With five trialists, two residency players, and an unsigned draftee all vying for one of Vancouver's three remaining roster spots, Whitecaps FC manager Carl Robinson has some tough choices to make. With that in mind, he started his three most experienced trialists, Robert Earnshaw, Dane Richards, and Kalif Alhassan.
It was the second friendly of the year for both clubs, and boy did it show. They were sluggish, disjointed, and lacked cohesion. Looking more like an amateur side than the polished professionals they aim to be, neither side was able to create an early chance from the run of play. Vancouver had to wait until Darren Mattocks earned a free kick on the right side of the box.
Dane Richards, who returns to the Whitecaps after a brief stopover in Europe, sent a lofty ball towards the far corner. Diego Rodríguez moved to intercept, but San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham snatched it up before the Uruguayan could head it down.
Playing alongside Kendall Waston, Rodríguez seems a natural fit for the Costa Rican. If this game is any indication, they'll make for a powerful combination, in this year, and for many more to come. Together, they stifled San Jose's attack, closed them down, tempered their possession, and prevented the Earthquakes from converting advantage into opportunity. In Rodríguez, Vancouver has found yet another no nonsense defender.
Seeking to see his name added the score sheet, Mattocks fought for every ball, and at one point turned a probable goal kick into a possible scoring chance. His final effort earned his team a corner kick. Alhassan took a fine corner. Rodríguez and Ben McKendry had their chances. But the chaos in front of the box saw both of their strikes deflected.
Designated Player Matías García and former Whitecap Shea Salinas traded corners on either side of Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted. The Great Dane made one spectacular save. But as the saying goes, the third time's the charm. Trialist 1 found García's second corner in the 29th minute, and put the Whitecaps behind for the first time this preseason.
Trialist 1 is a funny name for a footballer. We decided to look into this mysterious fellow, and discovered that he was a 6' tall, 167 lbs., 27-year old Portuguese centre back, who has played for a number of European sides, including Sporting Club de Portugal. To FIFA, he is known as Paulo Renato Valério Rodrigues. But to San Jose manager Dominic Kinnear, he is Trialist 1. It's certainly easier to say.
The match was graciously streamed by the Whitecaps and featured the colour commentary of Team Manager Joe Jesseau. He brought insight and professionalism to the role. Should they stream Tuesday's match against Houston, we're hoping that Joe will be the primary commentator. Let's face it, the one for today's game was to put it politely, lacking.
García was a second half substitute when the Earthquakes played Houston on Wednesday, and only managed 37th minutes today. Fitness may be an issue there. Either that, or Kinnear loves the name Tommy Thompson as much as we do. It was a good move. A few minutes later, Thompson intercepted a pass from Ben McKendry, took on Waston, and nearly doubled San Jose's lead. It took a reaction save from first half Captain David Ousted.
Since this was only a friendly, Waston held back a little. If it were a meaningful game, we assume that Waston wouldn’t have been quite so forgiving. At the very least, Thompson would have to pay a price for his shot on target.
The Whitecaps started an entirely new line up in the second half. Vice-Captain Russell Teibert took the armband from David Ousted, who had filled in admirably. He was vocal and commanding at the back. For the Earthquakes, only Victor Bernardez, Adam Jahn, and the delightfully named Tommy Thompson remained.
Tim Parker made his mark early in the second half with some physical play. After demonstrating his speed in camp testing, he brought a physicality to his defending. Vancouver might just have another Christian Dean on their hands, a veritable steal with the 13th pick this year. It’s still early, but he was nothing short of impressive.
While San Jose held the balance of the play in the first half, the reverse was true of the second. When you consider Vancouver's line ups, that wasn't too surprising. Ethen Sampson, Kendall Waston, Diego Rodríguez, and Jordan Harvey started at the back, while Matías Laba took up his usual position as a holding midfielder. The second half saw far more emphasis on attack. Nicolás Mezquida, Mauro Rosales, Kekuta Manneh, and recent Young Designated Player Octavio Rivero worked on their chemistry, and there were signs that it could be an effective quartet.
