The Vancouver Whitecaps successfully walked the tightrope in Couva, Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday night, winning the opening match of the 2016/17 CONCACAF Champions League while resting an array of first-teamers.
A first-half goal from Cristian Techera was enough to see the 'Caps past reigning T&T domestic champions Central FC, who probed and prodded their Canadian visitors repeatedly over the 90 minutes but could not find the final touch in Vancouver's penalty box.
The 1-0 result was marked by steady outings from several reserves called up from the Whitecaps' USL side for this midweek trip to the Caribbean, including starts for goalkeeper Spencer Richey and left back Brett Levis, and a substitute appearance for Kyle Greig.
Levis even earned a second assist, passing to Erik Hurtado before the latter crossed to Techera for a side volley that was partially blocked but trickled across the goal line nonetheless. Richey had to be on guard throughout the evening, as he was forced to make five saves, two on particularly dangerous moments in the 10th minute and in first-half injury time.
Vancouver host Sporting KC at BC Place in their next CCL match, on Tuesday, Aug. 23, while Central welcome SKC to Ato Boldon Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
1. ROBBO RESTS REGULARS: With six games this month, two of them away from home, 'Caps coach Carl Robinson took a dramatically different group to Trinidad than he might usually travel with, and VWFC's youngsters and reserves repaid his faith. It wasn't always pretty, but the makeshift XI managed the match well and showed Vancouver's depth. Their lesser lights may yet be rewarded with further CCL action down the line.
2. BUSY SHARKS, BUT NO FINAL BITE: Central were generally tidy and fluid in possession, orchestrated by attacking midfielder Sean de Silva. But with the club unable to finish the international paperwork for Atlanta United's loanee Kenwyne Jones in time for him to take part in this game, they wasted several good chances to reward themselves in the first half, stymied by their own wayward finishing and some good goalkeeping from Richey. If they're to have any chance of advancement out of Group C, they effectively must win when Sporting KC visit later this month.
3. HURTADO STEPS UP: It's been an up-and-down professional career for Erik Hurtado thus far, but tonight was a promising signpost for the fifth overall pick in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft as he notched the game-winning assist. If he can continue to craft positive chemistry with the likes of Techera and Nicolas Mezquida, Robinson may turn to him in important moments down the stretch this season.
They Said it
"They took their chance – they took their half-chance, actually. We had a couple good chances and we couldn't capitalize on it. You have to score to win."
- Central FC captain Leston Paul, in postgame remarks to CONCACAF.com
- VAN: Saturday, Aug. 6 at Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET, TSN in Canada, MLS LIVE in US)