Photo by USA Today Sports
By RYAN TOLMICH
Needing every valuable point to keep pace in the crowded Western Conference playoff picture, the Vancouver Whitecaps emerged from StubHub Center slightly disappointed.
The Whitecaps, who entered the weekend fifth in the Western Conference, settled for a scoreless draw with Chivas USA Saturday night in what was the Whitecaps’ sixth straight game without a loss.
Saturday’s clash started poorly for the visitors with starting forward Darren Mattocks going down with an injured leg just 10 minutes into the game. The Jamaican, who has scored four in his previous five outings, labored through the first half before ultimately being substituted at halftime.
The hosts nearly opened the scoring in the 13th minute through Erick ‘Cubo’ Torres, who had scored four in his previous three games against the Whitecaps.
An attempted cross bounced off the head of Whitecaps defender Andy O’Brien and into the path of Torres.Luckily for the visitors, fullback Steven Beitashour was able to interfere just enough to force the MLS All-Star into a scuffed shot straight into the chest of goalkeeper David Ousted.
The Whitecaps got further bad news in the 37th minute when midfielder Matias Laba was booked for a tackle on Chivas USA’s Marco Delgado. Laba’s booking card will see the Argentine suspended for the Whitecaps next game due to yellow card accumulation.
Following the halftime whistle, the game opened up, with both sides emerging from the defensive bunkers that defined the first half. The introduction of Whitecaps forward Kekuta Manneh proved particularly influential, as the Gambian speedster allowed the game to open up much more than prior to his inclusion.
The two teams combined for the game’s best sequence with roughly 15 minutes remaining, with both Torres and Manneh getting chances to put their teams ahead.
Substitute Mauro Gonzalez was the catalyst for Chivas USA’s 74th minute opportunity, which saw the Argentine drift out wide before receiving a pass from Torres. Gonzalez attempted to center the ball, but was denied by Ousted. The ensuing rebound caromed into the path of Torres, who failed to settle and pushed his shot wide right.
Manneh responded less than a minute later for the visitors with a long-distance effort that sailed over the bar.
Fellow substitute Pedro Morales, who was held out of the starting lineup due to an injured hamstring, found Manneh with a cross-field lob, allowing the Gambian to attack the Chivas USA defense. Manneh dribbled past Chivas USA fullback Akira Kaji and put his laces through the ball, but the shot rocketed just over the bar, preserving the eventual scoreless draw.
With the draw, the Whitecaps maintain their place in the Western Conference playoff picture, sitting two points ahead of the Portland Timbers, who settled for a draw of their own earlier in the day.
The Whitecaps will now prepare for a return trip to Los Angeles, where they will take on the StubHub Center’s other tenants, the LA Galaxy. Meanwhile, Chivas USA now face a trip to Gillette Stadium, where they will take on the New England Revolution August 23.