VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The Vancouver Whitecaps remained in pole position in their playoff battle against Portland with a dominant 2-0 win over FC Dallas on Saturday, and it was a somewhat surprising player who came through for the team.
The Whitecaps secured the three points thanks to a first-half brace from midfielder Sebastian Fernandez. The Uruguayan's performance pleased coach Carl Robinson, who has kept faith in Fernandez despite his 14-match scoreless streak entering Saturday's match.
"That's what happens when he gets in the box, he scores," Robinson told reporters after the game. "Terrific performance from the kid. He was a threat all game. His little movement patterns, his positional sense and getting into areas and causing problems for them was evident throughout the game.
"You'll all say it was probably his best game because he scored two goals, but he's been playing very regular like that for me without the goals. Today, the goals were a bonus."
Questions had been asked of Robinson by local media the past couple of weeks around his persistence in playing Fernandez, who hadn't scored since he grabbed the game-winner against Seattle on July 5th.
Robinson has been consistent in rewarding players who show the right attitude, work rate and excel in training and Fernandez has fit the bill. The 'Caps coach is well aware of the Uruguayan's talent and was pleased that he finally produced the goods in the vital win over Dallas.
"If you watch him [at training] and you see him, his work ethic is fantastic," Robinson said. "He's technically a very, very talented player and he's got ability. When he gets into the final third, he makes things happen. We see it all the time and now it's about transferring that onto the pitch. The last three or four weeks, even though he hasn't scored since July, his work ethic and his value to the team has been fantastic."
The only blot for Vancouver in the game was Fernandez picking up a cheap yellow card in stoppage time that will see him ruled out of this Friday's big Cascadia Cup clash against Seattle. Robinson admitted it was a blow, but that it would now provide an opportunity for others.
He remains confident his team will cope with the loss if they can play with the same intensity and gameplan they did against Dallas, but they need to concentrate on both boxes.
"Attacking-wise and counterattacking-wise I thought we were excellent", Robinson said. "The two or three opportunities that we did have, we were very clinical in our play and obviously it led to two very good goals. I thought the defensive aspect wasn't good enough.
"I said to the guys at halftime that we were too open, we were a bit kamikaze football. We were gung-ho and were 2-0 up, so I had to address a few things and credit to the back four, they defended properly and showed a lot of character out there, so I'm delighted."
Michael McColl covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.