VANCOUVER, BC – The set piece kings are back in business.
After leading Major League Soccer with 18 goals from set pieces in 2017, it took Vancouver Whitecaps FC a little while to find their groove again this season – 11 matches to be exact. But the ‘Caps bumped the slump on Friday night at BC Place, scoring their first two set piece goals of the season in an action-packed 2-2 draw with Houston Dynamo.
On the first goal, Felipe alertly played a quick free kick to an unmarked Kendall Waston, who poked the ball around Mauro Manotas before sending in a cross from the endline – a fantastic display of skill and determination from the ‘Caps captain. Waston’s cross was met at the near post by his centre back partner Jose Aja, who finished a first-time volley into the top corner.
The second goal, which came in second-half stoppage time, was a play drawn up on the training ground – unlike the first goal which was more of an audible. Felipe once again stood over the ball, this time sending a free kick in the direction of Kei Kamara, who directed it back across the face of goal where Waston emphatically powered in the header.
“I was catching eyes with Felipe to see if he was going to cross it to me, but he kind of signalled that he was going to cross it to Kei,” said Waston, who was a force all night. “So I just sprinted, and Kei was in the sky like Michael Jordan, and I just tried to jump as high as possible.”
Though the ‘Caps had been shut out on set plays in their first 10 matches, it certainly wasn’t for a lack of chances. Waston had several opportunities himself, coming agonizingly close on a corner kick last weekend in Minnesota, and probably could have had two or three more goals on Friday.
The Dynamo simply had no answer for the Big Man. Not many teams do.
In total, the ‘Caps created six chances from set pieces on Friday – tied for the most of any MLS team this season. And that was thanks in part to Felipe’s delivery, which was sublime all night.
“He was terrific,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “He spends hours and hours before training as well as after training working at it. When it comes off, and I’m sure he’ll be disappointed because he could have had three or four assists, it’s pleasing.”
When you couple the service from the likes of Felipe and Cristian Techera with the aerial dominance of Waston and Kamara, you knew the ‘Caps would eventually figure this thing out. Consider this: Kamara leads all of MLS with 46 aerials won this season despite having missed three matches with an adductor strain. And Waston is second in the league with nine headed shots on target.
These are two of the biggest set-piece threats in MLS – hands down. And if Friday night was any indication, that could be a massive weapon for Whitecaps FC moving forward.