Highlights: Whitecaps FC 0 - 1 LA Galaxy
VANCOUVER, BC – Coming into Saturday’s Western Conference grudge match, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-9L-6D) had scored the most goals at home while LA Galaxy (12W-9L-4D) had scored – and conceded – the most on the road.
It had the makings of a wildly entertaining affair. Unfortunately for the Blue and White, however, it ended in heartbreak as Whitecaps FC suffered a 1-0 defeat to the two-time defending MLS Cup champions in their third and final meeting of the 2013 MLS regular season
In total, the ‘Caps launched 12 shots towards the Galaxy goal – including a late Kekuta Manneh strike that hit the woodwork. They did just about everything but score but it was not to be as the Galaxy walked away with an important three points – increasing their lead to four points over the now sixth-place ‘Caps.
Martin Rennie made three changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s 2-0 loss to Colorado Rapids. For the first time since suffering a hamstring strain on June 8 in Seattle, centre back Andy O’Brien returned to the starting XI – replacing Carlyle Mitchell.
Second-year striker Darren Mattocks also got the call, taking the place of Camilo who was held out as a precaution with a tight groin. It was the Jamaican’s first start since Vancouver’s 3-1 win over Los Angeles in May – a match in which he scored. Meanwhile, Matt Watson replaced Daigo Kobayashi in midfield.
Much of the talk in advance of Saturday’s contest was surrounding the Galaxy’s red-hot striking tandem of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, who had scored a combined eight goals in LA’s last three outings.
They came as advertised, as the Galaxy opened the scoring in the third minute on the strength of Donovan’s seventh goal of the season.
In the build-up, Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza played a ball meant for Keane, but centre back Johnny Leveron stepped in to disrupt the play. Luck was not on the side of Vancouver on this day though. After Leveron's poke, the ball quickly fell to a streaking Donovan at the top of the box and the American international let loose a clinical left-footed strike that found the top left corner of the ‘Caps goal to make it 1-0 for the visitors. As it would turn out, that would be the Galaxy's only shot on target all match.
Aside from the goal, the ‘Caps contained Donovan and Keane for most of the first half, though the Irish international did have two half-chances from the top of the box – both of which sailed just over the goal.
The ‘Caps managed to limit the Galaxy duo thanks in part to the marking of midfielder Gershon Koffie, who continues to impress in the holding role. The Ghanaian had a crack of his own in the 10th minute, but his long-range strike curled just wide of the goal.
Just minutes later, Vancouver had another good opportunity to equalize after Mattocks and a lively Russell Teibert played a clever one-two down the right flank. After receiving the ball near the Galaxy end line, Mattocks blasted a driven cross to an unmarked Kenny Miller, but the play was called back due to a Miller handball.
Leveron and Reo-Coker also came close for the ‘Caps late in the first half, but nothing materialized as the Galaxy took a 1-0 lead into the interval.
After an evenly played opening 45 minutes – in which the home team enjoyed 55 per cent of possession – the ‘Caps had the Galaxy on their heels for most of the second half.
Their first real chance came in the 53rd minute when Miller found himself all alone in the Galaxy area after Mattocks missed a Teibert cross. However, with a sliding DeLaGarza approaching, the Scotsman’s first-time left-footed strike sailed high and wide.
Vancouver continued to press towards the Galaxy goal but had great difficulty breaking through in the final third of the field.
Second-half substitute Kekuta Manneh, who seemed to inject some life into Vancouver's attack, nearly found an equalizer in the 81st minute. The Gambian uncorked a wicked 35-yard effort only to see it ring agonizingly off the post. The ensuing rebound fell to an unmarked Jordan Harvey but Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo denied the defender with a spectacular last-ditch diving save - one that will surely be a favourite for MLS Save of the Year.
With a sold-out crowd at their feet, the ‘Caps applied relentless pressure in the dying stages of the match. However, much to the dismay of the home crowd, the boys in white simply could not find the back of the net as the match ended in a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat.
Whitecaps FC are back at BC Place next weekend when they host Chivas USA, who currently occupy the basement of the Western Conference with 18 points. Tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.
3' - LA - Landon Donovan
Shots: Vancouver 12 - Los Angeles 9
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 5 - Los Angeles 1
Saves: Vancouver 0 - Los Angeles 5
Fouls: Vancouver 9 - Los Angeles 10
Offsides: Vancouver 4 - Los Angeles 0
Corners: Vancouver 4 - Los Angeles 3
55' - VAN - Gershon Koffie
73' - VAN - Young-Pyo Lee
90' + 1 - VAN - Nigel Reo-Coker
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
22.David Ousted; 12.Young-Pyo Lee (24.Carlyle Mitchell 90'), 40.Andy O'Brien, 16.Johnny Leveron, 2.Jordan Harvey; 13.Nigel Reo-Coker, 28.Gershon Koffie, 8.Matt Watson (23.Kekuta Manneh 45'); 31.Russell Teibert, 11.Darren Mattocks (14.Daigo Kobayashi 74'), 9.Kenny Miller
Substitutes not used: 18.Brad Knighton, 7.Camilo Sanvezzo, 19.Erik Hurtado, 27.Jun Marques Davidson
18.Jaime Penedo; 20.A.J. DeLaGarza, 4.Omar Gonzalez, 22.Leonardo, 2.Todd Dunivant; 16.Hector Jimenez (5.Sean Franklin 68'), 8.Marcelo Sarvas, 19.Juninho, 29.Gyasi Zardes; 10.Landon Donovan, 7.Robbie Keane
Substitutes not used: 12.Brian Rowe, 6.Pablo Mastroeni, 15.Laurent Courtois, 26.Michael Stephens, 28.Kofi Opare, 32.Jack McBean