Sometimes what a team needs to get out of a rut is a break.
The Vancouver Whitecaps got not one, but two breaks on Saturday night that allowed them to bring home a 2-1 victory from CenturyLink Field in Seattle. The win was a much needed pressure relief for a Whitecaps side that started the season with two straight losses against Montreal at home and away at Sporting Kansas City.
Notorious MLS referee Mark Geiger was at the epicentre of controversy once again after he awarded two penalty kicks in favour of the Blue and White that were masterfully converted by the captain, Pedro Morales, much to the chagrin of Seattle Supporters.
— FelixForever34 ™ (@FelixForever34) March 20, 2016
In the thick of both penalty kick plays was Whitecaps FC striker Blas Pérez who, at the ten minute mark identified a wonderful run by Christian Bolaños and served him a through ball. Bolaños was lightly clipped inside the box by Joevin Jones. The contact was enough for the Costa Rican to loose his footing and for Geiger to award the PK that gave the Whitecaps a 1-0 lead.
Frame by frame of the first PK call for Vancouver. Blaños says that “this would be a foul everywhere in the world.” pic.twitter.com/gpUYHHQ1Rw
— Total MLS (@TotalMLS) March 20, 2016
At the 76th minute, Pedro Morales sent a ball forward to Pérez who, knowing that Seattle central back Chad Marshall would slide tackle to clear the ball, positioned himself between the ball and Marshall causing the defender to go through him. Geiger did not hesitate and awarded a second kick from the spot that gave Vancouver the final 2-1 lead.
Andreas Ivanschitz had tied the game 1-1 at the 52nd minute after an impressive goal from a free kick.
— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) March 20, 2016
In addition to the win, perhaps the best piece of good news for the Whitecaps was their much improved performance over their first two games of the season. Carl Robinson switched his usual 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2.
The Welsh tacticians deployed captain Pedro Morales as a deep-lying playmaker, a move that he tried briefly last year and tested further in pre-season.
But the change that made the biggest impact was the inclusion of Panamanian striker Blas Pérez in the attack alongside Octavio Rivero. The two striker formation allowed the Whitecaps to press Seattle up high, making it uncomfortable for the Sounders to play from the back and often forcing errors and turnovers.
More importantly, Pérez provides the Whitecaps with a player who is able to hold the ball, allowing for the wingers and midfielders to join the attacking transition. He is also able to come back a be more involved in the creation of scoring opportunities, effectively creating space for his attacking teammates.
Pérez is a notorious pest who is able to get under the skin of opponents. The Panamanian drew six fouls including the game winning penalty kick. Needless to say, the Seattle faithful are not fans of Pérez.
I bet Blas Perez’s mom doesn’t even like him. #SEAvVAN
— Shane Evans (@shanevans) March 20, 2016
A big factor for the win was the tactical discipline that Robinson’s team showed on Saturday night. In contrast to the first two games, their defensive off-the-ball movement, coverage and communication left little room for the Sounders to create meaningful attacking opportunities.
The Whitecaps best players, including Kendall Waston, Matías Laba, and Pedro Morales are starting to look like the Whitecaps’ best players again and the chemistry with newcomers Pérez, Bolaños and Aird is showing signs of development.
While the Whitecaps may look like they are starting to turn things around, the Blue and White have a new challenge ahead. Next weekend they will be without four starters as Waston, Bolaños , Pérez, and Parker have all received call-ups for Costa Rica, Panama, and the USA U-23s respectively.
How Robinson will manage his squad will be a topic of discussion throughout the week. For now, Whitecaps FC supporters are enjoying the after-glow that comes with beating one of their archenemies in their own backyard, recording their first points in the season, and taking a first step toward regaining the Cascadia Cup.
Man of the Match: Blas Pérez
Referee: Mark Geiger
10’ – VAN – Pedro Morales (penalty kick)
52’ – SEA – Andreas Ivanschitz
74’ – VAN – Pedro Morales (penalty kick)
Shots: Seattle 19 – Vancouver 9
Shots on Goal: Seattle 5 – Vancouver 7
Saves: Seattle 5 – Vancouver 4
Fouls: Seattle 14 – Vancouver 20
Offsides: Seattle 2 – Vancouver 1
Corners: Seattle 8 – Vancouver 1
35’ – VAN – Octavio Rivero
44’ – SEA – Andreas Ivanschitz
51’ – VAN – Pedro Morales
71′ – SEA – Tyron Mears
73’ – SEA – Chad Marshall
82′ – VAN – Blas Pérez
Seattle Sounders FC
24.Stefan Frei; 4.Tyrone Mears, 20.Zach Scott ©, 14.Chad Marshall, 33.Joevin Jones; 7.Cristian Roldan, 6.Osvaldo Alonso, 23.Andreas Ivanschitz (11.Aaron Kovar 88′); 13.Jordan Morris (39.Oalex Anderson 72′), 16.Nelson Valdez, 2.Clint Dempsey
Substitutes not used
1.Tyler Miller, 15.Dylan Remick, 18.Nathan Sturgis, 25.Tony Alfaro, 91.Oniel Fisher
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 8.Fraser Aird, 4.Kendall Waston, 26.Tim Parker, 2.Jordan Harvey; 7.Christian Bolaños, 15.Matías Laba, 77.Pedro Morales © (9.Masato Kudo 84′), 23.Kekuta Manneh (13.Cristian Techera 83′); 27.Blas Pérez, 29.Octavio Rivero (17.Andrew Jacobson 78′)
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 3.Sam Adekugbe, 11.Nicolas Mezquida, 14.Cole Seiler