FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Revolution coach Jay Heaps could be forgiven for looking at video of Saturday’s opponent and believing that he’s watching not one, but two different sides. True, both sport the colors of the Vancouver Whitecaps, but that’s where the similarities end.
In their season opener, the Whitecaps throttled New York, the reigning Supporters’ Shield winner, to the tune of 4-1 in front of the home crowd. A week later, though, they conceded a short-handed goal, then struggled to find a late equalizer against Chivas USA, the worst club in the west last year, in a 1-1 draw.
But Heaps won’t be deceived by Vancouver’s most recent performance, especially given the arsenal of attacking talents the Canadian club will bring to Foxborough for the Revolution’s home opener at Gillette Stadium.
“They’ve added some very good players,” Heaps said. “(Matias) Laba is an excellent acquisition for them and a player that really is good for this league, (as well as) attacking players in (Pedro) Morales and (Sebastian) Fernandez, two players who’ve already scored goals for them, and not just scored goals, but impacted how they play.”
And that’s not by accident. After Golden Boot winner Camilo Sanvezzo jumped ship for Liga MX side Queretaro, the technical staff – led by new coach Carl Robinson – sought out players to enhance the talent already in place.
What they landed was one of the league’s best young midfielders (Laba), an international with tremendous upside (Fernandez), and a proven playmaker (Morales) to steer the youngsters in the right direction. All three join a club that already has Kenny Miller, Darren Mattocks and Kekuta Manneh, all of whom can punish an opponent without notice.
“They’re a very good team,” Revolution midfielder Scott Caldwell said. “They have a lot of pace up top with Manneh and Mattocks and then Miller as well coming inside a little bit. He can play up top as well as the midfield, and he’s very strong. They’re a very solid team that we’ll have to deal with.”
While that may be an apt description of the side that showed up in the season opener, what about the one that needed nearly 70 minutes to score with a man advantage at The StubHub Center last week?
According to Heaps, the power outage the Whitecaps endured against a 10-man Chivas USA wasn’t entirely unexpected given the circumstances.
“I think that sometimes when you go up a man, that doesn’t always just imply that you’re going to take advantage,” Heaps said, “because the other team changes a couple of things they’re doing. But in the end, they did a nice job to get a result on the road.”
Caldwell, for his part, believes that that the key to stopping the Whitecaps from getting a second straight road result comes down to the hosts imposing their will – and sooner rather than later, especially given the Revolution’s pair of groggy starts this season.
“We want to be able to play our game, and that’s most important right now,” Caldwell said. “We want to be able to put our foot down, put our imprint on the game, with our style of play.”
A brace from Kenny
Miller, a stunning strike from Uruguayan midfielder Sebastian Fernandez and a
debut goal from new DP Pedro Morales gave Vancouver Whitecaps an emphatic 4-1
victory over the reigning Supporters' Shield winning New York Red Bulls at BC
Place on Saturday afternoon.
New York grabbed a stoppage time consolation from Bradley Wright-Phillips but it was a comfortable victory for the home side and gave new head coach the perfect start to his managerial career against his former side.
As expected, Vancouver kept new Designated Player Pedro Morales on the bench as he settles into his new surroundings, but Robinson sprung a bit of a surprise by dropping Kenny Miller back in behind Darren Mattocks. The Jamaican only returned to Vancouver on Thursday but was in-form after three goals in two games for his country.
New York were without a couple of regular starters, rested after international duty and issues with the BC Place Turf. The biggest absence was Thierry Henry, but Tim Cahill did make the trip and started in the midfield for the Red Bulls.
It was almost a dream start for Vancouver after 42 seconds when Jordan Harvey pounced on a sloppy pass from Eric Alexander and set up Kenny Miller with a brilliant through ball. The Scotsman just couldn't get the time to fully control the ball and blasted over from ten yards out under pressure from Ibrahim Sekagya.
