VANCOUVER Whitecaps FC (7W-6L-13D) were held to a scoreless draw with Eastern Conference leading D.C. United (14W-8L-5D) Saturday night at BC Place.
The ‘Caps held their own against the Supporters’ Shield contenders, who have conceded the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference, but had to settle for a point in a game that saw goalkeeper David Ousted claim his eighth clean sheet of the season, which is tied for the league lead.
The result increases Vancouver’s point total to 34 on the season, moving them into a tie with fifth-place Portland Timbers for the fifth and final playoff position in the Western Conference. Both teams have eight matches remaining.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made two changes to his starting lineup, as well as a switch to a 4-4-2 diamond midfield formation, after last week’s 3-0 loss to Portland.
Right back Ethen Sampson, who had four tackles before going down with a cramp in the 54th minute, replaced an injured Steven Beitashour (hip) to make his first-ever MLS appearance. Sebastian Fernandez also came in forKekuta Manneh and formed a strike partnership with Darren Mattocks. This was the first time the Uruguayan has started as a striker all season.
The changes seemed to have their desired effect, as the ‘Caps got off to a positive start and dictated the tempo for most of the first half. Possession was almost dead even in the opening frame, but Vancouver looked the more dangerous side.
Whitecaps FC’s best chance of the half came just after the half-hour mark, when centre back Kendall Wastonheaded a Pedro Morales free kick inches wide. Mattocks, who had four of Vancouver’s nine first-half shots, also came close to putting the ‘Caps ahead.
The Jamaican had a pair of half chances within the fist 15 minutes and another quality opportunity in first-half stoppage time, when Mauro Rosales released him down the right. But standout D.C. United goalkeeper Bill Hamid was there to make one of his two first-half saves.
Ousted also made a pair of saves in the opening 45 minutes – both off tricky strikes from just outside the area. D.C. United’s best chance actually came in the 39th minute, when Fabian Espindola chipped a nice ball from Luis Silva just over the goal from in tight.
Things tightened up a little more after the break, though Whitecaps FC did have an early opportunity. In the 50th minute, Russell Teibert found Jordan Harvey at the near post but the fullback sent his diving header just wide.
There wasn’t much space either way in the second half. The ‘Caps saw a lot more of the ball, especially in the latter part of the interval, but couldn’t penetrate a D.C. United back line that appeared content to drop deep in their own end.
A pair of second-half substitutes gave Vancouver a late spark, as Manneh and Mehdi Ballouchy pushed forward in the dying stages. In the 83rd minute, Manneh played a nice one-two with Ballouchy, who went to ground before he was able to get off a shot.
Moments later, Manneh broke into the left side of the box before sending his left-footed effort across the face of goal. It was one of Vancouver’s 15 shots on the night, compared to D.C. United’s nine, but it wasn’t enough to get the ‘Caps back in the win column.
Saturday was Vancouver’s final match against an Eastern Conference opponent this season – they conclude with a 4W-0L-6D record.
The ‘Caps are right back it on Wednesday, when they host San Jose Earthquakes in a midweek clash at BC Place. Longtime fan favourite Carl Valentine will be inducted into the Whitecaps FC Ring of Honour prior to the match. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT and tickets are still available at whitecapsfc.com/tickets.
Stat of the Game
Budweiser Man of the Match Kendall Waston had a game-high 17 clearances, which is the second highest total by a ‘Caps player this season. The next highest total in Saturday’s match was eight.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Kendall Waston
Referee: Drew Fischer
Shots: Vancouver 15 – DC 9
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 3 – DC 3
Saves: Vancouver 3 – DC 3
Fouls: Vancouver 9 – DC 14
Offsides: Vancouver 1 – DC 1
Corners: Vancouver 2 – DC 3
18′ – DC – Bobby Boswell
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 27.Ethen Sampson (3.Sam Adekugbe 54′), 40.Andy O’Brien, 4.Kendall Waston, 2.Jordan Harvey; 15.Matías Laba, 30.Mauro Rosales (8.Medhi Ballouchy 69′), 31.Russell Teibert, 77.Pedro Morales; 11.Darren Mattocks, 7.Sebastián Fernández (23.Kekuta Manneh 69′)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 17.Omar Salgado, 19.Erik Hurtado, 29.Nicolás Mezquida
28.Bill Hamid; 5.Sean Franklin, 32.Bobby Boswell, 15.Steve Birnbaum, 33.Taylor Kemp; 14.Nick DeLeon, 23.Perry Kitchen, 8.Davy Arnaud, 3.David Estrada (24.Lewis Neal 69′); 9.Fabian Espindola, 11.Luis Silva (19.Kyle Porter 84′)
Substitutes not used
31.Joe Willis, 6.Kofi Opare, 12.Alex Caskey, 25.Jarred Jeffrey