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Friday 3 June 2011

MLS Weekly Review - Midweek Round 12 – Of a Few Changes, But Really Just the Same

    In the lone match of mid-week action Vancouver traveled to Los Angeles to take on Chivas USA. Having jettisoned their manager Teitur Thordarson on Monday, Tom Soehn took charge of his first match for the Whitecaps and brought about the expected changes.

     Goalkeeper Jay Nolly was replaced with Joe Cannon, while Davide Chiumiento was brought into the middle of the field, playing up top just behind Eric Hassli. With the left side vacated Camilo was shunted out there, while Bilal Duckett and Alex Morfaw got their first appearances of the season as Jonathan Leathers, the regular right back – injured in the VC/NCC match last week –  and Terry Dunfield, a fixture in the centre of midfield – on national duty with Canada – were absent.

    Chivas USA were also forced into making several changes as they were missing several starters: Andy Boyens in central defense, Simon Elliott and Jorge Flores in the midfield, and Alejandro Moreno and Marcos Mondiani, through a combination of suspension and international absences.

    The match started out slowly, with both sides trading chances. Vancouver had the better of the first half, highlighted by Hassli striking a shot off the crossbar. Even with the changes made by the new manager it was really more of the same for Vancouver. Chances aplenty were created, but floundered as the end product was not good enough. The sides went in at the half with the score level at zero.

     The second half began with an impressive solo strike from Nick LaBrocca. After joining Chivas from Toronto during the pre-season, LaBrocca has re-invented himself to be an attacking midfield force. Normally paired with the more defensive-minded Elliott, LaBrocca is allowed the freedom to get forward and join the attack. With Francisco Mendoza filling the Elliott-role LaBrocca picked up the ball at the halfway line, darted infield and surged towards the Vancouver goal. When he was not pressured by the Vancouver defense, he unleashed a low, hard strike that skipped past Cannon giving Chivas the lead.

    A short-lived lead it was, as two minutes later Camilo, coming in from his position on the left, picked up the rebound from a blocked Chiumiento shot following a neat combination between Davide and Hassli, curling his shot into the far corner to nullify the LaBrocca goal.

    The game progressed from this short burst of action much as it had started, the teams trading chances but not particularly threatening each other’s goals. Hassli was getting frustrated with a lack of action and took it upon himself to get stuck-in.

     A needless challenge on Chivas midfielder Ben Zemanski just feet from the Chivas box saw the striker receive his third red card of the season. Diving-in recklessly with his foot a tad high was enough to warrant the red from referee Ricardo Salazar; the fact that he appeared to make no contact did not matter and he was given his marching orders leaving the Whitecaps a man down for the remaining half hour of the match. 

     Pressing their man-advantage offered Chivas a chance to win the match late. Some last ditch defensive work by Vancouver saved the draw. Cannon made a stop on Justin Braun, LaBrocca struck the rebound goal-ward, a potential winner, only for Jay DeMerit to dive in and block it earning the ‘Caps their second point on the road in MLS.

     A match that Vancouver hoped would be different wound up being very much the same. Offensive chances were wasted, the defense held firm, Hassli was sent off and they go home disappointed; still mired in the basement of the Western Conference. Chivas, on the other hand, could be satisfied with the draw. Missing so many key players against a re-energized team was always going to be tough. Their second straight draw since losing the Superclásico sees Chivas in seventh place in the West. Coach Robin Fraser will hope his team can tread water until reinforcements return.

     Vancouver now travel to Salt Lake to take on a discouraged and depleted Real, while Chivas stay in Los Angeles and prepare for the visit of the Portland Timbers.

Chivas v Vancouver 1-1.

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