The Vancouver Whitecaps have now gone seven matches undefeated in Major League Soccer after a goalless draw against the Colorado Rapids on Saturday night.
Colorado seemed content to play for a single point throughout the match, making it difficult for the Whitecaps to get dangerous balls through their stalwart defence.
Vancouver dominated possession on the ball and had 21 shots compared to the Rapids’ seven.
Head coach Vanni Sartini said he was happy with the effort of his players but conceded that there is still work to be done in the final third.
“I think we had at least six, seven chances clear, and we didn’t score,” Sartini said. “We need to be better in the final third—not even in the final third because we’ve put the ball in front of the goalkeeper—we can be better in capitalizing on the chances.”
For the amount of possession the Whitecaps had in the first half, they found it difficult to penetrate the compact and deep-sitting Rapids. At times the back 5 of Colorado seemed more like a back 7.
“We were the best team,” Sartini said. “Itold the guys not to keep their head downs and every point counts.”
Vancouver held over 60 per cent of the ball and had an 89 per cent passing accuracy before the half, but much of their movement was side-to-side as they looked for opportunities higher up the pitch.
White did have a couple of chances, a deflected shot that went into the crossbar and a sliding challenge into a Julian Gressel cross, but the Whitecaps were unable to capitalize on either of these.
On the other side of the pitch, Tristan Blackmon showed his defensive prowess, stopping a clear breakaway chance and sacrificing his body in the 18-yard box.
“Tristan is playing very well,” Sartini said. “We had a pretty honest talk with him when we were in Honduras [for the CONCACAF Champions League] because I didn’t think he started very well this season. I think he was going, I would say, away from the principle. And he reacted very well. I think so far…he’s the best American defender in the Western Conference in my opinion.”
For his part, Blackmon said the biggest thing for the defence was in helping the team to it’s fourth clean sheet in a row in MLS play.
“We have a bunch of individual performances that come together to get the clean sheet,” he said. “So obviously, it’s not just me. It’s the back line. Everybody plays a part. Obviously, stuff to work on, but I’m happy with the performance.”
The second half brought more of the same. Colorado was content to sit back and let the Whitecaps hold the ball.
But around the 60th minute, the Rapids, sensing blood in the water, started to build their attack as the Whitecaps pushed higher. Attacking through the flanks, Colorado played behind Vancouver’s fullbacks where they were afforded space.
And it almost brought the home side down. Javain Brown brought down Jonathan Lewis in the 18-yard box as the Colorado attacker got around the right-back. Referee Tori Penso was given the easy call of a penalty.
Diego Rubio, recently back from knee surgery, took the penalty kick, but Yohei Takaoko dived to his left to make the save and keep his team in the game.
Takaoka credited the coaching staff with preparing him for the penalty and also gave mention to the entire back line for the clean sheet performance.
“I watched the player, which side he kicks,” Takaoka said. “The information that Youssef [Dahha] gave me…that’s why I can made the save.”
Next up, the Whitecaps face Minnesota United FC at B.C. Place next weekend. Vancouver is currently tied with the Loons on 11 points; however, they have played one more match. Minnesota will face off against FC Dallas tomorrow before beginning preparations to come to Vancouver.
NOTE: The Whitecaps have now gone 410 minutes without conceding a goal in MLS play. The current record stands at 427 minutes and could be beaten when they face Minnesota next weekend.
The match also marked 100 MLS appearances for Blackmon who had a Man of the Match performance.