Don’t look now, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC (14W-9L-3D) are neck and neck for top spot in Major League Soccer.
Cristian Techera’s fifth goal of the season, and third in as many games, propelled the ‘Caps to a 1-0 win over FC Dallas (11W-8L-5D) on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place.
The result was a momentous one, too.
Whitecaps FC now have 14 wins on the season, which breaks their previous club record (13) for most wins in an MLS season. And there are still eight games to go.
Carl Robinson made a pair of changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s loss to Sporting KC. Kendall Waston drew back into the squad after serving a one-match suspension, replacing Pa-Modou Kah (facial fracture). And Pedro Morales, fresh off a multi-year contract extension, got the nod in place of Nicolas Mezquida – the captain’s first regular season start since June 6.
Saturday’s match was Vancouver’s first meeting with FC Dallas since last year’s heartbreaking and controversial playoff defeat.
It didn’t take the two teams long to renew acquaintances.
Neither side managed to create much offence in the early stages, but there was no shortage excitement on display. It was a physical first half with some fun battles all over the pitch. Waston and Blas Perez butted heads on a few occasions, Steven Beitashour put in a shift defending Fabian Castillo, while Techera and Zach Lloyd went toe-to-toe at the other end.
It’s still August, but this one sure felt like a playoff match.
Dallas looked a little more dangerous early, but Vancouver began to take over around the half-hour mark. And they took the lead shortly later.
In the 32nd minute, Kekuta Manneh made a superb, diagonal run into the box before feeding Techera, who finished first time with a back heel to put Whitecaps FC ahead.
Techera was at it again a few minutes later – this time making a spectacular turn around Lloyd before sending in a cross that was just out of the reach of a lunging Octavio Rivero.
To their credit, Dallas got out of the half down by just one and looked a little more settled after the break. But aside from a half-chance from Michael Barrios that David Ousted handled with ease, they never really managed to penetrate a resolute Whitecaps FC back line. In fact, the ‘Caps defended exceptionally well all night, limiting FC Dallas to just two shots on target.
At the other end of the pitch, Manneh had a few chances on the counter in the second half but Techera’s first-half marker was all Vancouver would need in the end.
All in all, it was a fine night’s work from the Blue and White, who conclude the night atop the MLS standings. LA Galaxy have leapfrogged them today after hosting New York City FC, but Whitecaps FC will have a game in hand.
The ‘Caps are right back at it on Wednesday night at BC Place, hosting Montreal Impact in the decisive second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship Final. Whitecaps FC are in search of their first-ever Voyageurs Cup, while Montreal are looking to make it three in a row.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Cristian Techera
Referee: Ismail Elfath