Saturday, April 24, 2010

Whitecaps win in a walk

A 1-0 score frequently suggests a close match. That wasn't the case at Burnaby's Swangard Stadium tonight, as the Vancouver Whitecaps walked all over expansion AC St. Louis. They outshot St. Louis 11-1, had five shots on net to the visitors' nil and also dominated the possession battle, particularly in the first half. With the win, Vancouver improved to 2-0-1 on the season, while St. Louis fell to 0-3-0.

Head coach Teitur Thordarson was not overly impressed with his team's showing, though, despite coming away with three points and statistical dominance. His criticism was for good reasons. Particularly in the second half, the Whitecaps sank to St. Louis' level and spent more time just passing the ball around than creating anything offensively.

"I wasn't happy with the game today," Thordarson said after the match.

Thordarson liked the way the team came out of the tunnel, but he was less impressed with their play as the game went on.

"I thought we did well in the first half; we totally dominated the game," he said.
"In the second half, we just gave the initiative away. ... We lost the ball on every second or third possession."

In addition to lacking style points, the game also created further problems for the Whitecaps. Already dealing with several injuries, they picked up two more today. The worst came to central defender Mouloud Akloul, who started his Whitecaps' debut in fine fashion, notching the only goal of the game in the 19th minute off a Martin Nash corner. He injured himself in the process, though, and was stretchered off. He was undergoing X-rays after the match to check for the possibility of a broken leg.

Thordarson said Akloul's injury will be difficult to handle, as the team was counting on him to anchor their defence.

"It is a very tough thing if that's the case that he's broken his leg," Thordarson said. "It's very hard."

Greg Janicki came on in relief of Akloul without the benefit of a warm-up, but turned in a solid showing.

"It's always tough to go in under those conditions," he said. "You never expect to go in and play 65-plus minutes."

It was a good showing from the Whitecaps' defence overall. Janicki and Nelson Akwari stood firm in the middle, with Chris Williams impressing at right back and Zurab Tsiskaridze turning in another strong performance at left back. Keeper Jay Nolly wasn't really tested, but he did well to collect a few crosses here and there. The Whitecaps' defence has now recorded three consecutive clean sheets, but Janicki said that comes with a caveat; the teams they've faced so far haven't been the most offensive-minded.

"They haven't been pressuring us too much," he said.

If Akloul's injury is as severe as thought, Janicki may play an increased role for the Whitecaps in the days to come. He said he's comfortable doing whatever he's asked, though.

"I'm ready for whatever."

Another loss for the Whitecaps was winger Wes Knight, who had a solid 37 minutes of work on the right flank and created several chances, particularly off long throw-ins. He was taken off as a precaution after a collision, and his injury isn't expected to be serious, but he's still being evaluated. If he's out for any length of time, that could further thin an already-depleted Whitecaps' squad.

One bright spot was Marcus Haber, though, who continued to impress up front and had several chances to score. He's making the decision to bring him back on loan look very good, particularly thanks to the Whitecaps' injuries up front. Haber said he didn't think the team played all that well, but they were happy to pick up full points.

"It wasn't pretty," he said. "The most important thing was the result."

Haber said the team's playing better offensively than their record of three goals in three games would suggest.

"I think it's just sharpness in the final third," he said. "The goals will come."

Whitecaps fans will be hoping he's right on that score, as most opponents won't go down as easily as St. Louis did today.

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