VANCOUVER, BC — The Vancouver Whitecaps were already eliminated from the playoffs, but still played to win Saturday and beat the Houston Dynamo 2-1 in front of an announced 17,382 visitors at BC Place. With just four games left, the Dynamo are now nine points behind the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
After Vancouver took a 1-0 lead and then conceded an equalizer, Fredy Montero salvaged three points for the Whitecaps by tapping the ball past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis with just moments to go.
Houston had the first chance of the game in the 5th minute, but Tommy McNamara’s curled effort just missed the goal. That chance started a flurry of activity and scoring opportunities on either end of the pitch. The biggest chance came in the 17th minute when the Caps’ Ali Adnan tanked his way through the left flank, and Willis made a save.
The Whitecaps had 63% possession during the first 30 minutes of the game and looked overall the more creative of the two teams in the first interval. But out of nowhere, Houston almost took the lead in the 37th minute. That opportunity, however, was created by Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry, whose backpass forced his keeper Zac MacMath into making a diving save.
“Yes it was,” Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said when asked whether that spell in the first half was how he envisions the Whitecaps to play in the future. “There is a lot of signs in the last three games on how I want us to look.”
The game went into the halftime break still a goalless tie. But the Whitecaps finally took the lead in the 54th minute thanks to a penalty kick converted by Hwang In-beom.
Moments prior, Mauro Manotas had handled the ball. Referee Robert Sibiga pointed to the spot right away, but the play was reviewed first for several minutes before In-beom was allowed to send the ball across the line.
“It’s changing the game,” Dos Santos said of the Video Assistant Referee system. “But am I for VAR? Yes, but it limits things. What is changing is those goals that, when I was a kid, you would see players scoring taking off their jersey running in the crowd. Now you score, and there is always suspense. And that’s killing the game. It’s sad.”
For Dos Santos, the biggest problem with the review was the lack of a clear and obvious error. “If there’s a little bit of doubt, and you call it, you should stick with the original call,” Dos Santos said. “There’s a lot of work to do in that part of the game.”
The goal changed the complexity of the game. The Whitecaps went from being the more dominant team to surrendering the field more and more to the Houston Dynamo.
The Houston Dynamo pressed further up the pitch, but without creating too many dangerous moments. The Whitecaps seemed comfortable sitting deep absorbing the pressure and could have sealed the game after a counterattack in the 75th minute, but Tosaint Ricketts missed a tap-in opportunity.
The ‘Caps were made to rue that opportunity just moments later. In the 78th minute, Whitecaps keeper MacMath fumbled a 30-yard shot from Maynor Figueroa. Manotas jumped on the loose ball and tied the game.
“It is too bad. I know and he knows that he could have done much better in that goal for Houston,” Dos Santos said. “But he also has a big save in injury time that gets us the win.”
That save came moments after Montero had scored the game-winner for the Whitecaps in the 90th minute.
“I am so happy for Fredy to get his goal,” Whitecaps midfielder Andy Rose said after the game. “He came on and really held onto the ball and gave us a focal point up there.”
Vancouver Whitecaps (4-3-3)
MacMath – Adnan, Cornelius, Henry, Sutter, – Teibert, Rose, In-beom – Reyna (Bangoura, 90′), Ricketts (Montero, 82′), Chirinos (Bair, 71′)
Houston Dynamo (4-3-3)
Willis – Bizama, Figueroa, Fuenmayor, Lundkvist – Garcia, Vera – McNamara (Rodriguez, 72′), Ramirez (Peña, 83′), Martínez (Elis, 61′) – Manotas