Would Jay DeMerit be ready to go after playing 90 minutes in Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game?
That was the big question for the Vancouver Whitecaps going into Friday’s match with Real Salt Lake, and head coach Martin Rennie opted to gamble with his captain.
It wasn’t a bet that paid off in a 2-1 loss, with DeMerit conceding a penalty for the opening goal and underhitting a backpass which led to the dismissal of goalkeeper Joe Cannon for a handball.
HIGHLIGHTS: RSL 2, VAN 1
“I think we’ve taken the high road on the situation with Jay and the All-Star Game, but again that didn’t help us tonight,” Rennie told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “Jay being 100 percent would have helped, or at least not having done what he’s just done in the All-Star Game, that would have definitely helped us.”
While Rennie pointed out the officiating wasn’t the ultimate decider of the match, he claimed a number of decisions made things more difficult for his team. The Scotsman alleged Salt Lake were incorrectly given a throw-in which led to the penalty decision, and that Gershon Koffie was fouled in the buildup to the game-winning goal.
And according to Rennie, Vancouver’s status as a relatively new MLS franchise had something to do with the way the officials were calling the game.
“Some of it is, you know, Vancouver’s just a team that’s up and coming,” he said. “We haven’t quite established ourselves yet, so when 50-50 decisions are made, they aren’t going our way at the moment. But that’s going to change.”
DeMerit's backpass which led to Cannon's dismissal in the 76th minute meant Brad Knighton was forced to come off the bench in relief. In doing so, the backup goalkeeper made his first appearance since St. Patrick's Day, when he helped the club secure their first-ever away road win at Chivas USA by stepping in for an injured Cannon during the match.
Cannon's red card means he won't be playing again for Vancouver in their next game, a rematch with RSL on Aug. 11 at BC Place.
“It's tough but you know, you've got to prepare mentally and tell everyone to prepare the same way, as if you're going to play,” Knighton told TEAM 1410. “Instances like that happen, and for the second time I've had to come in off the bench. It's just unfortunate we couldn't get something out of the game.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.