Together, they combined to create a host of chances. Rivero was the first to come close to a equaliser when he sent a header that drifted just wide of the post. Not long after he had gone left, Manneh saw his effort deflected to the right. And as always, Rosales was ever ready for a crafty corner. We said it last year that a full season of Rosales has to be worth points, and he's done nothing to change our opinion. Even at 33, he remains a top player in this league.
In the 65th minute, Sam Adekugbe and Manneh combined on the left, laying off to each other, before Manneh tied the match at one apiece. And while that was the last goal of the game, it was far from the last action. Not long after his equaliser, Manneh had a glorious chance to score the winner, but it was wide of the post.
Mezquida in particular seems to be playing with a fire in his belly. If he can keep this kind of passion and intensity, it will be hard for Robinson to keep him out of the starting eleven. He even had some fun with Trialist 1, who demonstrated to Kinnear that his simulation skills as second to none.
Pa-Modou Kah almost scored a brilliant goal in front of the Timbers Army, but Bryan Meredith was well positioned for the header. Hearing the sounds of "PT, FC" being chanted must have been like old times for the Norwegian, who spent the previous two years in the Rose City.
The Timbers Army were there because Portland's match with Houston immediately followed this one. For the record, we're still not sure what the "FC" in that chant stands for when the club's name is "Portland Timbers," but we suppose it must be an Oregon thing.
Brandon Barklage earned himself a straight red card for a reckless challenge on Rivero, though there was no intent behind it. He tried to play the ball and lost sight of his surroundings. While he waited to see Rivero was okay leaving the pitch, Jordan Stewart apologised on Barklage's behalf to the Vancouver coaching staff.
With the score still level, and only seven minutes to go, San Jose decided to take the draw. They made it difficult for Vancouver to break them down as Caps went for the winner. But it was not to be.
After winning by two against MLS Cup finalists New England, Vancouver finished level at one with San Jose. On Tuesday, they play Houston. After that that, it's back home to British Columbia for a friendly against the University of Victoria at Centennial Stadium. Kickoff is at 2:00 PM PST.
Then, it's down to Portland where the Whitecaps look to defend their title as reigning Rose City Invitational champions. As well as the hosts, the Caps have matches against Norwegian side Stabæk Fotball, and Matt Watson's Chicago Fire SC.
28' - SJE - Trialist 1* (Matias Garcia)
65' - VAN - Kekuta Manneh (Sam Adekugbe)
34' - VAN – Kendall Waston
82' - SJE – Brandon Barklage
San Jose Earthquakes
1. David Bingham (13. Bryan Meredith 45'); 4. Marvell Wynne (16. Pablo Pintos 45'); 5. Victor Bernardez (3. Jordan Stewart 62'); 38. Trialist 1* (2. Ty Harden 45'); 20. Shaun Francis (26. Brandon Barklage 45'); 80. Jean-Baptitse Pierazzi (11. Trialist 2* 45'); 15. J.J. Koval (49. Matias Silva 45'); 10. Matias Garcia (22. Tommy Thompson 37'); 7. Cordell Cato (18. Kris Tyrpak 45', 39. Cameron Iwasa 83'); 6. Shea Salinas1 (23. Leandro Barrera 45'); 4. Adam Jahn (19. Mike Fuctio 67')
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1. David Ousted (70. Paolo Tornaghi 45'); 27. Ethen Sampson (26. Tim Parker 45'); 4. Kendall Waston (Pa-Modou Kah 45'); 18. Diego Rodríguez (22. Christian Dean 45'); 2. Jordan Harvey (3. Sam Adekugbe 45'); 15. Matías Laba (37. Mitch Piraux^ 45'); 30. Ben McKendry (31. Russell Teibert 45'); 20. Dane Richards* (7. Mauro Rosales 45'); 8. Robert Earnshaw* (9. Nicolás Mezquida 45'); 35. Kalif Alhassan* (23. Kekuta Manneh 45'); 11. Darren Mattocks (29. Octavio Rivero)
* Unsigned Training Camp Participants
^ WFC Residency Graduate