VANCOUVER, B.C. — The Vancouver Whitecaps rang in the changes big time on Thursday and it paid off with a 3-0 win over 10-man Real Salt Lake.
Carlyle Mitchell made his debut at center back, Alain Rochat reverted to his favored left-back position, Jordan Harvey was reborn as a winger, and Nizar Khalfan returned from the wilderness and even scored a goal.
Oh, and Long Tan started up front.
“I thought Long Tan had a really good day up top,” interim head coach Tom Soehn told MLSsoccer.com after the 3-0 win. “He worked hard and created a lot. Mitchell – coming in at the back – he gave us some bite and real athleticism. He did a good job of communicating and holding a high line. We did a good job of staying organized, but all in all, I still go back to the group effort. It was a really good group performance.”
Mitchell’s debut was a clean sheet – the club’s first win and shutout since Aug. 27 against the Houston Dynamo at Empire Field.
“I thought he played well,” Joe Cannon said after the game. “It was probably a nice night for him. Probably about half the game we were up a man, so it was nice. I thought he had a bit of bite to him – a good first game.”
Up front, Camilo scored a pair of penalties generated by hand balls and leapfrogged Eric Hassli for the team goal scoring lead, but he was quick to play down any talk of being the focus of attention.
“Today is good,” Camilo said. “I scored and we won the game.
“For me, it’s good [to lead the team in scoring], but [Hassli] is the big player on this team. He supports us younger players and shows us everything – it’s good for me.”
The match was also a chance for Khalfan to come in and prove he’s worth a spot on next season’s roster. The Tanzanian hadn’t started since early July and marked his return with a cracker of a goal in the 88th minute, which also happened to be his first in the league.
“I felt good [when Soehn said I would play],” Khalfan said. “I was waiting for a chance like this. I spent a long time and I didn’t get a chance in a game. So when coach said yesterday I was going to start today, I said I would do my best.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @martinmacmahon