Finally, in their fourth MLS match away from home, Vancouver Whitecaps FC earned their first point on the road as they battled to a 0-0 draw against the Chicago Fire on Saturday night.
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The match could have gone either way, but Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson was pleased with the result considering his team had only two days’ rest after an exhausting 120-minute midweek affair against the Montreal Impact in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship.
With only one change from the lineup that played on Wednesday, and with the same backline for the third straight match, the Vancouver banded together to limit Chicago’s chances throughout the match.
“It’s important that we have continuity in our lineup, so I don’t like to make too many changes,” said Thordarson.
However, tired legs also made it a struggle to create any clear scoring opportunities before the break.
“They dominated us in the first half,” added the head coach. “We dropped too deep, which was not the plan, but we managed to correct that at halftime and came out strong.”
Part of the reason the ‘Caps dropped back was because of the threat of Chicago playmaker Marco Pappa, who nearly set up Diego Chaves in the 44th minute, with only the post saving Vancouver from conceding.
“We knew about the danger on the right flank,” said Thordarson. “That caused us some problems, and maybe because of that we were a little afraid of stepping up and coming up higher.”
In the second half, Vancouver picked up their attack and could have walked away with three points had Designated Player Eric Hassli finished a breakaway opportunity in the 75th minute.
“That’s actually the first time I’ve ever seen him miss a chance like that, in practice or a game,” said midfielder Shea Salinas. “With the pedigree that Eric has, he’s going to score goals.”
One positive for Hassli, however, was that he played his first MLS match without receiving a card, while also registering his first full 90 minutes on the road this season after missing out on previous affairs due to suspension.
While not getting booked was encouraging for Hassli, the Frenchman never quite looked himself against the Fire, perhaps weary of catching the referee’s attention. The fear of another suspension seemed to have disrupted his play in the past couple of matches and it appears that the challenge of finding the proper degree of physicality could be one that Hassli faces throughout the season.
Salinas, meanwhile, continues to shine as he energizes the ‘Caps coming off of the bench, taking on defenders and sending dangerous crosses into the box whenever he’s on the field.
“Teitur tells me when I go on that my first responsibility is defensively,” said Salinas. “But knowing my character, he knows that when I get the ball I want to be dangerous. The second that I get the ball I’m looking to either score or get an assist.”
Vancouver will need that attacking mindset if they hope go a step further and get their second MLS win when they visit New England on May 14.