Saturday, May 20, 2017

{allcanada} Techera, Parker lead Whitecaps over KC


VANCOUVER — A miserable home record cost the Vancouver Whitecaps a playoff spot in 2016. This season is shaping up a lot differently at B.C. Place Stadium.

Cristian Techera and Tim Parker scored for the hosts as the Whitecaps defeated Sporting Kansas City 2-0 on Saturday.

Vancouver was just 6-5-6 on its own field last year — the second-worst mark in Major League Soccer — but is already halfway to that win total through five games.

"We lost many games at home," said Whitecaps midfielder Christian Bolanos, who set up both goals Saturday. "That's why we didn't make the playoffs.

"We try to do everything positive when we play at home."

Vancouver broke through in the 40th minute after right back Sheanon Williams fired a raking cross from the right to Bolanos, who in turn chested the ball down to Techera.

The pint-sized Uruguayan nicknamed "The Bug" wasted no time, smashing a left-footed volley past Sporting 'keeper Tim Melia for his third goal of the campaign.

Playing its first home game in more than a month, Vancouver's slick sequence was one of the few moments of excitement in a mostly tepid opening 45 minutes, with Sporting's only chance coming in the 20th when Gerso Fernandes found himself all alone in front of Whitecaps 'keeper David Ousted before rolling his effort wide.

"It took us a little bit of time to get into the game," said Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson. "We weren't at our levels in the first half, but we went in 1-0 at halftime. Wonderful goal, super technique, super cross, super touch — but I think we needed to lift it."

Vancouver (5-5-1) had an opportunity to double its lead in the 53rd minute after Kansas City defender Seth Sinovic fouled Fredy Montero in the Sporting penalty area, but the Whitecaps striker saw his spot kick and the follow up saved by Melia.

Sporting (6-3-4) then raced the other way, with Latif Blessing forcing a save out of Ousted from in close.

The Whitecaps were fuming in the 66th minute when Roger Espinoza sliced down 16-year-old Alphonso Davies, who had just come on as a substitute, at the edge of the penalty area to earn a yellow card. But Parker made Sporting pay moments later when he flicked his head at Bolanos's ensuing free kick for the first MLS goal of the defender's career.

Robinson pumped his fist in the direction of the Kansas City bench in celebration, but stressed it wasn't aimed at anyone in particular.

"It was just relief because I think we had dominated the second half without getting a goal," said the Welshman. "Sometimes it comes out."

Montero then hit the post on a header off another set piece in the 81st, and Vancouver shepherded the three points home from there against the Western Conference's top team, which was playing its third game in eight days.

"I've been in the league eight years and this is definitely the most excited that I've been," said Williams. "This team has everything to make a deep run."

At home for the first time since April 14, the Whitecaps went with the same starting lineup for the fifth straight game — a first for the club since joining MLS in 2011.

Vancouver returned to B.C. Place from its four-game road trip 2-2-0, with losses to the Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo bookending victories over the Montreal Impact and Colorado Rapids.

"If we come here and don't perform in front of our fans we're letting ourselves down," said Williams. "All the hard work that we did on the road to get those six points means nothing if we don't come home and take care of business."

Robinson went with a 4-1-4-1 formation instead of his usual 4-2-3-1 setup at the start of Vancouver's spell away from home in an effort to press further up the field, and kept the same shape on Saturday for a club that continues to impress in 2017.

"We're trying to build, the team is trying to build," said Robinson. "We're trying to create something here, something special."

Notes: Whitecaps midfielder Matias Laba picked up a yellow card in the 89th minute and is suspended for Vancouver's next MLS match. ... The Whitecaps host the Montreal Impact on Tuesday in the first leg of their Canadian Championship semifinal.

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