Vancouver Whitecaps FC claimed a 0-0 draw with Major League Soccer side Los Angeles Galaxy in an international friendly at BC Place.
Whitecaps Rewind (Radio Highlights)
In front of a crowd of 48,172, the Whitecaps showed Vancouver soccer fans that they were more than a match for their MLS visitors, despite not confirming their superiority with a winning goal.
Though Galaxy star midfielder David Beckham drew most of the crowd under the dome on Wednesday evening, many of them are sure to leave with a positive feeling about their home side and the manner of their performance in front of a huge audience.
As widely expected, Galaxy interim head coach Trevor James gave Beckham a start for the southern California side, with the former England captain making his Canadian debut in Vancouver as team captain. James also handed starts to former Whitecaps midfielder and Vancouver native Kevin Harmse, as well as fellow Canadian international defender Ante Jazic. USA international Landon Donovan partnered former Toronto FC forward Edson Buddle in attack, as Los Angeles played in a 4-4-2 formation.
Whitecaps interim head coach Todd Wawrousek, meanwhile, started his two loan signings from the current United Soccer Leagues First Division champions Seattle Sounders. Centre back Taylor Graham and striker Roger Levesque made Vancouver’s starting XI in what was also a 4-4-2 formation, with midfielder Tony Donatelli extending his consecutive games streak to 30 games with a start in midfield.
Flashbulbs went off all over BC Place, as both teams posed for pre-game photos, with the Whitecaps playing in a change strip of blue shirts, white shorts, and dark socks. The Galaxy dawned their first-choice colours of all white for the friendly contest, with the enthusiastic crowd greeting the opening kickoff with the waving of complimentary towels.
Though the turf surface was hard and uneven in areas, both sides did well to pass the ball and keep possession throughout the opening 45 minutes, with the Whitecaps having the majority of the goalscoring opportunities. Naturally, the big draw for the friendly was the appearance on the pitch of Beckham, and it only took him four minutes to excite the crowd when the ball came to his feet.
On nine minutes, the Galaxy created a decent half chance through the tricky Donovan after he dispossessed the fleet-footed Lyle Martin. The former Bayer Leverkusen man made his way into the Whitecaps box, but his shot rolled across the face of Matt Nelson’s goal.
It was a rare foray forward from the visitors in the first half, as Vancouver looked more threatening at the other end. Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon needed to make an assured save from Whitecaps captain Jeff Clarke’s volleyed strike that went through the legs of teammate Alfredo Valente before finding the Los Angeles number one.
Martin Nash was then presented with a free-kick opportunity on 13 minutes for the home side, but his set-piece was not Beckham-like, as it hit the Galaxy wall before being cleared away. Moment later, Levesque was unable to hit the target with a near-post header from Martin’s cross after the fullback had surged down the right flank.
To his credit, Beckham played an active role in the first half, but he found himself on the ground after losing possession in a strong tackle with Whitecaps centre back Adrian Cann on 20 minutes. A minute later, Kindel forced another save from Cannon with a low near-post drive.
On 25 minutes, the far-side assistant referee gave a late offside decision on Donatelli after he latched on to Clarke’s forward ball, though it looked to be a close call. Seconds later, Cannon did well to cut out a low and dangerous Martin cross from the feet of the lurking Eduardo Sebrango.
The turning point of the game came on the half-hour mark, as Cannon brought Sebrango down in the Galaxy box for a penalty after the Cuban hit-man had knocked Levesque’s forward pass past the onrushing goalkeeper. The crowd sensed an opening goal, but despite their expectations, Sebrango struck his spot kick straight at Cannon’s diving legs before the ball was cleared away into touch.
Though it remained goalless, the Galaxy still struggled to create first-half chances. The frustration seemed evident with Donovan, who earned himself a booking from referee Mauricio Navarro for a late challenge on Valente. The Whitecaps midfielder then had the chance at goal five minutes before halftime, but his effort from Kindel’s pass sailed over Cannon’s crossbar, as both sides went to the break tied at 0-0.
Clarke himself was disappointed not to have given Whitecaps fans a victory to savour. “Saying that we held our own would be selling our efforts short,” the midfielder told whitecapsfc.com. “We trained and prepared well, and we were in the right mindset. There were two or three goals in it for us there, but unfortunately, we didn’t put them away.”
The start of the second half was delayed after the game officials were the last to get on to the pitch, despite both sides being prepared to restart. The Whitecaps introduced Joey Worthen and Jay Alberts for the second half, while midfielder Josh Tudela and goalkeeper Steve Cronin came into the game for Los Angeles.
Whitecaps goalkeeper Matt Nelson did not need to make a save in the first half, but he was called on to block Buddle’s fierce shot away for a corner on 51 minutes.
