Dane Richards San Jose Earthquakes BC Place
Bob Frid

Robson gets the goal, but Richards gets the praise

Barry Robson stole the headlines with his penalty winner against San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday, but just as impressive was the performance of winger Dane Richards.

 The speedy winger was named the 'Budweiser Man of the Match' for his energetic display down the right flank, which included the game’s opening goal – and his first as a member of Vancouver Whitecaps FC – in the club’s 2-1 win.

GOAL: Richards blast into net

For his goal, Richards got in behind Earthquakes fullback Justin Morrow and ran onto a through ball from Young-Pyo Lee before blasting a powerful shot past Jon Busch from a tight angle.

“I think we can build his confidence more and we can work with him more,” head coach Martin Rennie said of Richards’ performance. “We already have worked with him a little bit – the movement that he scored the goal from was something that we worked on this week, so it was great to see him taking that on board and getting the result and the benefit of that. He was worthy of the Man of the Match performance and I hope he’ll get many more for us.”

Just as Robson’s goal and the controversy surrounding the awarding of that penalty took some of the spotlight off Richards on Sunday, his short time in Vancouver has in some ways been overshadowed by the high-profile arrivals of Robson and Kenny Miller.

But regardless of the press, or lack thereof, Rennie was happy to talk about his new signing's almost immediate impact following the win.

“I like how fast he [Richards] is,” Rennie said. “He can score goals, he can create goals. He puts teams on the back foot. He’s the profile of the kind of wide player we’ve been looking for. We’ve not been able to get him until now. I think he could be a star here – he’s getting the crowd on their feet when he gets the ball in a wide area.”

The addition of Richards is part of a wider change of increased speed throughout the team.

It’s clear that rookie Darren Mattocks is one of the pacier players in the league, and while new signing Miller hinted during his introductory press conference that he might not be as quick as he once was, his reputation was largely made as a speedster. The Scotsman showed during his brief spell on the pitch that he still has that breakaway acceleration, as he managed to get himself into a one-on-one situation just seconds after stepping onto the pitch.

Mattocks, in particular, seemed to link up well with Richards on Sunday – but Richards is finally just happy to find a teammate who can keep up.

“Finally, when I speed up the line, there’s somebody I can look across (at) and they’re beside me,” Richards joked post-match. “Normally, I’m all alone when I speed up there. It was really good. All of my teammates are really good and that’s why I’m so comfortable here – I just try to express myself.”

Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.