The Vancouver Whitecaps started the 2014 season by shredding the New York Red Bulls, 4-1, in their home opener.
Last week, the Whitecaps salvaged a point in their first away match in a 1-1 stalemate against Chivas USA.
But while Vancouver struggled to find much rhythm in a 0-0 draw against the New England Revolution on Saturday afternoon, Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson was pleased with his defence’s ability to keep a clean sheet following the heaps of pressure from their opponents early on.
“It’s a good point for us on the road,” said Robinson. “It’s a tough place to come here. The conditions weren’t ideal for both teams. They put a lot of set pieces in, and we handled them very well.”
In the first half, the Whitecaps’ midfield and defence struggled to move the ball forward against the pressure of New England’s frontline. Central midfielders Nigel Reo-Coker and Matias Laba weren’t able to dwell on the ball for long before being closed down by an opponent.
Robinson said the Whitecaps spoke prior to kickoff about the expected intensity from the struggling Revolution (0-2-1, one point) in their first home game of the season.
“We knew in the first 20 minutes, it’s the first home game for them, they’ve come off two defeats. (Revolution coach) Jay Heaps will have them fired up, and we knew that,” Robinson said. “I thought we weathered the storm, and we did that very well.”
Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted made an incredible reflex save in the seventh minute. New England midfielder Andy Dorman made a near-post run on a corner kick and headed his shot goal-bound. But Ousted stuck out his right hand and palmed the ball over the bar, managing to keep the game level.
“(Chris Tierney) whipped in a really good corner and they had a good header, so I had to react to it,” Ousted said. “It was a good save at an important time.”
It wasn’t only Vancouver’s defence and midfield that had difficulty in the first half. Strikers Kenny Miller and Darren Mattocks created few chances — partly due to the poor service they received.
The visitors came out in the second half showing more urgency and sharpness in their game. Chilean attacking midfielder Pedro Morales started the second half in place of Fernandez, and influenced the Whitecaps immediately.
In the 50th minute, the Chilean controlled a bouncing ball near midfield before lofting a pass over the Revolution backline, finding Miller in full stride. But New England keeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who had hardly been tested up to that point, tipped the Scotsman’s poke at the ball wide.
Robinson didn’t start Morales from the get-go because of the travel time to the east coast.
“We took two flights to get here, and he felt a slight back issue on the way over,” Robinson said. “There are 34 games in the season, so it was the right decision for me. I knew Pedro was going to play at some point. He makes a difference when he plays in the team.”
Vancouver’s manager was also pleased with the way his side played after having difficulty stringing passes together in the first half.
“In the second half we played more of the type of football I want, so I was quite pleased in the end,” Robinson said.
Just 10 minutes from full-time, Revolution substitute Daigo Kobayashi — who was traded to New England from Vancouver in the off-season — almost found the back of the net. His shot from 12 yards out was heading toward the right corner before it deflected wide off of Whitecaps centre back Andy O’Brien.
Ousted was pleased with the result, but admitted Vancouver didn’t possess the ball as much as the team likes to.
“The guys in front of me did a great job today, had some good blocks and played well,” Ousted said.
“We were a little disappointed that we didn’t keep the ball as much as we wanted, but again, a point away from home is nothing to be sad about.”
Vancouver improved its record to 1-0-2, taking its fifth point of the season. The Whitecaps will face the Houston Dynamo at BC Place next Saturday.