Vancouver responded on 68 minutes with another Nash free kick. The Canadian international struck it well, but Cronin was able to secure the ball in his arms on the goal line. A minute later, Tudela had a chance for the Galaxy at the other end, but his effort flew wide.
As was expected, both teams made a number of substitutions in the second half, with the crowd left disappointed when Beckham came out of the game on 72 minutes for Galaxy defender Chris Albright. Though the game ended in a draw, Beckham was happy with his run-out at BC Place. “Yeah, it was good,” he told the mass of reporters after the game. “It’s a shame there wasn’t any goals, but we enjoyed the game. I think both teams came at each other and could have broken each other down. There was a great crowd out there and hopefully they enjoyed themselves. It’s great that so many people came out and watched the game. It just seemed a shame there wasn’t any goals, but I hope they enjoyed it.”
The 32-year-old was also impressed by the quality of soccer from the Whitecaps. “We knew that they were going to come at us and we knew that they had a few players that were pretty dangerous,” Beckham said. “They pass the ball around well and, of course, you know they can play. I thought they played well tonight.”
Beckham felt he took a lot out of playing more than three quarters of Wednesday’s game. “I was meant to really only play half the game, but I felt stronger and stronger as the first half went on and wanted to play a little bit longer,” he admitted. “When it was time for me to come off, it was to give other players a chance to get out there and have a run around.”
Among the numerous second-half substitutes was Whitecaps striker Jason Jordan and he forced Cronin into a good save with a powerful turn and shot from the edge of the box on 79 minutes. Two minutes later, Kindel struck a wayward shot over the Galaxy crossbar before Worthen was equally off-target with a late run and shot.
With a minute remaining, Whitecaps substitute Darren Spicer went just wide with a close-range shot after playing a neat give-and-go with Jordan in the Galaxy box. That proved to be the last goalscoring opportunity of the game, as both sides met at midfield following the conclusion of an entertaining stalemate.
Following the match, James was complimentary of what he saw from their USL-1 hosts. “For an exhibition game, I thought it was very competitive,” he told reporters. “It was a well-contested and well-spirited contest. From our point of view, it was a great game for us, and I hope it was as well for the Whitecaps. They looked a very compact unit and they’ve got a lot of pace on the outside. They certainly gave us a handful and all around, I was impressed with them.”
Wawrousek was also delighted by the performance of his side on what was a huge stage for the men’s team. “I thought the boys made a very good account of themselves,” he said during the post-game press conference. “We went into the game with an attitude to attack and we were quite successful, particularly in our flank play on both sides. We were able to cycle the ball around and had good balance in our play. I thought it was a great night for us against a very good opponent.”
The Galaxy will now move on to face another USL-1 club in the Minnesota Thunder on Sunday before heading to Australia for a game with Sydney FC on November 27 and New Zealand for a match with Wellington Phoenix on December 1.
The Whitecaps will now look forward to the 2008 USL-1 season by continuing with their off-season training program over the coming winter months.
Statistical InformationScoring Summary:
No goals scored.
Final Match Stats:Shots: Vancouver - 12 - Los Angeles - 3
Saves: Vancouver - 1 - Los Angeles - 6
Fouls: Vancouver - 15 - Los Angeles - 14
Offsides: Vancouver - 6 - Los Angeles - 1
Corners: Vancouver - 0 - Los Angeles - 3
Referee: Mauricio Navarro
Vancouver – Adrian Cann 64’
Los Angeles – Joe Cannon 30’, Landon Donovan 37’, Chris Klein 63’, Kelly Gray 81’
1.Matt Nelson; 4.Adrian Cann, 16.Taylor Graham, 8.Steve Kindel, 24.Lyle Martin (13.Geordie Lyall 72’); 2.Jeff Clarke (15.Omar Jarun 57’), 7.Martin Nash (18.Josh Hansen 83’), 9.Alfredo Valente (19.Joey Worthen 45’), 14.Tony Donatelli (6.Jay Alberts 45’); 12.Eduardo Sebrango (23.Darren Spicer 60’), 22.Roger Levesque (26.Jason Jordan 72’)
Vancouver subs not used:
11.Randy Edwini-Bonsu, 17.Adam Straith, 20.Dave Morris, 29.Lutz Pfannenstiel
Los Angeles Galaxy
1.Joe Cannon (0.Steve Cronin 45’); 2.Mike Randolph, 4.Ante Jazic, 12.Troy Roberts, 22.Kelly Gray; 6.Kevin Harmse (13.Cobi Jones 74’), 7.Chris Klein, 8.Peter Vagenas (19.Josh Tudela 45’), 23.David Beckham (5.Chris Albright 72’); 10.Landon Donovan (20.Carlos Pavon 61’), 14.Edson Buddle (16.Kyle Veris 84’)
Los Angeles subs not used:
27.Mike Caso, 35.Lance Friesz