DeMerit goal celebration Chivas USA
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Whitecaps FC claim first away win in MLS at Chivas USA

CARSON, CA - In their first away match of the 2012 Major League Soccer season, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (2W-0L-0D) defeated Western Conference rivals Chivas USA (0W-2L-0D) 1-0 on Saturday evening.

Captain Jay DeMerit was the hero for the Blue and White, as his second-half header was not only his first goal in MLS, it earned Vancouver their first-ever away victory in the league on a cool and wet St. Patrick’s Day evening in Carson, California. Though they were tested at times by their hosts at The Home Depot Center, Martin Rennie’s side earned a second-straight clean sheet and a morale-boosting road result.

“Well, it’s nice to win any game and it’s great to win on the road anytime,” Rennie said after his first away win as an MLS head coach. “I think it’s probably of more significance for us tonight because in the past, in MLS, Whitecaps FC have not won on the road. For this group of players, it was their first chance to win on the road this season and they did a good job. Obviously, there are things we can always improve upon, but it was a professional performance, a very hardworking performance, and it’s always nice to win.”

Rennie made one change from the line-up that started the season-opening win over Canadian arch-rivals Montreal Impact. Englishman Matt Watson earned his first start in MLS when he replaced Gershon Koffie in central midfield, with the Ghanaian starting the game on the substitutes’ bench after waking up a sore ankle. Chivas USA, meanwhile, gave a start to former ‘Caps midfielder Peter Vagenas in front of a crowd of 7,723.

The first half saw the Rojiblancos look the better side, as they created some good chances, despite not making a breakthrough. Ryan Smith and Laurent Courtois had efforts at the Vancouver goal in the opening 45 minutes.

A key moment for Whitecaps FC came from the first chance of the match on nine minutes. Nick LaBrocca’s forward ball forced ‘Caps starting goalkeeper Joe Cannon to come off his goal line and clear the danger from the onrushing Smith in his own box. Cannon picked up a thigh injury in the ensuing collision with Smith, which eventually led to his substitution with fellow shot-stopper Brad Knighton just before halftime.

Whitecaps FC’s attacking efforts were not as potent in the first half, even though they got into some very good positions in the Rojiblancos box. Vancouver’s best opportunity came from Davide Chiumiento on the half-hour mark, but the Swiss playmaker could not keep his ambitious volley on target.

Instead, the best chance of the half fell to Chivas USA on 32 minutes. Before coming off with his thigh injury, Cannon made an excellent save, as he tipped Casey Townsend’s curling shot over his own crossbar for a Rojiblancos corner. It meant both sides went to halftime goalless.

After a disappointing first-half performance, Whitecaps FC improved in the second half. They created more chances in attack, while Knighton was not severely tested by The Goats after the restart. There some speculative efforts at both ends before Eric Hassli got his head to Young-Pyo Lee’s cross in front of goal on 61 minutes. However, the Frenchman was adjudged to have fouled Chivas USA’s James Riley in the process.

It was around the midway point of the second half that Whitecaps FC applied pressure on their hosts, with Lee forcing Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to block away his low drive that resulted in a decisive Vancouver corner.

It was from that corner on 68 minutes that Whitecaps FC made the all-important breakthrough. Camilo Sanvezzo swung over his set-piece to an unmarked DeMerit, who connected with a downward header that flew past a helpless Kennedy and gave Vancouver the lead. It was the United States international’s first goal in MLS.

Having taken the lead, Whitecaps FC successfully closed the match out in the final quarter of the contest. More solid defending and some smart goalkeeping by Knighton meant Chivas USA would start their 2012 campaign with two straight home defeats. Over four minutes of time added on were played before match referee Jair Marrufo brought proceedings to an end to confirm a triumphant night in Vancouver’s young MLS history.

Whitecaps FC will now return to Vancouver and prepare for their second home match of the season, as they host D.C. United on Bell Pitch at BC Place next Saturday night. Chivas USA, meanwhile, head on the road to visit Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake next Saturday.

Budweiser Man of the Match: Jay DeMerit

Scoring Summary:
68' - VAN – Jay DeMerit (Camilo Sanvezzo)

Match Stats:
Shots: Chivas USA 11 – Vancouver 6
Shots on Goal: Chivas USA 5 – Vancouver 2
Saves: Chivas USA 5 – Vancouver 1
Fouls: Chivas USA 7 – Vancouver 17
Offsides: Chivas USA 2 – Vancouver 5
Corners: Chivas USA 4 – Vancouver 3

35' - CHV – Oswaldo Minda
63' - VAN – Jun Marques Davidson
89' - VAN – Eric Hassli

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.Joe Cannon (18.Brad Knighton 41'); 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 15.Martin Bonjour, 6.Jay DeMerit, 4.Alain Rochat; 37.Camilo Sanvezzo (3.Jordan Harvey 71'), 16.Matt Watson, 27.Jun Marques Davidson, 20.Davide Chiumiento (26.Floyd Franks 82'); 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 29.Eric Hassli

Substitutes not used: 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 22.Darren Mattocks, 23.Long Tan

Chivas USA
1.Dan Kennedy; 7.James Riley, 4.Rauwshan McKenzie, 3.Heath Pearce, 13.Ante Jazic; 22.Ryan Smith (17.Miller Bolanos 62'), 6.Peter Vagenas (21.Ben Zemanski 74'), 8.Oswaldo Minda, 16.Laurent Courtois; 10.Nick LaBrocca, 14.Casey Townsend (58.Cesar Romero 62')

Substitutes not used: 28.Tim Melia, 2.Scott Gordon, 5.John Valencia, 77.Favid Junior Lopez