The Vancouver Whitecaps faced a huge test at BC Place Stadium on Wednesday night with the high-flying New York Red Bulls in town, and the Whitecaps delivered mixed results with a 1-1 tie. The Red Bulls were without their top two designated players Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. New York was also missing their head coach Hans Backe as well as midfielders Teemu Tainio, and Mehdi Ballouchy but the Red Bulls fought hard to earn a point in hostile territory.
The Red Bulls started the game playing a very physical style of football that would make the New York Giants proud. Defender Jan Gunnar Solli tackled and sat on Whitecaps midfielder John Thorrington in the 7th minute and then proceeded to shove Thorrington’s face into the pitch. Solli escaped a yellow card and it was New York that came away with a free kick. New York would not be so lucky later on in the first half when referee Chris Penso dished out a pair of yellow cards to Red Bulls midfielders Dane Richards, and Joel Lindpere. Richards picked up his 5th yellow of the season and subsequently will miss the Red Bulls next game on Sunday vs DC United because he sent a dangerous elbow to the head of Gershon Koffie. Lindpere picked up his yellow after a minor collision with Koffie.
As far as scoring opportunities go both teams created plenty of chances to score but the finish was lacking on this night. Camilo had a plethora of chances to put his team in the good but the Brazilian Whitecap was unfortunate not to find the back of the net. In the 32nd minute Koffie found a wide-open Camilo who was past the Red Bulls defense and in on goalie Ryan Meara. Camilo rushed his shot and had the ball roll just past the far post. Camilo also had an opportunity to score on a bicycle kick in the first half but his effort went over the bar. With the score still knotted at 0-0 Camilo found himself the recipient off a great pass from Sebastien Le Toux. Camilo was just inside the Red Bulls box but his strike was incredibly poor and didn’t manage to get anywhere near Meara. Perhaps Camilo is lacking confidence after long stretch on the Whitecaps bench in favour of rookie Darren Mattocks or maybe he just had a bad day at work. Either way the 20,060 fans at BC Place weren’t avin it as they shouted and cheered for Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie to bring on fan favourite Eric Hassli. Rennie made a switch at striker and brought on Hassli for Camilo in the 64th minute. Other than collecting his 5th yellow card of the season Hassli didn’t do much of anything.
The second half was played at a slower pace than the first half. Both teams seemed to play a lot more cautiously hoping not to give up the crucial first goal of the game. Whitecaps creative dynamo Davide Chiumiento had another brilliant game for the Whitecaps and seems to be playing with a ton of confidence. the Swiss born midfielder is an instrumental cog in the Whitecaps offensive game plan and his passing ability generates quality chances for the Whitecaps to score. All though Chiumiento did not get an assist he played a big part in the Whitecaps goal in the 75th minute. Chiumiento crossed the ball into the box and the ball went right to centre back Martin Bonjour who took his time and fired the ball into the top left corner past Ryan Meara. Martin Bonjour scored his first goal of the season and first of his MLS career. Bonjour lifted the crowd out of their seats and looked to be the latest Whitecaps hero. Martin Rennie praised Bonjour after the game.
“I think tonight he was fantastic defensively, he won lots of headers, he kept Kenny Cooper quiet – who is a very good player. But it was a fantastic goal and it was nice to get it off in the second phase of a set play. Great finish. Martin Bonjour has been an outstanding player for us this season and it was very nice to see him getting a goal and hopefully that will just add even more to his play and to his confidence.”
Vancouver looked to be headed to three straight home victories before a defensive break down in the 85th minute. Joel Lindpere who was the best player in a Red Bulls shirt crossed the ball into the Whitecaps box where several Red Bulls players where looking to tie the game. The ball found the head of Heath Pearce who sent the ball into the net to even up the game at 1-1. This was Pearce’s first goal of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time for New York. The Whitecaps have only themselves to blame for giving up the tying goal. The Whitecaps fled the defensive zone as Lindpere sent his cross in. All New York had to do to score was make contact with the ball. The Whitecaps where nowhere to be found and their mistake cost them a chance to secure all 9 points on their home stand.
The Whitecaps shutdown and isolated Red Bulls leading goal scorer Kenny Cooper, who is second in MLS this season with 11 goals. Cooper was invisible for the entire game and complete non factor. As a result Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere stepped up and played excellent for New York. Lindpere is a force to be reckoned with on the pitch the tall and physical Estonian brings a complete 100% effort every game which can be tough to handle for opposing teams if not prepared. Lindpere wasn’t too happy with the referee or his yellow card following the game.
“Ya I haven’t seen these things before so I think soccer is a man’s game and it’s a physical sport. When you push-off somebody just in the shoulders and you get a yellow card so it’s a joke it’s a total joke so I asked the referee but I don’t know,” Linepere said. “I think sometimes they just need to follow more on TV and watch the games and how they play. I didn’t tackle nobody with my legs during the whole game and he said it was my second, and third call. The guy ran into me and I had the ball so that was a joke that was a total joke. I have to accept it and it felt like we played the whole game away but great effort from the team and not much to say.”
Notes: Whitecaps forward Long Tan made a return to the pitch in the second half after previously being suspended this month for violating the teams social media policy. The Whitecaps will play next on Saturday, June 23, when they visit the LA Galaxy. New York will return home and expect to have Thierry Henry in their lineup on Sunday, June 24, when the visiting DC United come to Red Bull Arena.