Vancouver Whitecaps News Release – www.whitecapsfc.com

Saturday, April 11, 2009

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VANCOUVER, BC — Vancouver Whitecaps FC began the defense of their USL First Division championship title with a goalless home draw versus Charleston Battery on Saturday evening.

On what was the opening night of the 2009 USL-1 season, both the Whitecaps and the Battery struggled to find their scoring finish in front of the goal during the season opener at Swangard Stadium, as early season rust seemed to affect the standard of play from both sides.

(Bob Frid)

The draw took Vancouver’s run of not conceding a goal in a home opener to eight matches, though the stalemate was the Whitecaps first in a home opener since the 0-0 draw with former USL-1 club Toronto Lynx on April 14, 2005.

Playing in his usual 4-4-2 formation, Whitecaps head coach Teitur Thordarson gave Vancouver native Marcus Haber his USL-1 debut in Saturday’s match, while centre back Marco Reda lined up against the club he played for last season in his Vancouver debut, as he partnered the returning Justin Thompson in the centre of the Whitecaps backline. Another player to make his Whitecaps debut was winger Ansu Toure. The former Minnesota Thunder, Atlanta Silverbacks, and Miami FC Blues man started on the left-hand side of midfield.

Battery head coach Mike Anhaeuser, meanwhile, gave former Whitecaps striker Ian Fuller the start up front for the South Carolina visitors, as he played alongside new club signing Tom Heinemann. Former Toronto FC man Tyler Hemming earned a start in a three-man midfield, as Anhaeuser went with a 4-3-3 formation against Vancouver. Former Canadian international Chris Williams also started in the midfield for the visitors.

On a cool and wet spring evening, a large Swangard crowd of 5,037 saw both sides struggle to get into their full stride. In fact, the first 10 minutes looked a bit untidy in terms of the overall play, with the Battery making the more dangerous forward runs in that period of time.

The home crowd, however, did not have long to wait for some excitement, as the Whitecaps created their best chance of the half on 14 minutes. Vicente Arze’s fine through ball from his right wing position freed the speedy Haber to make a dangerous run towards the Charleston goal. With only Battery goalkeeper Dusty Hudock to beat, the Canadian youth international hit the far post with his low finish, with the ball rolling away to safety as a result.

Haber’s pace was causing Charleston’s backline some problems, with the former FC Groningen player making another dash towards goal on 19 minutes. Unfortunately for him, the ball got away from his possession at a critical stage and allowed Hudock to collect with relative ease in the Battery box.

As the match past the half-hour mark, the Whitecaps applied more pressure, with Charles Gbeke heading captain Martin Nash’s cross from the left well off target on 31 minutes before Toure sailed a strike over the Charleston crossbar a minute later. Hudock then needed to collect Thompson’s goal-bound header on 33 minutes, as the Whitecaps defender connected with Toure’s corner from the right.

As the rain began to fall more heavily, the Battery registered their first shot on goal on 34 minutes, with Heinemann forcing a routine save from Whitecaps number one Jay Nolly.

On 40 minutes, Arze earned a yellow card from match referee Fabrizio Romano after making one complaint too many to the game official. It was the last eventful moment of the half, as both sides eventually went to the halftime break tied at 0-0.

The second half started with the Whitecaps pressing to find the opening goal, but Gbeke got his lines all wrong with a wayward strike that flew across the Charleston box and out for a throw-in on 51 minutes.

Two minutes later, the Battery created a major chance to take the lead through new signing Frankie Sanfilippo. The former Carolina RailHawks defender powered a dangerous first-time shot back towards the Vancouver goal after Nolly failed to clear the Whitecaps lines with his punched clearance. Fortunately for the home side, Sanfilippo’s effort flew wide of its intended target.

Thordarson’s side responded positively to that opportunity from Charleston, with central midfielder Mason Trafford striking a shot well wide of the target from the edge of the Battery box on 59 minutes. Three minute later, Thompson was the next Whitecaps player to pick up a yellow card for his aerial challenge for the ball with Charleston striker Fuller at the halfway line.

Fuller then picked up a booking of his own at the halfway mark of the second half. The Battery forward was upset he did not receive a penalty after trying to get on the end of Kenji Treschuk’s curling free kick into the Whitecaps box.

After Gbeke was the next player to go in Mr. Romano’s book for handling the ball on 70 minutes, his strike partner Haber looked to create a positive moment two minutes later, but his low strike from Gbeke’s pass rolled into the arms of Hudock.

Looking to give their fans something to shout about, Toure missed a glorious chance to give the Whitecaps the lead on 77 minutes. The Liberian’s close-range shot flew wide of goal after the Battery failed to deal with Luca Bellisomo’s ball into the visitors’ box from the right-hand side. It proved to be the winger’s last contribution to the match, as he was replaced by Tyrell Burgess, who came on for his USL-1 debut.

To their credit, Charleston remained a threat going forward, and on 81 minutes, substitute striker Dan Antoniuk just missed the target with a near-post header after a decent ball was played into the Whitecaps box. On 88 minutes, Fuller drilled another Charleston free kick wide of Nolly’s goal.

There was one last chance for the home side in the two minutes of added time, but Gbeke’s shot was saved by Hudock before the play was blown down for offside. In the end, a share of the spoils was a fair result for both clubs, who despite their best efforts, never really looked like finding the back of the net on the night.

The Whitecaps will now prepare for a two-match road trip, with the first game coming in the Caribbean when they visit Puerto Rico Islanders next Saturday. It will be the first meeting of both clubs since last season’s USL-1 Championship Final at Swangard when the Whitecaps won 2-1 on October 12, 2008. Charleston, meanwhile, face more Canadian opposition next Saturday, as they host Montreal Impact at Blackbaud Stadium in South Carolina.

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Edwin Jusino
Director Ejecutivo de FutbolBoricua.net. Actualmente estudiante de Historia de las Américas en programa combinado Maestría/PhD de la Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, Recinto Metropolitano. Lleva más de una década cubriendo el fútbol de Puerto Rico. Actualmente está trabajando su disertación doctoral sobre el pasado presidente de la FPF, el Dr. Roberto Monroig. Hincha del Club Atlético de Madrid y de la Selección Nacional de Fútbol de Puerto Rico. Puede contactarle via twitter o Instagram en @erjusinoa