If you were looking for a pick-me-up in the world of Canadian soccer, it was not to be found at BC Place on this night. (Fingers crossed that’s not the case on Tuesday when Canada plays El Salvador.)
The New York Red Bulls, a team which came into Saturday’s contest with a single road win on the season and a record of futility in Major League Soccer against the Vancouver Whitecaps, had little to worry about against a pitifully anemic Vancouver attack and managed to buck both their negative trends with a 1-0 win.
The Red Bulls got their goal courtesy of Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose prolific scoring record over the past three seasons is now tied with San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski for the all-time best in MLS.
Meanwhile, the Whitecaps’ scoring record stands at one goal scored in the last seven games.
In seven games.
Is Nahki Wells available yet? How about now?
1. The Sorin Stoica show
The referee should never, ever be the central focus of any sporting match. Someone should tell Saturday’s ref Sorin Stoica that.
What a horror show.
First, Stoica indulged in a whistle-happy opening ten minutes that destroyed most attempts by both teams to generate any sort of flow to the game. It’s hard to build up any attack, even on the counter, when you have to start and stop the game because you were sneezed on by an opposing midfielder.
Then, after warning head coach Carl Robinson to keep the (ahem) aggravated expression of opinions by his coaching staff under control, Stoica ejected Robbo and assistant coach Martyn Pert from the game following a botched throw-in decision.
— Mr. Big Stuff (@BoringBortHova) September 4, 2016
Let’s be clear: that call was horribly botched. How botched? Botched enough that every person in the building not wearing a blue officiating shirt was expecting a ‘Caps throw-in.
Fullback Jordan Smith was already preparing to throw the ball in until he was corrected by Stoica, which set off a cavalcade of outraged boos from the BC Place and a stream of incredulous dissent from Robbo & Co.
Stoica would improve somewhat in the second half, though his bizarre decision to show a yellow card to NYRB midfielder Mike Grella for unfathomable reasons underscored the referee’s incompetence on the day.
I know people give PRO a hard time but look at how clutch Stoica is here protecting Felipe from that ball. pic.twitter.com/ZCrADxfPPO
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) September 4, 2016
Is video review ready yet? Can we make it available for more than just penalty decisions? Please?
Oh, and can we gut the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) while we’re at it?
2. A tale of two strikers
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was an age of goal feast. It was an age of goal famine. It was the era of Bradley Wright-Phillips. It was the era of Erik Hurtado.
I’m being incredibly generous here by calling Erik Hurtado a striker, as that implies he plays a role which includes duties such as scoring a [expletive] goal.
Service was not lacking in this game for Hurtado. Fraser Aird, Russell Teibert and Pedro Morales did their best to spring the American striker, and spring him they did. Multiple times, even. It did not go well.
— Fútbol MLS (@futbolMLS) September 4, 2016
Number of shots: seven, highest on the team. Number of shots on target: zero, tied for highest on the team.
Asked Robbo about Hurtado's many missed chances. Said Hurtado is "in tears" and "distraught" in the locker room after the match. #VWFC
— AFTN (@aftncanada) September 4, 2016
At the other end of the field, New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips was much more productive.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 4, 2016
I think I speak for all Whitecaps supporters when I say…
“…WHY CAN’T OUR STRIKER BE LIKE THAT?!”
3. The long march
It’s not looking good, people, though you probably already figured that out.
With six matches to play, the Whitecaps are in 9th in the western conference, four points behind the Portland Timbers for 6th place and the final playoff spot.
On top of that, the teams around the ‘Caps in the standings all have games in hand, meaning that gulf could easily widen in a matter of hours (or days, depending on when you’re reading this).
— David Caldwell (@inonit) September 4, 2016
Losses are no longer acceptable. Draws are not enough, either. The safety net around the needed results for this team is gone. It’s either run the table or give up and tank for a draft pick, which is about as stupid an idea in MLS as playing Erik Hurtado as a lone striker.
Man of the Match: Fraser Aird
Referee: Sorin Stoica
50’ – NY – Bradley Wright-Phillips
Possession: Vancouver 48.7% – New York 55.9%
Shots: Vancouver 12 – New York 13
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 0 – New York 4
Saves: Vancouver 3 – New York 0
Fouls: Vancouver 18 – New York 13
Offsides: Vancouver 3 – New York 1
Corners: Vancouver 6 – New York 4
20’ – NY – Alex Muyl
29’ – VAN – Fraser Aird
60’ – NY – Mike Grella
88’ – NY – Andrew Jacobson
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 6.Jordan Smith (67.Alphonso Davies 79’), 17.Andrew Jacobson, 26.Tim Parker, 2.Jordan Harvey; 15.Matías Laba, 31.Russell Teibert; 8.Fraser Aird, 77.Pedro Morales © (11.Nicolás Mezquida 66’), 13.Cristian Techera (9.Masato Kudo 79’); 19.Erik Hurtado
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 14.Cole Seiler, 30.Ben McKendry, 46.Brett Levis
New York Red Bulls
31.Luis Robles; 25.Chris Duvall, 23.Ronald Zubar, 78.Aurelien Collin, 15.Sal Zizzo; 11.Dax McCarty © (26.Omer Damari 76’), 27.Sean Davis; 19.Alex Muyl (77.Daniel Royer 66’), 8.Felipe, 13.Mike Grella (30.Gonzalo Veron 89’); 99.Bradley Wright-Phillips
Substitutes not used
24.Kyle Reynish, 20.Justin Bilyeu, 55.Damien Perrinelle, 98.Shaun Wright-Phillips