And so the drought is finally over. After 450 minutes without a goal, the equivalent of five complete matches, the Whitecaps finally got back on the score sheet thanks in large part to the efforts of their Captain and Colossus. We are referring to of course, the man who wears the armband with the utmost pride, Pedro Morales, and Vancouver's 6'5" tall Costa Rican, Kendall Waston.
Together they make for an unlikely pair. Morales is 29-year old Chilean midfielder whose career has taken him to both the Europa League and the UEFA Champions League. Waston is a 26-year old who has played as far afield as Puetro Rico and Uruguay. And yet together, they are Vancouver's Pillars of Hercules, towering over the Strait of Georgia like the tales of old.
With San Jose defending in numbers, keenly aware of the fact that they not taken a point in British Columbia since 2011 and a win since 1982, they proved themselves a difficult to break down. But broken down they were in the past, and broken down they would be on Wednesday night's midweek fixture.
And it all started in the 37th minute when Morales lined up to take a free kick several yards inside the San Jose half. He found Waston, who did well to lose his man, Shaun Francis. But with Francis turning his attention to Erik Hurtado, Victor Bernardez came in from behind to shove Waston in the back as he leapt up to get on the other end of the cross.
The infraction happened in front of Jose Carlos Rivero and the penalty kick was given. Morales stepped up and ended the Whitecaps goal drought at 450 minutes. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch guessed correctly, the shot was too powerful. It went right by the keeper and into the bottom left corner of the netting.
In the second half, Jordan Harvey was lucky to escape with only a talking to as he went in with an early tackle to Francis, only for his opposite fullback to flick the ball over him long before Harvey made contact. Fortunately, the referee thought it was as comical as Harvey did. As early as the tackle was, Harvey thought it was a dive on the part of Francis, and he was probably right.
In the 53rd minute, former Whitecap Shea Salinas crossed the ball in as Chris Wondowlowski, Cordell Cato, and Tommy Thompson each made a run. But Kendall Waston, the only Vancouver player between them and David Ousted, read the play well, sending it out for the throw.
As Pedro Morales lined up for a corner in front of the #Caps2NewWest banner, Waston guided Harvey in between himself and Jordan Stewart. Hurtado made a dummy run, dragging two San Jose defenders with him, Harvey went right, and Waston went low, beating Bernandez to head the ball right between Cato and Bush on the near post.
With virtually every corner being taken by Morales aimed at Waston, we wondered how the Whitecaps would prevent clubs from recognising this strategy. Tonight, the Caps used it against the Earthquakes as Waston stood motionless while other players made distracting runs.
They will still have to vary it up, but on a night like this, seeing a goal like that, and a celebration such as had by Kendall Waston, who can think of such things? For now, the Caps are back on the score sheet, two points ahead of Portland in the Anschultz Cup qualifications, four points up on Toronto in the CONCACAF Champions League qualifications, and still very much alive and well in their Quest for La Quinta, their fifth Cascadia Cup.
It's amazing what a couple of goals can do for a club. On Saturday, the Caps will play a proverbial six point match with FC Dallas. Win that, and they will only trail the Texans by a mere two points with six games to go. But just as importantly, the win would put them five points ahead of Portland, who play Colorado, a club with their own designs on making the Anschultz Cup, later that evening.
With San Jose already trailing by two goals, the Earthquakes replaced one former Whitecap with another. Shea Salinas, who featured thirty times for the Whitecaps in 2011, came off for Atiba Harris, who made 17 appearances for the club over two injury-riddled seasons.
The Whitecaps had a pair of former Earthquakes themselves in Steven Beitashour, who started, and Medhi Ballouchy, who came on for Mauro Rosales in the 62nd minute. As important as Rosales had been since his transfer from CD Chivas, Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson is managing his minutes well, hoping to get the best out of him.
The Caps could have made it 3-0 when Hurtado won the ball from you guessed it, Victor Bernardez, virtually on the halfway line. Hurtado passed it back to Russell Teibert, who sent in a long ball, which Hurtado caught. But his final shot proved just wide of the mark.
With Nicolas Mezquida ready to replace Morales, Waston won the ball from Michael Fucito with a strong challenge. From there the ball would pass to Harvey, Morales, Sebastián Fernández, and then back to Morales, who caught the ball with his chest, but from there it hit his outstretched hand. He was onside and he did put the ball into the back of the net, but the referee was right to call it back for the handball.
Still, given the space between Morales and the San Jose defenders, one would have to think that Morales would have buried that shot whether or not he handled it beforehand. And it all came from the strong challenge by Waston in Vancouver's own penalty box.
But in all the love for Morales and Waston, it should not be forgotten that it was Mauro Rosales who won the free kick that lead to the first goal, Fernández the corner for the second, and that Bernardez was at fault for both goals. As compelling as the partnership between Morales and Waston is from a Vancouver perspective, it was an absolute stinker for Bernardez from the other side.
The win was a fitting tribute to Carl Valentine, who joined the Ring of Honour in recognition of his long years of service as a player, coach, and ambassador to the club. And if you're reading this Carl, enjoy it mate, you earned it.
Vancouver was also able set a few things straight. They got back on the score sheet, earned some valuable points, and David Ousted kept his ninth clean sheet of the season, tops among MLS keepers.
Next the Whitecaps travel to Texas where they'll play FC Dallas next Saturday, before making a short stopover in Portland on the 20th, before returning home to face Real Salt Lake on the 27th.