VANCOUVER, B.C. – This past Saturday’s scoreless draw against D.C. United continued a perfect defensive start for the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2012.
Once again, goalkeeper Joe Cannon played a huge part in preserving the shutout, making a vital reaction save off a Hamdi Salihi header in the 67th minute in what was the highlight of a stifling defensive chess match.
The clean sheet, officially his second of the season (although he played a large part in shutting out Chivas USA on St. Patrick’s Day before being replaced due to injury), is the latest evidence of not only a new-look backline, but also a rejuvenated Cannon.
“We’ve almost matched last year’s total,” Cannon joked with reporters after Saturday’s win. “It’s a good start for us, and it’s good for our confidence. But at the same time, it would have been good for a win.”
Indeed, Vancouver secured only five clean sheets in 2011, and it took until midway through April for the club’s first shutout, as Cannon watched from the bench as then No. 1 Jay Nolly helped the ‘Caps to a 0-0 draw with Chivas USA.
WATCH: Cannon wins Week 2 Save of the Week
This year, it’s a different story altogether, as Cannon entered preseason healthy instead of carrying any lingering effects from the ankle injury that restricted him to backup duty for the first third of 2011.
That’s not to say last weekend’s clean sheet didn’t have its hurdles, though, as Cannon missed out on two training sessions with a deep thigh contusion suffered against Chivas USA the prior weekend.
“I felt this week was a little more challenging,” Cannon said. “I didn’t get a full week of training, and then I had two days off – and the sessions near the end of the week were lighter. I rested well and felt good out there, and I’m looking forward to get back to full training this week.”
The 37-year-old goalkeeper was also quick to point out the work of his backline, but admits it’s still a learning curve as newcomers Lee Young-Pyo and Martín Bonjour often want the ball in positions that many other defenders would be uncomfortable receiving it.
Cannon often seemed hesitant to play it short on Saturday, leading to several prolonged goal kicks which had referee Kevin Stott signaling on more than one occasion to hurry things up.
“They really want the ball at some different times,” Cannon said of his backline. “They’re almost a little hesitant and that makes me a little hesitant. D.C. pressed up forward as opposed to Montreal, who let us play out from the back.
“I’d much rather be safe, especially with the shape we have at the back to make teams break us down, but it is preferential to build out from the back, especially with the talent we have on the outside wings.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.