Saturday night’s 0-0 scoreless draw [Simon Fudge, WhitecapsFC.com] with the Montreal Impact saw the continuation of a disturbing trend for the Vancouver Whitecaps. They’ve now gone 259 minutes without scoring in league play since Nelson Akwari notched an 11th-minute goal against Portland on April 29. Following that, they went 79 minutes of the Portland game without scoring again, then held Crystal Palace Baltimore to a 0-0 draw [Marc Weber, The Province] last weekend before tonight's scoreless clash.
Of course, Vancouver did get one goal during that span, but that came against Montreal in last week's Voyageurs' Cup game, though, not in USSF Division II competition. They're still doing reasonably well in the league and lead the NASL Conference with eight points, but that's unlikely to continue unless the goals start to come.
Tonight's game was a little more promising on the offensive end, however, as head coach Teitur Thordarson commented post-match.
"I think it was a good game in all aspects, except scoring goals," he said. "We were a bit unlucky. We definitely were the best team today."
The first half was a largely lacklustre affair. Vancouver held the majority of the possession, but they weren’t able to do much with it. They did create some stellar chances off free kicks and corners, including a Ricardo Sanchez blast from 25 yards out that was parried by the outstretched fingertips of Matt Jordan at the last possible instant. Montreal had better chances from the run of play, including a Rocco Placentino effort that Jay Nolly punched off the bar, but they weren’t able to capitalize either and the teams went into the break with the score knotted 0-0.
There were a few more scattered chances here and there in the second half, but neither team really took over the play. Most of the scoring opportunities came off set pieces, and Nolly and Jordan put on a spectacular exhibition of keeping to maintain the 0-0 scoreline. Montreal probably had the best chance of the half after a superb Leonardo Di Lorenzo run down the right flank where he beat two defenders and crossed it in, but a flick-on from Hicham Aaboubou was cleared by Greg Janicki just in time. Vancouver’s best chance came off a long Wes Knight throw in the 87th minute that was loose in the box, but shots from both Janicki and Marcus Haber were parried by defenders and the ball was cleared. In the end, the match ended without an offensive tally by either side.
Vancouver did well on the stat sheet, though. They won seven corners and countless offensive free kicks, and looked particularly dangerous on many of them. They fired eight shots at the net and forced Jordan into three saves, as well as countless plays where he had to rush out and intercept crosses. In the end, the goals just weren't coming, though.
Sanchez made his first Whitecaps' start in place of the injured Martin Nash and created several chances, particularly from set pieces. He said it's difficult to stay focused when you're not playing regularly, but he took it as a challenge.
"It's hard, but you have to be prepared, you have to keep working and and wait," he said.
Sanchez said he felt the Whitecaps turned in a solid performance, even if they didn't come away with three points.
"It was a good game," he said. "I thought everyone played real well tonight."
Vancouver now gets set to host Toronto F.C. in a crucial Nutrilite Canadian Championship clash Wednesday night (10:30 p.m. Eastern, 7:30 p.m. Pacific, televised on Rogers Sportsnet and will be live-blogged here). Thordarson said he's unsure if Nash and injured striker Marlon James will be recovered in time for that one.
"With any of these guys, we don't know that they'll be ready," he said. "We're hopeful they will. Nash is still a question mark, and so is Marlon."
Thordarson said the Whitecaps can gain some momentum from tonight's game, though, as he thought was a good performance. He said that may be crucial.
"It's huge," Thordarson said. "It's always easier to come off a good game than a bad one."
It may have been a good game, but at the end of the day, the opposition's net remained empty. Vancouver will have to change that Wednesday if they want to keep their hopes of winning the Voyageurs' Cup alive.
[Cross-posted to The 24th Minute]