NSC MINNESOTA STARS 0 – VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC 2 April 11, 2010
BURNABY, BC – In their 24th and final season at Swangard ahead of Vancouver’s move to Major League Soccer in 2011, Teitur Thordarson’s side made the most of a sunny spring afternoon to claim their first three points of the new campaign. Second-half goals by Luca Bellisomo and Marlon James gave Vancouver Whitecaps FC a 2-0 victory over NSC Minnesota Stars in Sunday’s USSF D-2 Pro League season opener at Swangard Stadium.
The victory extended the Whitecaps recent run of results in home openers to nine matches, with the club not having lost a home opener, nor conceded a goal in one, since the 2001 season. Vancouver’s record in home openers now stands at 6W-0L-3D since 2001, with the ‘Caps having outscored their opponents 12-0 in the process.
In what was the Whitecaps inaugural match in a new league and against a new club, captain Martin Nash set a club landmark by making his 250th appearance for the Blue and White on Sunday, with Bellisomo partnering the experienced playmaker in central midfield after impressing Thordarson in that role during the pre-season.
Thordarson’s side tried to take command of proceedings from the opening kickoff, with the ‘Caps using neat passing and possession, which included some patient passing play amongst the four Whitecaps defenders.
One player that tried to excite the crowd of 4,934 was youngster Dever Orgill, who was partnered in the Whitecaps attack with James. His first chance came on 10 minutes, but Stars goalkeeper Louis Crayton was not troubled by the Jamaican youth international’s looping header from Ansu Toure’s dangerous cross. Six minutes later, Orgill had the ball in the back of the Minnesota net, but his efforts in trying to reach Wes Knight’s cross saw him earn a yellow card from match referee Mathieu Bourdeau after he was adjudged to have fouled a Stars player in the visitors’ box.
Vancouver also had strong claims for a penalty on 18 minutes. However, referee Bourdeau felt Stars centre back Brian Kallman had not impeded James in front of the Minnesota goal, as the big striker tried to connect with Knight’s fine cross from the right.
Though their pre-season preparations were not as extensive as the Whitecaps, Minnesota caused a couple of scares in the home side’s box during the first half, with much of their attacking threat coming from the set-pieces of Chinese import Leilei Gao. In fact, the Stars midfielder could claim that he had the best chance of the half on 19 minutes, as his free kick into the Vancouver box saw ‘Caps centre back Greg Janicki inadvertently head the ball off his own post, as he was attempting to clear the danger. The visitors also forced a good reaction save from Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly on 34 minutes, as Andrei Gotsmanov’s corner was deflected sharply towards goal.
The last notable event before the break came in time added on, as Crayton was stretchered off with an injury following a challenge for the ball with the energetic Orgill on the edge of the Minnesota box. As a result, former Minnesota Thunder keeper Joe Warren came on for the former D.C. United shot-stopper to face the hosts in the second half.
It was after the restart that the Whitecaps high level of physical conditioning from their long off-season training program allowed the home side to claim a firm grip on Sunday’s contest, as Thordarson’s side spent a lot of time in and around the Minnesota box. More dangerous wing play from Knight and Toure kept the Stars on the back foot, while strikes by Nash, James, and Bellisomo gave the home fans belief that Vancouver’s first goal of the season was soon coming.
The pivotal moment came on 62 minutes, as the ‘Caps earned a free kick after Stars defender Kevin Friedland was booked for a foul on Toure near the edge of the Minnesota box. Nash took the subsequent free kick and found Bellisomo in the box, with the midfielder’s header getting past Warren to give the Whitecaps a 1-0 lead. It was Bellisomo’s second goal of his Whitecaps career.
Bellisomo’s goal injected a renewed boost of confidence in the home side, who went searching for another goal in the minutes that followed. Orgill hammered just wide of the target on 65 minutes before Nash nearly added to his resume of fine strikes when he curled a shot from the edge of the Minnesota box just past the junction of far post and crossbar two minutes later. Warren then needed to make a fine save from James’ fierce drive after the ‘Caps striker won a battle to a forward ball with Minnesota’s Kallman.
Though it looked to be a frustrating day for James in front of goal, his hard work paid off on 76 minutes when he got on the scoresheet to seal the win. After finding substitute Nizar Khalfan with a ball out on the right flank, the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines international neatly redirected home the Tanzanian winger’s return pass to make it 2-0.
The scoreline underlined the Whitecaps dominance of the second half, with Minnesota struggling to offer much in reply. The Stars used their maximum number of five substitutions in a bid to turn their fortunes around, but except for substitute striker Melvin Tarley rolling a shot across the face of the Whitecaps goal on 80 minutes, the visitors were not able to find a way back into the match.
90 FULL MINUTES
Though pleased to claim victory on Sunday, Thordarson admitted his side had an indifferent performance to start the season. “I didn’t feel we played well in the first half,” he said to reporters after the match. “We spoke about that at halftime, and managed to change that. I told the players that when you throw away the fear of losing and start thinking about winning, you will then start to play. After talking with them, we had a decent second half.”
Sunday’s result is the Whitecaps inaugural win in the newly-formed USSF D-2 Pro League, with Thordarson’s squad now turning their attentions to next Saturday’s trip to South Florida and an away meeting with Miami FC. Minnesota, meanwhile, travel to North Carolina for a Friday evening clash versus Carolina RailHawks.
Scoring Summary: 62′ – Luca Bellisomo (Martin Nash) 76’ – Marlon James (Nizar Khalfan)
By Nathan Vanstone Email: firstname.lastname@example.org