VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps had to battle through losing their captain after just eight minutes, but despite Jay DeMerit’s injury, a 60th minute winner from Gershon Koffie sealed a 1-0 win over Toronto FC on Saturday in front of 21,000 at BC Place on opening day.
“I think it’s very good to get our first win the first game of the season,” head coach Martin Rennie told reporters following the match. “It’s always a bit of a nervy affair, and in the first half we were a little bit scratchy in our passing and in our technique. But in the second half, we changed the system, we changed the way that we created a lot of chances, created lot of pressure, and [we] managed the ball well at the end of the game, and won one-nil, didn’t give up a lot of chances.
“So overall, I’m very happy about it. It’s an important win for us. It’s a clean sheet and it starts the season off very well and hopefully sends the fans home happy.”
Rennie was forced to make a change just eight minutes in due to DeMerit’s injury, so offseason signing Brad Rusin came in for his debut.
“I didn’t like having Brad [have to] come in early,” said Rennie. “But Brad Rusin is a very good player as I’ve said a lot in preseason. He’s excellent in the air, a good passer, always a good athlete. And I think he can be a very good player for the Whitecaps. For a long time, I’ve tried to get him to this club, for over a year.
“Today he showed how good a player he is. He won all the balls playing forward and I was very happy with his performance. Especially coming on, it’s not easy coming on in the home opener, under those circumstances, after a couple of minutes. But he’s a very cool, calm kind of guy and it worked out very well for him.”
The decisive play came with half an hour to play, as Koffie found himself at the end of a quick Vancouver attack that started with an Andy O’Brien long ball which Darren Mattocks flicked back to Lee Young-Pyo.
Lee found Daigo Kobayashi at the edge of the area and the Japanese midfielder didn’t linger in possession, dishing it off to Koffie to finish with power and precision.
“It was a very good goal,” said Rennie. “The interplay, one-twos created the chance and the layoff from Kobayashi was of a very high standard, perfect bit of pass and an excellent finish from Koffie. And that’s what we are hoping our midfield players can contribute by getting goals. Koffie did that in the last season and he’s started off doing that in this season, and that’s the missing ingredient for him to be a top player.”