The Vancouver Whitecaps relied on a familiar face to keep their unbeaten streak alive.
Camilo Da Silva Sanvezzo scored a gorgeous free-kick goal just before halftime as Vancouver earned a 1-1 draw with Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday in Major League Soccer action.
“That took the pressure off us a little bit,” said forward Kenny Cooper. “Coming in [at halftime] 1-0 down, it’s always going to be hard to get back in the game.”
Vancouver (7-5-5) head coach Martin Rennie knew he could count on Sanvezzo.
“I think that’s his 13th goal in the last 14 games in all competitions, which is an incredible record,” Rennie said. “I think he’s got 10 in MLS and he works a lot on his free kicks. That was a fantastic effort. That was a great goal and I don’t think too many people would have saved that.”
Sanvezzo is tied for the second in MLS with those 10 goals.
The Whitecaps have not lost in four contests — winning three straight and then adding Wednesday’s tie.
“The team’s really grown in its belief,” Rennie said when asked about the Whitecaps’ recent 5-1-2 surge. “But I think also earlier in the season, we were often playing well but not getting the results that we probably deserved.
“Now, the team and players realize they are a really good team and have a chance against anybody.”
It didn’t look like the Whitecaps were going to earn another positive result, as they struggled to possess the ball throughout the first half.
Vancouver controlled the ball less than 40 per cent at the start of the match and rarely penetrated more than a few yards into the attacking half, making all-star defender Aurelien Collin’s goal at the 35th minute inevitable.
Fellow defender Chance Myers nodded a cross from Oriol Rosell into the middle of Vancouver’s box, where Collin’s first attempt — a wheeling, left-footed shot — was blocked by Whitecaps defender Johnny Leveron.
Unfortunately for Leveron, the deflection fell right back into Collin’s wheelhouse for a right-footed drive and his third goal of the season.
Vancouver, which attempted two shots in the opening 25 minutes — and neither was on goal or presented any real challenge to Sporting KC’s defence — continued to absorb pressure until the final five minutes.
Eventually, the Whitecaps earned a free kick from 25 yards in front of goal during the 44th minute and with literally seconds remaining before halftime, Sanvezzo drew Vancouver even with a perfectly struck rocket into the upper right corner.
Vancouver dodged a bullet in the 76th minute when its defence failed to pressure Sporting KC all-star midfielder Graham Zusi after he collected a ball at the top left edge of the penalty box.
Given adequate time and space, Zusi, an MLS MVP finalist last season and a rising star for the U.S. men’s national team, rolled a low, hard shot toward the left post.
Knighton was beaten, but Zusi’s shot bent just enough that it pinged back into play off the post and was cleared from danger as the Whitecaps remained level at 1-1.
“Did we do enough to win the game? Probably not,” Cooper said. “A draw’s probably a fair result.”