perhaps it took a bit of a fortuitous free kick from Young-Pyo Lee, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC entered more unchartered waters in a 1-0 win at Columbus Crew on Saturday.
“I’m really, really pleased,” head coach Martin Rennie told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410. “It was a fantastic win for us in a very difficult stadium to come to and get a result, and especially given the fact they haven’t won in three games, I think it made [the Crew] so much more determined and so much more dangerous to play against. So it was an excellent team performance.
“Hardworking – certainly wasn’t a fluid possession performance, but on the road we’re just so happy to get the win.”
Indeed, Vancouver were pressed right from the get-go, as Columbus created a number of quality first-half opportunities, including a spectacular bicycle kick effort from Crew defender Josh Williams.
Despite generating nine corner kicks, the Crew struggled to get shots on target, thanks in part to nine blocks from Whitecaps FC defenders.
“The guys on our team know their individual roles,” Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon said. “This year, there’s more accountability. Everyone’s stepping up, but we are fortunate to be getting some breaks.”
While the ‘Caps were fortunate to see a couple of balls smash off the woodwork on the defensive end, they may have also received a break on the decisive goal, as Lee’s 74th-minute strike appeared to be a mis-hit attempted cross from his free kick on the right side of the Columbus box.
“I would say a couple of things went our way,” Rennie conceded. “I think Y.P.’s goal was a little bit fortuitous and in the first half, in the first 10 minutes, I thought the Crew came out really strong, caused us a few problems and hit the crossbar. I’d also say this was one of the first times this season I’ve really, really felt like that. In the games we lost, we were probably really unfortunate to lose.”
With the win, Whitecaps FC now have six clean sheets on the season – and that “fortuitous” goal Rennie described? Cannon wasn’t having any of it when asked if it was a fluke.
“If you’re asking if Y.P. meant it, I think anything that guy does is magical,” Cannon said. “I think he means it. He’s that good. He’s an absolute beast. The ‘young prince’ is doing wonders for us on the right side and it’s great to see.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.