VANCOUVER: Don’t look now, but Vancouver Whitecaps FC (14W-9L-3D) are top of the table in Major League Soccer.
Cristian Techera’s fifth goal of the season, and third in as many games, propelled the ‘Caps to a 1-0 win over FC Dallas (11W-8L-5D) on Saturday night in front of a sold-out crowd at BC Place.
The result was a momentous one, too.
Whitecaps FC now have 14 wins on the season, which breaks their previous club record (13) for most wins in an MLS season. And there are still eight games to go.
Carl Robinson made a pair of changes to his starting lineup after last weekend’s loss to Sporting KC. Kendall Waston drew back into the squad after serving a one-match suspension, replacing Pa-Modou Kah (facial fracture). And Pedro Morales, fresh off a multi-year contract extension, got the nod in place of Nicolas Mezquida – the captain’s first regular season start since June 6.
It didn’t take the two teams long to renew acquaintances.
Neither side managed to create much offence in the early stages, but there was no shortage excitement on display. It was a physical first half with some fun battles all over the pitch. Waston and Blas Perez butted heads on a few occasions, Steven Beitashour put in a shift defending Fabian Castillo, while Techera and Zach Lloyd went toe-to-toe at the other end.
It’s still August, but this one sure felt like a playoff match.
Dallas looked a little more dangerous early, but Vancouver began to take over around the half-hour mark. And they took the lead shortly later.
In the 32nd minute, Kekuta Manneh made a superb, diagonal run into the box before feeding Techera, who finished first time with a back heel to put Whitecaps FC ahead.
Techera was at it again a few minutes later – this time making a spectacular turn around Lloyd before sending in a cross that was just out of the reach of a lunging Octavio Rivero.
To their credit, Dallas got out of the half down by just one and looked a little more settled after the break. But aside from a half-chance from Michael Barrios that David Ousted handled with ease, they never really managed to penetrate a resolute Whitecaps FC back line. In fact, the ‘Caps defended exceptionally well all night, limiting FC Dallas to just two shots on target.
At the other end of the pitch, Manneh had a few chances on the counter in the second half but Techera’s first-half marker was all Vancouver would need in the end.
All in all, it was a fine night’s work from the Blue and White, who conclude the night atop the MLS standings. LA Galaxy could leapfrog them on Sunday night when they host New York City FC, but Whitecaps FC will have a game in hand.
The ‘Caps are right back at it on Wednesday night at BC Place, hosting Montreal Impact in the decisive second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship Final. Whitecaps FC are in search of their first-ever Voyageurs Cup, while Montreal are looking to make it three in a row.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. PT.
NEWS AND NOTES
– Manneh’s assist on Saturday was his fifth of the season, which is tied with Beitashour for the team lead. The 20-year-old now has at least a point in four straight matches.
– Ousted broke his own record on Saturday for most wins by a Whitecaps FC goalkeeper in a single MLS season (14). He also picked up his 10th clean sheet of the season, which is second best in MLS.
– Montreal Impact head coach Frank Klopas confirmed on Saturday that Didier Drogba will play in Wednesday’sAmway Canadian Championship Final vs. Whitecaps FC at BC Place.
MCMILLAN ‘CAPS CORNER KICK DONATIONS
For every ‘Caps corner kick at home, McMillan donates $100 to the United Way. An additional $500 is donated for every goal scored off a corner kick. This match McMillan Corners for Kids has donated $500 for a running total of $8,200.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Cristian Techera
Referee: Ismail Elfath
32′ – VAN – Cristian Techera (Kekuta Manneh)
Shots: Vancouver 7 – Dallas 7
Shots on Goal: Vancouver 2 – Dallas 2
Saves: Vancouver 2 – Dallas 1
Fouls: Vancouver 13 – Dallas 10
Offsides: Vancouver 1 – Dallas 1
Corners: Vancouver 5 – Dallas 4
24′ – VAN – Cristian Techera
35′ – DAL – Atiba Harris
85′ – VAN – Christian Dean
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 33.Steven Beitashour, 4.Kendall Waston, 26.Tim Parker, 2.Jordan Harvey (22.Christian Dean 78′); 15.Matías Laba, 28.Gershon Koffie; 13.Cristian Techera (9.Nicolás Mezquida 82′), 77.Pedro Morales © (7.Mauro Rosales 68′), 23.Kekuta Manneh; 29.Octavio Rivero
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 11.Darren Mattocks, 31.Russell Teibert, 88.Robert Earnshaw
44.Jesse Gonzalez; 14.Atiba Harris, 27.Je-Vaughn Watson, 24.Matt Hedges ©, 17.Zach Lloyd; 21.Michael Barrios, 8.Victor Ulloa (12.Ryan Hollingshead 84′), 23.Kellyn Acosta, 11.Fabian Castillo; 7.Blas Perez (13.Tesho Akindele 58′), 20.Rolando Escobar (9.David Texeira 73′)
Substitutes not used
18.Chris Seitz, 5.Ezequiel Cirigliano, 25.Walker Zimmerman, 31.Michel