VANCOUVER, BC - In a thrilling Western Conference contest, 10-man Vancouver Whitecaps FC (7W-3L-4D) battled their way to an important 1-0 victory over Colorado Rapids (6W-7L-1D) in Major League Soccer on Saturday afternoon.
In a match that had virtually everything in terms of soccer entertainment, Sebastien Le Toux’s late winner capped an epic performance by the Blue and White, who had to play the last half-hour a man short on Bell Pitch at BC Place after striker Darren Mattocks was sent off for two bookable offences. Even though they were at a numerical disadvantage, Whitecaps FC crowned their debut match in their new third kit with Le Toux’s goal, despite Colorado striking the woodwork twice before the end. The result takes Vancouver to an unprecedented seventh win as an MLS club and their first-ever league victory over the Rapids. The ‘Caps also moved up one place to third in the Western Conference standings with the weekend result.
“I thought it was a pretty even game, and at times, we played some good stuff, but Colorado did well getting behind the ball and we found it difficult to break them down,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie. “In the second half, we started well and we looked dangerous getting behind them and moving the ball side-to-side and getting the ball in the box. There was a big turning point when Darren went down in the box and the referee pulled the play back and gave a yellow card a bit harshly, and immediately after, gave a second yellow card. However, the players in our team showed a lot of character and an incredible work rate and a desire to come out with something better than a draw or defeat. We showed we’re a team that doesn’t give up and doesn’t look for excuses, so I’m happy how the game ended up and happy for the players. We now look forward to Wednesday.”
Under a closed BC Place roof, both clubs offered another example of how the Western Conference is very competitive this season, as a crowd of 19,166 saw a high tempo of play in the first half. Playing an unchanged starting line-up, many of the 'Caps opportunities came through the lively Davide Chiumiento, who tried to open up the Colorado backline with some searching balls. The best of those came in the first minute, as the Swiss playmaker released Mattocks into the Rapids box before the Jamaican youngster forced an important save from Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
To their credit, the Rapids contributed to the game with some good attacking play of their own, as they got back into the rhythm of MLS action after an extended break. Two of Colorado’s best chances fell to Argentine midfielder Martin Rivero, who just missed the target on 28 minutes before forcing Budweiser Man of the Match Joe Cannon into an important save six minutes later. Cannon also did well to stop Kosuke Kimura’s deflected effort from a Rapids corner. As competitive a half as it was, it remained goalless at halftime.
If the first half was intriguing to watch, the second half will live long in the memory as arguably the most dramatic 45 minutes in Vancouver’s MLS history. Looking for the win, the ‘Caps were the brighter side in the early stages after the restart. Le Toux, Mattocks, and John Thorrington had chances, while Koffie missed the target with an excellent chance on 53 minutes.
Then came the moment that changed the course - if not the temperature - of this all-conference clash. Having been initially booked for simulation in the Colorado box on 59 minutes, Mattocks was sent off on the hour mark after picking up a second booking, and a subsequent red card, for a late challenge on Rapids captain Drew Moor. It left Whitecaps FC facing the last third of the game down one less player and trying to contain an attack-minded Colorado side.
Despite the difficult situation, one of the storylines from this match was the inspirational effort that the 10 men of Vancouver put in to claim victory. Cannon played his part with some timely saves, while ‘Caps fans delighted in the attacking intent of their side in arbutus brown. Chiumiento and Thorrington forced Pickens into a couple of saves, while the Rapids shot-stopper miraculously denied Le Toux at close range on 70 minutes, as he deflected the Frenchman’s shot off the underside of the crossbar before Colorado scrambled the danger clear.
As time wound down, the excitement of the match continued to rise. On 80 minutes, Whitecaps FC brought the BC Place crowd to their feet with the match winner. Chiumiento received a pass from Alain Rochat on the left flank before playing an exquisite ball over the head of Rapids centre back Scott Palguta to a streaking Le Toux. His first-time volley flew past a helpless Pickens for his fourth goal of the season.
It was a well-deserved goal from the home side, who showed no effects of having a man less until the dying stages. Unsurprisingly, the Rapids pressed Vancouver back into their defensive third for the final minutes and were unlucky not to score an equalizer. Rivero struck the ‘Caps crossbar on 82 minutes with a powerful half-volley after Martin Bonjour had heroically blocked Edu’s initial goal-bound strike. Six minutes later, Rapids defender Hunter Freeman hit the far post with a curling strike after a Vancouver giveaway.
The game’s finale bordered on frantic, with Le Toux squandering a breakaway on the counter-attack when Pickens stopped him in time added on. The final whistle from match referee Jasen Anno brought joy and relief to the Whitecaps FC faithful, as they claimed a second straight league win in extraordinary circumstances.
Whitecaps FC will have little time to savour their efforts of Saturday afternoon, as they wrap up a three-match home stand by hosting Eastern Conference high-flyers New York Red Bulls at BC Place on Wednesday night. Colorado, meanwhile, will look to bounce back when they host Western Conference rivals San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday evening.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Joe Cannon
80' - VAN – Sebastien Le Toux (Davide Chiumiento)
Shots: Vancouver 15 - Colorado 13
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 8 - Colorado 6
Saves: Vancouver 6 - Colorado 7
Fouls: Vancouver 18 - Colorado 13
Offsides: Vancouver 2 - Colorado 0
Corners: Vancouver 4 - Colorado 7
42' - VAN – Alain Rochat
59' - VAN – Darren Mattocks
60' - VAN – Darren Mattocks
60' - VAN – Darren Mattocks
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1. Joe Cannon; 12.Young-Pyo Lee, 15.Martin Bonjour, 6.Jay DeMerit, 4.Alain Rochat; 28.Gershon Koffie, 27.Jun Marques Davidson, 11.John Thorrington (29.Eric Hassli 86’); 7.Sebastien Le Toux, 22.Darren Mattocks, 20.Davide Chiumiento (3.Jordan Harvey 83’)
Substitutes not used: 18.Brad Knighton, 13.Michael Nanchoff, 19.Carlyle Mitchell, 26.Floyd Franks, 37.Camilo Sanvezzo
18.Matt Pickens; 27.Kosuke Kimura (9.Conor Casey 72’), 3.Drew Moor, 29.Scott Palguta, 2.Hunter Freeman; 10.Martin Rivero, 4.Jeff Larentowicz, 23.Jaime Castrillon; 32.Tony Cascio (13.Kamani Hill 76’), 37.Edu, 11.Brian Mullan
Substitutes not used: 31.Steward Ceus, 5.Joseph Nane, 15.Wells Thompson, 21.Luis Zapata, 39.Harrison Henao