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Eastern Conference Championship

Vancouver's veteran defensive trio the quiet heroes in win

VANCOUVER, B.C. — While Shea Salinas was the Whitecaps' hero following last Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo, the trio of Joe Cannon, Jay DeMerit and Alain Rochat was just as pivotal in the Vancouver victory.

The veteran triumvirate coolly navigated the ‘Caps to a shutout at Empire Field, a result made all the more remarkable because their opponents held 57.3 percent of possession. Cannon had arguably his best performance of the season, making a cat-like reflex save on a deflected shot from Houston's Brad Davis in the 24th minute.

WATCH: Cannon springs onto deflection
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“Brad Davis was coming in, and he has a good shot and I felt like I needed to get there, and all of a sudden it hit [Carlo] Costly’s butt or something,” Cannon told MLSsoccer.com after Saturday’s win. “Luckily it was close enough where I could do something about it — a lot of times you see deflections literally go on the outside, but it was great. I felt like maybe it was our day throughout the whole process.”

The two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year was called to action once again in the 72nd minute, as the influential Brian Ching got on the end of a Corey Ashe cross with a powerful header, but Cannon managed to knock the ball over the bar at full stretch.

“Luckily it wasn’t in the top corner,” Cannon said of Ching’s effort on target. “It was somewhere I could get it and did well with it. I’m just happy I was able to be a part of this win. I love the fact that the guys I go to work with and love to hang out with can celebrate, especially in front of these great fans.”

The victory was significant in that it was the first clean sheet since the 1-0 win over the Philadelphia Union on June 18, and the presence of DeMerit and Rochat playing in central defense together for the first time certainly proved pivotal.

“The minute you get experience, you can see things shore up a lot better,” head coach Tom Soehn said of the pairing after Saturday’s match. “They complement each other. One’s a ball winner, and one’s a really technical guy. The two of them together have worlds of experience and that’s what this team craves.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon