The suddenly stumbling expansion Whitecaps rolled into Crew stadium in Columbus on Saturday. With offensive threat Eric Hassli out of the lineup, 17 year old Omar Saldago earned his first MLS start up front for Vancouver.
Columbus controlled the ball for much of the first half with Vancouver following typical MLS road tactics in setting up the barricades. Robbie Rogers launched a good strike toward the Whitecaps net in the 12th minute, but Jay Nolly parried it well.
The Vancouver GK was not as lucky 15 minutes later when he badly misjudged a cross and left the net empty with the ball sitting just off the six yard box. Terry Dunfield stepped in to save a near certain goal and clear the ball well away.
In the 36th, Jonathon Weathers launched a clumsy tackle on Wes Knight at the edge of the penalty area, earning a yellow from referee Terry Vaughn. Less than five minutes later, Alain Rochat followed suit just off the opposite corner of the box with a misjudged tackle on Renteria, but avoided caution.
Fortunately for Vancouver, neither FK lead to a significant scoring opportunity. To close the first half, Eddie Gaven floated a nice cross to the far post only to have Chad Marshall head it wide of the Vancouver net.
The Whitecaps luck ran out quickly after the break, however, as Nolly charged out to grab Robbie Rogers’ low pass into the area. Emilio Renteria tumbled over the GK, drawing the penalty (replays showed that the fall began before Nolly and Renteria came together, but such a challenge in the box was always likely to result in a spot kick. Nolly can perhaps count himself lucky not to have been carded as well).
Renteria added a second in the 59th off a quality pass from Rusmir. A fine left footer beat Nolly cleanly to his left and Columbus appeared comfortably home on the afternoon.
Just ten minutes later, though, Omar Salgado headed a finely placed header from Dunfield past Will Hesmer to cut the Crew’s lead in half. He would have a glorious opportunity to equalize in the 78th but failed to convert.
At the final whistle, Columbus had to be judged worthy victors, though Whitecaps fans will no doubt be wondering what might have been had their club broken out of the defensive shell before the 65th minute.
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