Vancouver come back from three down in thriller.
Teal Bunbury had a wonderful game, scoring two well taken goals and fighting off the boo-birds, wtill upset about Bunbury's international decision. The difference in the end, though, was the desire of the Whitecaps and the clever substitutions of Teitur Thordarson. Few observers would have given them any chance of coming back from 3-1 down with 70 minutes, but Kansas City's leaky defense plagued them once again.
With the sun shining and the Southsiders singing, Atiba Harris kicked off the Whitecaps second ever home game. The stadium wasn’t full but was just as loud as the home opener against Toronto. The opening minutes were positive for Sporting. The Whitecaps had difficulty dealing with the size of Birahim Diop and Kei Kamara. Both teams exchanged chances from crosses but both were easily dealt with.
As the temperature dropped and the clock stuck the 20 minute mark, the Whitecaps found their groove. Wes Knight was getting free up the right wing and Alain Rochat and Blake Wagner were taking turns overlapping on the left wing. Their crosses went for naught but the warning flare had been sent.
The first real test of the Sporting net came on the 28th minute. Camilo was sent free wide right and with nobody to cross too, cut in and had a go that was parried by Sporting keeper Nielsen. The rebound barely bounced left of the post.
The resulting corner was cleared back to the front of the Sporting box where Wagner put his boot through one. Once again Nielson’s save sent the ball almost into the bottom left corner of his own net. The Caps had their ears pinned back by this time. Dunfield and Harris both missed opportunities to score but Dunfield scuffed his shot and Harris' was wonderfully saved by Nielsen.
The first goal of the game should have come for the home side in the 35th minute. Camilo did well to turn on a pass from wide right, but his effort was brilliantly saved by Nielsen. The Dane and the Dane alone kept the game level as the second half rolled on.
Then, against the run of play and a minute into extra time Bunbury was given the smallest shred of space on the left and he let fly. Jay Nolly was at full stretch but barely off his line and all he could do was watch it sail into his goal. Bunbury’s skill was on show there and the local Canadian national team fans were mad as hell about it as the Whitecaps went into the break down by one goal.
The second half started with squads unchanged and the sun coming out to reward them. The play was to Sporting's liking: slow and purposeless. The most excitement of the opening minutes was when Atiba Harris, who was away alone on the far left wing, looked to be fouled. Referee Silviu Petrescu stood tall and gave Harris the 'Don’t be daft, get up' wave.
Sporting were rewarded in the 57th minute when a wonderful pass from Milos Stojcev to Bunbury opened up the Whitecaps defense. Bunbury turned Greg Janicki inside from 10 yards out and coolly slotted home. Wonderful run from Bunbury and an even better pass from Stojcev.
In the 67th minute, the Whitecaps defense was left appealing for a offside which didn’t exist as Sapong was left alone running up the left wing. His cross found Kai Kamara in the box, and the Sierra Leone international slotted home off the left post, making it 3-0 to Sporting. The visitors would have counted themselves lucky to be up after the first half but they were in full control now.
The 'Caps threw on Nizar Khalfan for Janicki, swapped Wes Knight for Davide Chiumiento and prayed for goals. The first originated from Khalfan's play in the 72nd minute. He crossed nicely from almost the touchline behind the defensive line and all Atiba Harris had to do was deflect it into the net.
The goal and subs lifted the 'Caps and the chances started to come, but like the first half, they just weren’t going in. Credit to the Whitecaps for fighting hard to the end, and the substitutions definitely changed the game but in the end where were they going to find the goals?
Camilo certainly didn’t give up. He got a deserved goal in extra time and everyone started packing up at 3-2 for some reason, as did Sporting. Then, deep into the five minutes of extra time Camilo pulled another one back. The diminutive Brazilian rose like a mighty salmon in the Fraser River above the redwoods in the Sporting defence to gently nod the ball into the top right corner. Tie game, 3-3.
The crowd went berserk. Willing their players forward with every yell and stomp. Khalfan and Chiumiento made all the difference upon coming on. The Sporting defense for some reason gave them all sorts of room on the left and they made them pay.
What a game. MLS is here to stay in Vancouver.
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