The home side continued to pressure and forced a sprawling save from Luis Robles five minutes in from a 30 yard twister from Russell Teibert.
New York settled and started to apply some pressure of their own, with their best chance so far coming in the 12th minute when Lloyd Sam collected a neat back heel from Peguy Luyindula and blasted a shot off from the edge of the box, which David Ousted did well to tip onto to the right post.
The speed of Darren Mattocks was starting to cause the New York defence some problems and he had a great chance to open the scoring in the 18th minute after some nice interplay with Sebastian Fernandez, but the Jamaican was prevented from getting a clean shot off by some strong defending from Richard Eckersley.
Vancouver had a couple of half chances before getting the breakthrough in the 34th minute.
Eckersley clearly handled a Matias Laba cross in the box and after much deliberation, Miller stepped up and sent Robles the wrong way to give the Whitecaps the lead.
The action picked up after the goal and the game went from end to end.
Fernandez unleashed a fierce long range shot with five minutes of the half remaining, which forced Robles into an acrobatic save, before New York had a great chance when Bobby Convey cut into the box, wrong footed Laba and sent a shot inches wide of the right hand post.
Vancouver went in to the half the happier of the two teams, but New York had showed enough to suggest that they were still very much a danger in the game.
They didn't get much chance to show it as the second half kicked off and the Whitecaps doubled their advantage in the 49th minute when Fernandez collected the ball at the edge of the box, took a sideways touch and then drilled an unstoppable shot into the postage stamp corner.
New York almost pulled one back with their own effort from the edge of the box but Sam hit it high.
The action died down and both sides made substitutions, as Vancouver were holding on comfortably to their lead.
They became even more comfortable in the 77th minute when substitute Pedro Morales sent a superbly weighted ball over the high New York backline and Miller timed his run to perfection to collect the ball and lob Robles for his second of the night.
Morales then capped off a perfect debut by bagging his first goal for the Whitecaps in the final minute, finishing off a wonderful move and a pass from Nigel Reo-Coker.
New York got a late consolation in stoppage time when Bradley Wright-Phillips headed home from close range but Vancouver were worthy winners and got their new season and new regime off to the perfect start.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 4 - 1 New York Red Bulls
ATT: 21,000 (sell out)
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Steven Beitashour, Jay DeMerit, Andy O'Brien, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Nigel Reo-Coker, Russell Teibert, Sebastian Fernandez (Nicolas Mezquida 73); Kenny Miller (Kekuta Manneh 83), Darren Mattocks (Pedro Morales 65) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Johnny Leveron, Gershon Koffie, Erik Hurtado]
NEW YORK: Luis Robles, Richard Eckersley, Ibrahim Sekagya, Armando, Bobby Convey, Lloyd Sam, Dax McCarty, Eric Alexander (Ruben Bover 84), Jonny Steele (Roy Miller 64), Tim Cahill, Peguy Luyindula (Bradley Wright-Phillips 73) [Subs Not Used: Ryan Meara, Andre Akpan, Matt Miazga, Kosuke Kimura, Bradley Wright-Phillips]
All will be attacking players in a Vancouver offense that needs a jolt with Camilo Sanvezzo now playing in Mexico. Mezquida and Fernandez are in their early 20s, yet both have major professional experience.
Sure, they might have looked a bit lost off the pitch during the preseason, but the two Uruguayans bring plenty of credentials and, as is said, soccer transcends language barriers.
"[I'm] Happy for the opportunity," Mezquida, who has played in Norway and in the U-17 World Cup, said. "It's a chance to grow in a good league, a better league so I can advance myself even higher."
It's the same for Fernandez, who won a championship in the Peruvian First Division and has played for Mexico's San Luis.
"I was born to play fast-paced soccer, dynamic soccer, strong soccer, and it was a pleasant surprise to see that [in MLS]," Fernandez said.
