A goal late in the second half helped lift the Vancouver Whitecaps to their fourth victory and avoid another home draw as the home side were on the positive side of a 1-0 decision against the Houston Dynamo. The win was the club’s second straight at Empire Field and their first cleansheet in a win or draw since June against Philadelphia. The winning score, assisted by substitute Long Tan, was the first goal of the season and as a Whitecap for Shea Salinas.
It was almost another quick start for the Caps at Empire as Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall bobbled a free kick from Chuimiento but there was no attacking player able to capitalize on the subsequent scramble. The Dynamo controlled play after that initial chance as Adam Moffat struck the bar while Cannon made a couple of saves off shots from Brad Davis. Hall came up big once again just before the half getting his hand on a glancing header by Mustapha Jarju off a set piece. Then in injury time Salinas, coming on as a sub for an injured Thorrington, sailed his shot over the bar after being set up by Jarju in the box.
The opening ten minutes of the second half saw both designated players take their turns with opportunities to open the scoring as Jarju was stopped by Hall while Hassli’s shot just missing the top corner. With twenty minutes to go it looked as though Houston would push to capture the full three points but multiple chances missed the target. Then with five minutes to Salinas, after receiving a pass from Harvey, played a great give and go with fellow sub Long Tan. He was able to stay onside on the return pass and after a couple of touches slid the ball past Hall into the far corner to give the Caps the lead and ultimately three points.
After giving up twelve in their last four games, one win and three losses, it was hard to imagine that the Caps would have been able to pick up the win with a cleansheet. However the backline performed well and were boosted by the return of Alain Rochat who teamed with Jay DeMerit to help shutdown the Dynamo strikers. It allowed each of the defenders to not have to worry about their teammates and concentrate on their own job on the backline. When there was a hint of a breakdown, Joe Cannon patrolled the box expertly clearing out of the box and making a couple of exceptional reactionary saves.
The Caps had their fair share of chances to take the lead earlier in the match but they could get the ball to bounce their way. The striking partnership between Hassli and Jarju is showing signs that there is promise if they can work out their timing in the final third. The midfielders were positive in this match as well as they did a better job of pushing the ball forward to the attacking players.
Establishing dominance of their home turf was a major priority going into the season and the win against the Dynamo made it two straight for the Whitecaps. The three points also took them over the 21 point mark and pulls them closer to getting out of the MLS basement and helps them avoid having the lowest point total by an expansion club. The Caps have next week off before travelling to the east coast to face the New York Red Bulls as they continue to seek their first road victory.