Nigel Reo-Coker picked a good time to shine offensively — and miss a glorious scoring chance.
Reo-Coker assisted on the only goal the Whitecaps needed and misfired on the play leading to their second as Vancouver blanked the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 on Saturday.
Brazilian striker Camilo, on a pass from Reo-Coker, and Kenny Miller, on the Englishman’s miss, scored second-half goals 14 minutes apart as the Whitecaps (10-7-6) ended a three-game winless skid before a crowd of 20,151 at B.C. Place Stadium.
Vancouver also put six points between the two clubs in the ultra-tight Western Conference. The Earthquakes (8-10-6) saw their winning streak end at three games.
Reo-Coker, a 29-year-old midfielder from London who logged more than 200 matches in the English Premier League, said he was able to succeed after coach Martin Rennie instructed him to play more of an attacking role.
“It gave me a bit more freedom to get in the box and join in with the forwards and the strikers,” said Reo-Coker. “And that’s what I did.”
Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted recorded his first MLS shutout as he made his home debut, and only his second start, since signing with Vancouver in June. It was Vancouver’s fourth clean sheet of the season by three different goalkeepers.
After a tight, scoreless first half, Reo-Coker stood out as the clock struck the 60th minute when he sprinted with the ball from midfield, ran down the right flank with two defenders giving chase and put a pass behind another to Camilo, who flicked the ball inside the far post to give the Whitecaps a 1-0 lead.
“I just saw (Camilo) out of the corner of my eye,” said Reo-Coker. “So all I could do was just put it in there, because I couldn’t take it any further. So I just put it in the box and then hoped that he could get there.”
The goal was Camilo’s 14th of the season and moved him into a tie for the MLS scoring lead with Chicago’s Mike Magee, who was also playing Saturday.
“It’s very important,” said Camilo of the league scoring lead. “I’m more happy (when) our team wins the really important games. Today, we pick up three points. It’s very important for us.”
Miller gave the Whitecaps a 2-0 lead in the 74th minute as he put in a Russell Teibert cross from the right flank. The goal came after Reo-Coker mis-kicked on Teibert’s pass, hitting nothing but air, and the ball went through to Miller, who returned after missing the previous game with a groin injury.
“It was a great goal by Kenny,” said an embarrassed Reo-Coker with a chuckle. “I’m just happy the team made a goal on that. We got the goal and we got the result. That’s the main thing, getting the result.”
Reo-Coker’s offensive efforts came after he blocked Chris Wondolowski’s attempt to tap in a rebound off goalkeeper Ousted’s hand in the 53rd minute.
The two second-half goals, which gave the Whitecaps 36 on the season, surpassing their totals in the past two campaigns, were just reward for Vancouver’s strong defensive effort in the first 45 minutes. Ousted, a former Danish Superliga star who signed with the Whitecaps in June, excelled in making five saves. San Jose counterpart Jon Busch was credited with just two as his team recorded 18 attempts on goal compared to 11 for Vancouver.
Ousted kept the first half scoreless as he dove to get his arm on a Cordell Cato shot in the 39th minute. In the 70th minute, the Vancouver goalkeeper caught a short-range bicycle kick from former Whitecap Shea Salinas, whose free kick led to the Wondolowski scoring chance that Reo-Coker stopped earlier in the second half.
“It was great getting (the first MLS shutout) at home, at B.C. Place in front of the home fans,” said Ousted. “It was good to get started with a clean sheet and a nice win.
“It’s important right now with the table being as tight as it is and (the need for) getting the points at home.”
Vancouver’s Gershon Koffie, playing in the holding midfielder spot for the first time, was also a strong presence as he returned from a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. He filled the role usually performed by Jun Marques Davidson, who returned to the lineup from a one-game suspension for head-butting a Philadelphia player two weeks ago but was relegated to the bench.
Rennie felt Koffie played his best game in a long time.
“There was a lot of great individual performances today,” said Rennie. “I’m just really happy with the performance and, ultimately, with the win.”
The loss spoiled Earthquakes interim coach Mark Watson’s first game in his hometown since taking over in June from Frank Yallop, who also grew up in Vancouver.
“We are obviously very disappointed,” said Watson. “It was a big game. We knew there was a lot on the line. ... They took their chances — and we didn’t.
Notes: Central defender Andy O’Brien returned to Vancouver’s lineup after missing two months with a hamstring injury suffered in early June, but did not play. ... Whitecaps captain Jay DeMerit, who suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the first game of the season, hopes to sign a contract extension in the near future. He was negotiating with the club at the start of the season, but talks were put on hold as he recovered from his injury. He has resumed full training and is expected back in late August or early September. ... Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch has played every minute of each match this season. ... San Jose’s Clarence Goodson and Rafael Baca both drew yellow cards for fouls on Teibert in the first half. But Teibert also received a yellow card in the second half. ... Vancouver striker Tommy Heinemann made a rare appearance as he subbed in for Miller in the final 86th minute.
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