VANCOUVER, B.C. — Camilo Sanvezzo’s first-half goal got the crowd rocking at Empire Field on Monday night, but two second-half goals, including a world-class strike from Shaun Wright-Phillips, meant the Vancouver Whitecaps fell to Manchester City 2-1 in the Herbalife World Football Challenge.
“The first half we did a good job in possession and caused them to have to work, and we found a lot of good channels,” head coach Tom Soehn told reporters following the match. “Eric [Hassli] found a lot of good touches between the midfield and the back and we did a good job of changing the point of attack.”
The Whitecaps played a largely first-string squad in the first half, before allowing young players like Michael Boxall and Bilal Duckett the chance to face up against some of the world’s biggest soccer stars.
“You see it as a challenge,” Boxall told MLSsoccer.com following the match. “You see how you rack up against the best players in the world. I think for the most part, all the guys put out efforts we can be proud of, and hopefully that carries over to the rest of our season.”
Rookie defender Duckett had the best seat in the house for Wright-Phillip’s blast from distance that turned out to be the game winner in the second half.
“It’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” a smiling Duckett said. “I gave [Wright-Phillips] too much space and he put it in the top shelf, nothing Nolly could do about it. It was just a great strike and you have to give credit where credit is due.”
Vancouver kept the ball well in the first half, holding 55 percent of possession, and started to show signs of the possession-focused style Soehn is trying to bring in.
“We’ve been working very hard to come up with an identity of how we want to play, and I thought today, especially in the first half, you started to see that,” Soehn said. “We did a good job of possession through the middle of the park. We got our [defenders] into the attack and gave our flank guys license to run at people, and Shea [Salinas] and Camilo were a handful for their [defenders]. We got our forwards involved as well and got a lot out of that. We’re still growing as a unit, but there are some real positive signs that the work we’re putting in is starting to show.”
Torrential rain put this match under threat of being cancelled, but event staff at Empire Field and many others put in around-the-clock efforts to make sure the waterlogged pitch was suctioned as dry as possible for this friendly international.
“I have to credit a lot of people who put a lot of effort into making that field playable today — the people who laid the sod, the front office, the fans, the people who made that effort into making sure this game happened today,” Soehn said. “There’s so much owed to them and I think the fans came away with a great experience tonight.”