VANCOUVER: For a while, it seemed Vancouver’s homecoming would be a triumphant one.
But after a pair of goalline clearances, some fantastic goalkeeping by Tim Melia, and a 52nd-minute Kevin Ellis goal, Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-8L-2D) fell 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City (8W-3L-6D) on Sunday in their first home match since May 30.
The sold-out BC Place crowd was treated to an entertaining and physical battle between the new conference rivals – one that felt like the beginning of a new rivalry.
Unfortunately for the Blue and White, however, it ended in defeat, which reduces Vancouver’s lead to two points over sixth-place SKC in the hotly-contested Western Conference.
Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson made three changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s loss in Colorado. Centre back Tim Parker, midfielder Gershon Koffie, and striker Octavio Rivero drew back into the squad, replacing an injured Pa-Modou Kah (calf), Deybi Flores, and Darren Mattocks.
There was plenty of energy in the building, and in the ‘Caps attack, from the opening whistle.
SKC had a couple half-chances in the first half, but aside from that it was all Vancouver. The attacking foursome of Rivero, attacking midfielder Mauro Rosales, and wingers Kekuta Manneh and Cristian Techera linked up exceptionally well in midfield were buzzing in the final third.
They created some quality chances, too.
In the first 20 minutes alone, Rivero had a clear header saved by a diving Melia, Parker had a header of his own cleared off the goalline, and Techera got in behind before falling victim to a sliding, last-ditch tackle in the box.
It was an exciting attacking display from the home side, who held their own against a physical SKC side, but the score remained level heading into the break.
That didn’t last long, though, as SKC broke the deadlock early in the second half.
In the 52nd minute, Ellis headed in a Krisztian Nemeth cross to give the visitors the lead. Nemeth nearly doubled that lead in the 58th minute, when he fired a long-distance strike off the post.
The ‘Caps had their chances to equalize.
Techera came close on a pair of occasions – first in the 61st minute, when a nice combination with Rivero resulted it another SKC goalline clearance. And then in the 76th minute, Melia parried away a curling Techera free kick from the top of the box.
The SKC keeper came up big again in the 90th minute, this time diving to his right at full stretch to deny a second Parker header.
There were some late fireworks, as an ongoing battle between Kendall Waston and Dom Dwyer resulted in a shoving match and yellow card for the SKC striker.
Next up for Whitecaps FC is a Cascadia clash with Portland Timbers next Saturday at Providence Park (7:30 p.m. PT on TSN) – the third and final meeting between the two teams this season.
The ‘Caps will then return to BC Place two weeks from today to host San Jose Earthquakes.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Mauro Rosales
Referee: Kevin Stott
52′ – SKC – Kevin Ellis (Krisztian Nemeth)
Shots: Vancouver 13 – Sporting KC 13
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 7 – Sporting KC 4
Saves: Vancouver 4 – Sporting KC 6
Fouls: Vancouver 16 – Sporting KC 12
Offsides: Vancouver 3 – Sporting KC 1
Corners: Vancouver 6 – Sporting KC 2
20′ – SKC – Benny Feilhaber
58′ – SKC – Soni Mustivar
73′ – VAN – Kendall Waston
86′ – SKC – Krisztian Nemeth
88′ – SKC – Dom Dwyer
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour (88.Robert Earnshaw 84′), 4.Kendall Waston, 26.Tim Parker, 2.Jordan Harvey; 15.Matías Laba, 28.Gershon Koffie (20.Deybi Flores 59′); 13.Cristian Techera, 7.Mauro Rosales, 23.Kekuta Manneh (19.Erik Hurtado 80′); 29.Octavio Rivero
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 9.Nicolás Mezquida, 22.Christian Dean, 38.Kianz Froese
Sporting Kansas City
29.Tim Melia; 17.Saad Abdul-Salaam, 4.Kevin Ellis, 5.Matt Besler, 13.Amadou Dia; 10.Benny Feilhaber, 93.Soni Mustivar, 27.Roger Espinoza; 37.Jacob Peterson (22.Connor Hallisey 83′), 14.Dom Dwyer, 9.Krisztian Nemeth
Substitutes not used
21.Jon Kempin, 2.Erik Palmer-Brown, 6.Paulo Nagamura, 16.Servando Carrasco, 94.Jimmy Medranda