A warm Saturday evening in front of a sold out crowd set the stage for a roller coaster of a match between Vancouver Whitecaps FC (10W-10L-8D) and the hometown San Jose Earthquakes (10W-11L-8D); a match that saw the return of familiar faces and improvement in the midfield for the Whitecaps, and a determined strike force from the Earthquakes but ultimately, neither team was able to find the back of the net, resulting in a scoreless draw that has some fans biting their already well-chewed nails a little harder.
In And Out
As if Martin Rennie didn’t already have enough challenges on his plate, Saturday seemed to put additional pressure on the Whitecaps coach when it came time to selecting a starting lineup. Regular defenders Andy O’Brien (sore back) and Johnny Leveron (calf) both sat out the road trip, and while Russell Teibert was back with the Whitecaps after a brief period away with Canada’s national team, the promising forward was taken ill shortly before the game, prompting Rennie to insert Matt Watson into the right flank to make up. Despite not getting much chance to setup or execute shots on net, Watson had a reasonable performance in the forward line.
Saturday marked the return of a controversial name, as Jun Marques Davidson played for the first time since receiving a red card for a headbutt against Philadelphia back in July. To the surprise of many, the 30 year old had a good performance in a defensive midfield role, chasing the ball every which way, shadowing Earthquakes players and maintaining good possession, not once stepping back. Perhaps eager to put critics to bed and prove his worth, Davidson has showed that he is a capable player. Difficult to say whether we will see more of him as the season winds down.
Saturday also saw Brad Rusin was given the start in place of Andy O’Brien though more out of necessity than choice as Rusin looked visibly pained throughout the first half, going down on the field more than once before eventually requesting a substitution at the thirty minute mark. The twenty-seven year old defender was later seen on the sidelines being attended to by a trainer. No word on whether this setback will further hinder his recovery.
Rusin’s replacement would turn out to be none other than team Jay DeMerit, who jumped right into action for the first time since rupturing his Achilles tendon back in March. DeMerit took up arms right off the bat, winning several headers and blocking shots from the Earthquakes in the second half, even coming close to scoring a goal late in the second, only to be denied at the last minute. Despite a great comeback performance, DeMerit should still be considered a work in progress in order to ensure a complete recovery, likely to see substitution action for at least the rest of September and possibly further into October, depending.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Even though the team did not leave Buck Shaw Stadium empty-handed, the unfortunate reality is that Saturday’s match did very little to change the Whitecaps’ playoff scenario apart from changing the number of points they and the Earthquakes are tied with (thirty-eight) and narrow the gap between here and fifth place (five points, thanks in part to Colorado defeating FC Dallas 2-1 earlier Saturday).
Although their performance was much better than the one against Dallas last week, the Whitecaps still have their work cut out for them. The team has been spending an uncomfortable amount of time in their own end and need to do a better job clearing the ball out of there and eliminating chances for giveaways, and relying on David Ousted (who’s acrobatic talent was a strong factor in the eventual draw) to kick it downfield after a save. Midfield woes appear to be mending, slowly but surely. Let us hope that defense does not go the same route.
From here, the Whitecaps travel to Montreal next week for their final East meets West match of the season against the Impact. Let us hope that it’s our boys in blue and white are on the giving end, rather than the recipients of said Impact.
There’s still time!