By DARCY GREEN
In front of a sellout crowd of 21,000 fans at BC Place, Vancouver Whitecaps FC crushed the visiting New York Red Bulls 4-1 in a thrilling offensive onslaught by the home side.
A brace by striker Kenny Miller and second-half goals by Sebastian Fernandez and Pedro Morales gave Carl Robinson his first win as the Whitecaps coach and kept Vancouver unbeaten in season openers since they joined MLS in 2011.
The New York Red Bulls played the match without some of their best players, as Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave were left home in order to keep them from playing on the artificial surface at BC Place.
The absence of those two stars left the Red Bulls severely short-handed against an inspired Whitecaps side that rode the outstanding play of Miller, Fernandez and Morales to a rout.
Less than a minute into the game, Robinson’s new attacking system was evident as Miller had a wonderful chance to give the Blue and White an early lead, but the retired Scottish international sent the ball sailing over the crossbar.
Just four minutes later, Canadian international and Homegrown player Russell Teibert had another chance with a shot from just outside the 18-yard box, but his curling shot was stopped by a diving Luis Robles.
Darren Mattocks kept the attack flowing with a run through the Red Bulls’ defense on 17 minutes that nearly resulted in the game’s first goal, but his weak shot was stopped by Robles.
In the 34th minute, a handball was called on Red Bulls fullback Richard Eckersley, leading to a penalty kick for the home team. Miller calmly placed the ball into the back of the net, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Fernandez fired a rocket, displaying the youngster’s technical skill, from 35 yards out, but Robles was able to make the diving save.
At halftime, the home side was up by a goal, but there was a sense that Robinson would not lay off the attack in the final 45 minutes.
On 49 minutes, Fernandez showed just that as the Uruguayan winger fired off another rocket with his right foot that sailed over Robles into the right corner of the net.
In the 63rd minute, Mattocks nearly got his first goal of the season as a pass from Miller found its way to the middle of the 18-yard box, but the Jamaican international, who scored three times in two appearances for his country earlier this week, was unable to finish the opportunity.
A few minutes later, the Whitecaps’ latest Designated Player, Morales, entered the match, showing Robinson was once again not about to lay off the attack.
On 77 minutes, Miller scored his second goal of the match with a beautiful flip over the head of Robles after receiving a pass from Morales, who looked to be in fine form upon entering the match.
Twelve minutes later, Morales found a goal in his debut game as he grabbed a pass from Nigel Reo-Coker and fired it home from the top of the 18-yard box.
Just a minute into extra time, Bradley Wright-Phillips, who came on as a late substitute on 73 minutes, scored to put the Red Bulls on the board, but it would not make a difference as the ‘Caps cruised to the win.
In his post-game comments, Robinson said he was especially pleased with the performance of his newest Designated Player.
“[Morales] will be in the starting XI,” stated Robinson. “You see the quality he has with his passing range. He had a fantastic finish. He has the awareness of the other players around him. When the ball’s coming to him, he has pictures in his mind. He’s a top player, and that’s why I brought him into the club.”