In what was the start of a tumultuous couple of weeks, the Vancouver Whitecaps hosted a Mothers Day game against the El Paso Patriots the result of which was disappointing to the home side.
The annual games against these Texas visitors can be interesting, dull, exciting, or just plain wierd. In the two visits to Swangard last year, the Patriots failed to pick up a point, and in one game failed to register a shot.
It would be the third game on the road trip for the patriots and I wondered if it was going to be a tired team that would take to the field. With these guys you never really know what is going to happen.
Compounding matters here on the west coast is the fact that the ownership situation would soon blow up (and perhaps be a major distraction). Not to mention also that the Whitecaps would still have three major players unaccounted for. Niall Thompson and Chris Craveiro are still injured, and midfield sparkplug Johnny Sulentic basically has disappeared off the planet (somewhere in Croatia) and has duly been suspended for his troubles.
A relatively small Mothers Day crowd of 2,896 saw a somewhat dull 1-1 draw that thrilled the visitors and left the Whitecaps shaking their heads at what might have been. The first half was all Vancouver after an early bright start from the Patriots. 'Caps keeper Jim Larkin was forced to make two wonderful saves off of striker Jose Lomeli, the second one a real beauty that had Larkin change direction to get a hand on a free header from in close. But after that it was Vancouver that gained the lion's share of posession and chances. El Paso keeper Jesse Llamas was equally sharp and kept the game close in the later stages.
But it's funny sometimes how things pan out in this game, and it would take a freak play to give the Whitecaps a deserved lead.
Jesse Llamas decided to (for whatever reason) hit Steve Kindel on the side of the head after collecting the ball. The Whitecaps midfielder went down, and Llamas got a yellow card for his troubles. As well as giving up a penalty. Right on the stroke of halftime. Sometimes a team can control a game and get loads of chances and you begin to wonder where the opening goal will come from, and that's basically the feeling as Oliver Heald stepped up to take the kick. Earlier in the half, David Morris had hit the underside of the crossbar and Llamas had made a terrific save off of Jason Jordan; But a dumb play on behalf of the El Paso keeper would be the opening the 'Caps needed, and sometimes that's just the way it goes.
Heald's kick flew into the net and the Whitecaps went to the locker room 1-0 up and feeling quite comfortable. Maybe a bit too comfortable. The second half was a dull midfield affair (where the first half saw some good attacking play from both teams), the Whitecaps apparently sitting on the lead and the Patriots too tired to do anything about it. If one thing was certain, it was the fact that the 1-0 lead did not look to be in any danger.
But in a game of strange twists, there was one more left to go and it would again take place right at the end of the half. It was in the 89th minute and basically the first time that the Patriots had posession in the Vancouver end. They gained a corner. Freddy Juarez took it and it just sailed into the box onto the head of Sidnei Dos Santos who headed down and the ball rebounded off the ground and up into the net. Jim Larkin's outstretched hands could not prevent the dramatic equalizer that had the entire Patriots bench on the field celebrating.
Overtime solved nothing and the visiting Texans headed back to El Paso in a great mood.The Whitecaps will be kicking themselves for not taking the initiative more in the second half. The complacency cost them in a game they were never really in danger of losing. But as I said, funnier things have happened and you really have to play 90 minutes to get any results. When they did play, the Whitecaps were solid and full value for a result.
El Paso needs another forward. they tend to play a long ball when under pressure and the forwards they had on the park were just not big enough or good enough on the ball to make anything happen. They do have not a bad side, though, and their work ethic was quite good. It was a much better display from the visitors than at any time last year. But 3 or 4 players will not get things done around here and the Patriots will need to make some serious adjustments if they are to start getting consistent results.
The Whitecaps remain unbeaten and next have a home and home with the conference-leading Seattle Sounders.
Vancouver (White w/blue trim); El Paso (Blue w/red trim)
Shots: Vancouver 14, El Paso 7
top photo courtesy Krammerhead, side photo courtesy Vancouver Sun.
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