For the first time this season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC have a full attacking arsenal at their disposal.
On Wednesday night in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinals, head coach Martin Rennie demonstrated just how deadly that can be, bringing forwards Sébastien Le Toux, Etienne Barbara, and Darren Mattocks (above) off the bench to make the difference.
HIGHLIGHTS: Vancouver 3, FC Edmonton 1
Le Toux rightfully stole the headlines with his pair of goals, but the return of Barbara and Mattocks to full fitness is almost like signing two new players.
“I think all along we’ve known that those two guys are impact players – players with pace, great movement, can finish,” Rennie told reporters after Wednesday’s match. “We’ve missed them all the way through the season, up until now. No one else probably thought about it but we definitely knew that, and those are guys that you could see instantly – they make runs in behind people, they’re mobile, they’re quick, they can beat people on the dribble.
“Darren’s put together a great finish, Etienne’s put together a great run and they were only on a short space of time, and I think those guys will be exciting players for this club. They give us a different dimension and I think we’ll enjoy seeing them.”
Mattocks, returning from a burn injury suffered during a cooking accident in late March, made the most of his time after coming on with 16 minutes left in the 90, scoring a stoppage-time goal which put the cherry on top of Vancouver’s 3-1 victory on the night, and 5-1 win on aggregate.
Barbara, for his part, made his first competitive appearance for Whitecaps FC after suffering a sports hernia injury on the first day of preseason. The Maltese forward generated a penalty within his first few touches, rounding FC Edmonton centre back Paul Hamilton before the defender got up to drag him down.
The 29-year-old stepped up to take his own penalty, only to be denied by a fine save from David Monsalve, diving low to the right.
“Darren is so, so fast,” said Davide Chiumiento, who assisted on all three of Vancouver's goals, said after the match. “So, I think with his runs and everything he can be really dangerous. Etienne has really good technique, and he can protect the ball incredibly. He’s intelligent on the field – it’s exciting for the fans, because that’s two really good players and we look forward to having them 100 per cent back with the team.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.