COLUMBUS, OHIO – Erik Hurtado’s first Major League Soccer goal carried Vancouver Whitecaps FC (4W-2L-4D) to a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew (3W-4L-3D) on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium.
Making his first MLS start in nearly a year, Hurtado found the back of the net in the 37th minute with a wonderfully taken left-footed strike to help Whitecaps FC claim their first road win of the 2014 MLS season.
Goalkeeper David Ousted, who earned his first MLS assist on Hurtado’s goal, made two saves en route to his second clean sheet of the season.
The ‘Caps, who outshot Columbus by a 22-12 margin, have now won two straight matches and are undefeated in their last four MLS fixtures.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made just one change to his starting lineup after last weekend’s 3-2 win over San Jose Earthquakes. Hurtado, the only player who started both of Vancouver’s matches this week, replaced an injured Darren Mattocks (hamstring strain) as the lone striker.
The second-year striker/winger was very involved for Whitecaps FC early on, as the visiting ‘Caps got off to a lively start at Crew Stadium.
In the fourth minute, Hurtado helped create a turnover deep in Columbus territory before Sebastian Fernandez sent a shot just wide of the goal. And in the ninth minute, Hurtado saw his strike from inside the area foiled by Crew goalkeeper Steve Clark after a nice passing play with Kekuta Manneh.
It was a free-flowing start to the match, as both sides pushed forward in search of the all-important opening goal.
Columbus had a few chances of their own, as Ousted was forced to make a few early saves off a Hector Jimenez strike and Jairo Arrieta header.
The Crew looked dangerous on the counter at times, but the ‘Caps kept things organized at the back and seemed to be dictating the pace of the game.
In the 37th minute, Vancouver opened the scoring thanks to a moment of brilliance from Hurtado. First, the 23-year-old chested down a precise Ousted free kick, took a perfect touch, and then launched a curling 22-yard strike into the top left corner of the goal.
Robinson’s side looked eager to add to their advantage in the early stages of the second half. Manneh and Hurtado, Vancouver’s 2013 MLS SuperDraft picks who were making their first MLS start together, looked particularly dangerous.
In the 49th minute, Manneh released Hurtado into the box with a perfectly weighted throughball but Clark was quick off his line to disrupt Hurtado’s attempt.
At the other end of the park, Columbus pushed numbers forward in the second half as they looked to end their six-match winless spell. One of their best chances came in the 76th minute, when substitute Justin Meram headed a Dominic Oduro cross just over the goal.
Columbus kept coming, but the ‘Caps kept them at bay thanks to some fine defensive work from the back four as well as a workmanlike performance from holding midfielder Matias Laba, who did well to limit Federio Higuain’s impact on the match. Laba, the Budweiser Man of the Match, had a career-high 11 tackles on Saturday.
Vancouver had several chances on the counter late, including a breakaway from substitute Omar Salgado in the 88th minute. But Salgado, who was making his first MLS appearance since October 2012, chipped his effort mere inches wide.
In the end, Hurtado’s first-half marker would be all Whitecaps FC needed to pick up their fourth win of the season.
After a week on the road, the Blue and White return to BC Place on Wednesday for the second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against Toronto FC. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. PT.
Vancouver’s next MLS match isn’t until May 24, when they host rival Seattle Sounders FC in the first Cascadia match of 2014. Tickets for both matches are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets, and a youth soccer half-season ticket. Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.
Tweet of the Game
Stat of the Game
Budweiser Man of the Match Matias Laba had a career-high 11 tackles on Saturday. Since the 2011 MLS season, only one player has recorded more tackles in a single match (Marcelo Sarvas with 13).
Budweiser Man of the Match: Matias Laba
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
37’ – VAN – Erik Hurtado (David Ousted)
Shots: Columbus 12 – Vancouver 22
Shots on Goal: Columbus 2 – Vancouver 6
Saves: Columbus 5 – Vancouver 2
Fouls: Columbus 13 – Vancouver 11
Offsides: Columbus 3 – Vancouver 3
Corners: Columbus 6 – Vancouver 7
21’ – VAN – Gershon Koffie
38’ – CLB – Tony Tchani
53’ – VAN – Wil Trapp
68’ – VAN – Andy O’Brien
90’ + 3 – VAN – Steven Beitashour
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour, 40.Andy O'Brien, 6.Jay DeMerit, 2.Jordan Harvey; 28.Gershon Koffie,15.Matías Laba (20.Nigel Reo-Coker 90’); 7.Sebastián Fernández, 77.Pedro Morales (31.Russell Teibert 82’), 23.Kekuta Manneh; 19.Erik Hurtado (17.Omar Salgado 74’)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 16.Johnny Leverón, 24.Carlyle Mitchell, 29.Nicolás Mezquida
1.Steve Clark; 3.Josh Williams (13.Ethan Finlay 77’), 5.Giancarlo Gonzalez, 4.Michael Parkhurst, 14.Waylon Francis; 6.Tony Tchani, 20.Wil Trapp; 12.Hector Jimenez (8.Dominic Oduro 63’), 10.Federico Higuain, 7.Bernardo Anor (9.Justin Meram 45’); 19.Jairo Arrieta
Substitutes not used
28.Matt Lampson, 2.Tyson Wahl, 21.Chad Barson, 24.Agustin Viana