Playing their first all-Western Conference match-up, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (1W-2L-3D) had to settle for a goalless draw with Chivas USA (0W-2L-3D) in Major League Soccer action on Bell Pitch at Empire Field on Saturday afternoon.
Despite creating numerous goalscoring chances, which included hitting the post twice in the first half, Whitecaps FC could not find a way past Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and their Southern California visitors in this weekend clash on the Pacific National Exhibition grounds. To their credit, winless Chivas USA gave as good as they got in their maiden visit to Vancouver, as they created some very good chances of their own, especially in the early stages of the second half. It was Vancouver's first-ever 0-0 result in MLS and extended the 'Caps winless streak to five matches.
“We had quite a good game," said Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson. "We created lots of chances, but didn’t manage to score. It was the same problem Chivas USA had. We were very focused on the beginning of the game to not let them have the space to play and I think we managed that quite well. The game was quite even in the first half, but in the second half, we created some great chances and possibly should have had a couple of goals.”
Thordarson gave local product Kevin Harmse his first MLS start with the Blue and White, as he partnered youngster Jeb Brovsky in the centre of Vancouver's midfield. With captain Jay DeMerit sidelined with a groin injury, Alain Rochat took the armband and his place at centre back for Saturday's match. In attack, Eric Hassli returned from a one-match suspension to partner Camilo in attack, with Atiba Harris making way for the big Frenchman. Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser, meanwhile, gave New Zealand international Simon Elliott his MLS debut in midfield for the visitors.
A sunny, spring day in East Vancouver greeted a crowd of 20,809, who saw a match that ebbed and flowed either way in various stages, but had no goals to show for in the end.
The first half, in particular, was dominated by the home side, who created a fine set of scoring chances. This included two strikes against the Chivas USA woodwork, as Whitecaps FC attempted to break the deadlock before halftime.
Chances were exchanged in the early stages, with Chivas USA nearly breaking through off the game's first corner of the match. Argentine import Marcos Mondaini headed Heath Pearce's corner goalward, but Camilo was on hand to block the effort at the far post on two minutes. At the other end, Harmse tried to make the most of starting against his old club, but the Canadian international curled his right-footed shot just wide of the far post from Davide Chiumiento's through ball on six minutes.
Another change for the 'Caps line-up was Wes Knight coming in for Nizar Khalfan on the right-hand side of midfield. His efforts were influential for Vancouver, as he showed real threat going forward down the right flank. On nine minutes, some flowing soccer from the 'Caps saw Camilo play a ball wide to Knight in open space. The midfielder teed up his shot and struck it past Kennedy, but off the outside of the post and out for a goal kick.
In his third season as a Whitecaps FC player, Knight has yet to score for the club in a competitive contest. His bad fortune continued on 21 minutes when his low drive was cleared off the Chivas USA goal line by Elliott after Hassli did ever so well to find the College of Charleston product in front of goal with a cutback pass.
On 34 minutes, it was Hassli that suffered similar misfortune with a fine run and shot that hit the base of the post after the big French striker got on the end of another fine passing sequence between left fullback Blake Wagner and midfield teammate Chiumiento. Three minutes later, Wagner released Camilo with a pass that allowed the South American to make another dangerous run towards goal. The Brazilian's shot sliced past Kennedy, but wide of the target.
The visitors, meanwhile, kept Vancouver honest with some decent pressure of their own in the first half from captain Alejandro Moreno and midfielder Jorge Flores.
With the match well poised at 0-0 for the second half, Whitecaps FC picked up where they left off with another fine chance for Knight three minutes after the retstart. Hassli's cross from the left found the midfielder unmarked at the far post, but his header failed to hit the target.
Knight's chance would have brought an expectation of more Vancouver scoring opportunities, but Chivas USA quickly came to grips with the contest and went close to making the decisive breakthrough with some quality chances of their own.
On 51 minutes, Canadian international Ante Jazic played over a fine cross to Moreno at the far post. Unmarked, the Venezuelan international's first-time shot went just wide of the target. Three minutes later, Budweiser Man of the Match Jay Nolly made a crucial save to Jazic's far-post header after Mondaini played in a dangerous cross from the left.
The visitors' improved play in the second half kept 'Caps fans on edge. As the match moved to the latter stages, Thordarson brought on Khalfan for Chiumiento in midfield before handing Chinese striker Long Tan and youngster Omar Salgado their competitive home debuts.
With fresh legs in attack, Vancouver made one last push for a valuable winning goal. On 82 minutes, Tan released Camilo on the break, but after reaching the Chivas USA box, the Brazilian's strike flew well off target. Seven minutes later, Khalfan looked in line to score his first MLS goal, but Kennedy brilliantly stopped the Tanzanian international's well-hit half volley for a corner. Then from Khalfan's set-piece, Salgado had a chance to be the Whitecaps FC hero, but he was unable to keep his header from going over the Chivas USA crossbar.
Two more minutes of time added on were played before match referee Jorge Gonzalez brought an end to proceedings, as Whitecaps FC claimed a third-straight draw at Empire Field.
Whitecaps FC will now look ahead to another Western Conference showdown next Saturday, as 2010 MLS Cup finalists FC Dallas pay a visit to Empire Field. Chivas USA, meanwhile, remain on the road when they to head Northern California for a meeting with San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday.
Shots: Vancouver 11 - Chivas 12
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 2 - Chivas 5
Saves: Vancouver 4 - Chivas 1
Fouls: Vancouver 13 - Chivas 9
Offsides: Vancouver 2 - Chivas 2
Corners: Vancouver 2 - Chivas 9
55' - VAN - Jeb Brovsky
64' - VAN - Eric Hassli
67' - CHV - Nick LaBrocca
86' - VAN - Michael Boxall
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
18.Jay Nolly; 25.Jonathan Leathers, 2.Michael Boxall, 4.Alain Rochat, 19.Blake Wagner; 8.Wes Knight (17.Omar Salgado 83'), 32.Kevin Harmse, 12.Jeb Brovsky, 20.Davide Chiumiento (16.Nizar Khalfan 68'); 29.Eric Hassli (23.Long Tan 80'), 37.Camilo
Subs not used: 1.Joe Cannon, 3.Bilal Duckett, 15.Philippe Davies, 50.Mouloud Akloul
1.Dan Kennedy; 11.Michael Lahoud (20.Zarek Valentin 45'), 2.Andrew Boyens, 3.Heath Pearce, 13.Ante Jazic; 21.Ben Zemanski (5.Paulo Nagamura 60'), 9.Simon Elliott, 10.Nick LaBrocca, 19.Jorge Flores (6.Francisco Mendoza 75'); 23.Marcos Mondaini, 15.Alejandro Moreno
Subs not used: 22.Zach Thornton, 14.Gerson Mayen, 17.Justin Braun, 99.Victor Estupina