Mezquida said he enjoyed everything about his soccer experience in Norway and hopes to return to play in Europe one day. Fernandez said he and Mezquida are young, but if they play well and prove themselves in MLS, they hope to get an opportunity to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Everything the two former Boston River teammates knew about Vancouver and British Columbia came from Internet photos and Wikipedia. After a few days in Arizona during the preseason, they've had the chance to become more familiar with the city.
"It's cold, but it's beautiful," Fernandez said.
"The most important thing is getting accustomed to communicating with your teammates," Mezquida added.
Mezquida knows a little more English than Fernandez, and both have been able to pick up the different English accents used in the U.S. and Canada.
They both feel more Uruguayans will find a place to play in MLS in the future, because of the style of play in North America, which is favorable to players in the country. Mezquida and Fernandez knew about MLS well before signing with the 'Caps, even if some of their countrymen aren't as familiar.
"Not many are well informed about MLS or follow it, but they know it's a growing league that is gaining in importance," Mezquida said.
Uruguayans follow their own league, that of Argentina and the English Premier League more than any others, Fernandez said.
Mezquida said he was surprised at the condition of the fields and the workouts in preseason, in a good way. The training staff and facilities and fields aren't always as good in his homeland.
More attention is paid to physical conditioning in MLS, he added.
"It's more of a one-on-one game in Uruguay, where here it's more about the team," Mezquida said.
Vancouver Whitecaps went nap in Portland, running out 5-1 winners against Jamaican side Portmore United in their first game of the Rose City Invitational on Sunday afternoon.
Two goals from Jordan Harvey and one apiece from Nicolas Mezquida, Darren Mattocks and Russell Teibert set Vancouver on the road to a comfortable victory but doesn't really give much of an idea as to how the Whitecaps will do against MLS opposition.
The remaining two games in the tournament against San Jose on Wednesday and Portland on Saturday will do that, although Vancouver will be fielding more of a reserve line up for their next match.
Vancouver went with a senior line up that may give a little indication as to what Carl Robinson's starting team will be come First Kick on March 8th, pending any new additions.
Robinson sprung a surprise in goal however, with 17-year old Residency prospect Marco Carducci getting the start behind an experienced back four.
The Whitecaps had the better of the early running with Carducci having very little to do. It looked like Vancouver's job then got a whole lot easier when Portmore keeper Jacomeno Barrett handled outside of the box in the 14th minute as Sebastian Fernandez bore down on him and was given a straight red.
But it was the ten man Jamaican side who opened the score in the 26th minute, when Ricardo Morris was left unmarked at the top of the box and drilled home a Leaughn Williams cross.
It was some sloppy defending from the Whitecaps but they tied things up five minutes later when Nicolas Mezquida beautifully finished a Steven Beitashour cross into the top corner.
The Whitecaps finished the half by out-shooting Portmore 11 to 3 with Darren Mattocks having a couple of chances that he blasted over when he should have done better.
The link up play between Mezquida and his fellow Uruguayan Sebastian Fernandez provided the main highlights for Vancouver in the first half and they continued that in a second half which Vancouver dominated against a tiring and depleted Portmore side.
The Caps took the lead four minutes into the half when an Erik Hurtado cross deflected to Jordan Harvey at the back post for the easiest of finishes.
Mattocks finally got himself on the score-sheet against his home town club in the 65th minute when Russell Teibert played a perfectly placed header into the path of the Jamaican and he finished with aplomb.
Six minutes later and it was four to Vancouver when Harvey cross-come-shot from the left found itself nestling into the net.
Vancouver had other chances, with substitute Kekuta Manneh wasting a number of good opportunities.
The 5-1 scoreline could certainly have been more but Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson was fairly pleased with the end result.
"It was important we won. That's always important preseason, but more importantly than that I was very impressed with the attacking play we showed.
"Getting five goals was great but I was disappointed a bit more with the chances we missed because we missed a hatful of chances.
"I take the positives out of it but there's still a lot I need to work on with the group."