VANCOUVER, BC – Surprise results and acts of giant-killing are all part of the romance of Cup soccer all around the world. Unless you're the team on the wrong side of it of course, and that was the worry for Vancouver Whitecaps FC as they headed into the second leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal against NASL side Ottawa Fury FC at BC Place on Wednesday night.
Those fears were soon eased as the 'Caps overturned their two goal first-leg deficit just 20 minutes in. Octavio Rivero's 52nd-minute goal put Vancouver ahead on the night and on aggregate, and sent them through to a final meeting with Toronto FC in a fortnight with a 3-2 aggregate victory.
After last week's “sluggish” performance, 'Caps coach Carl Robinson was delighted by the intensity his side showed from the first whistle to get the job done and was pleased his side didn't become another Cup shock statistic, especially as defending champions.
“There's pride on the line,” Robinson told reporters after the win. “It's their Cup Final again. They made it out of their Cup Final last week and they did it again today. We were very professional today and that's not taking anything away from Ottawa. Great credit to them.”
“They were running on fumes at the end and so were we,” Robinson continued. “But we needed to do it. We didn't want to go out at the semifinal stage. We did that two years ago against Toronto on penalties. We won it last year. It's our Cup and we want to try and defend it. We worked so hard last year to win it and we want to try and do it again. There's certainly a lot of pride on the line.”
Robinson rang the changes after a young Vancouver side failed to rise to the occasion in Ottawa last week, bringing in all three of his Designated Players.
All three contributed to the victory but it was Rivero who shone, with the winning goal and an assist in an excellent performance. The striker seems to have turned a corner, and now has three goals in his last three starts. So is the Uruguayan back to the form we saw when he first came to MLS?
“He's never been away,” Robinson stated. “Strikers, they go through stages of goals and strikers are judged on goals. They're also judged on the way they play and the way they work and the way they hold the ball up, the way they run and move. Octavio got a little bit of luck with his goal in New York. Now he's obviously scored a couple more. He was never away.”
Rivero looks like a different player when linking up with playmaker and fellow Uruguayan Nicolas Mezquida, and that was fully evident in the win over Ottawa.
“Nico and Octavio were great,” Robinson acknowledged. “They're best mates off the field and they hang about together. I said to them, I want them to be close together. Nico enjoys playing with Octavio, Octavio enjoys playing with Nico and the chemistry between them in the first 20 minutes was excellent.”