Whitecaps settle for 3-3 draw with Union
By Kevin Kinkead, The Canadian Press
CHESTER, Pa. - The Vancouver Whitecaps hoped to hit the World Cup break on a high note.
It didn't go quite as planned as the Whitecaps conceded a two goal halftime lead to finish 3-3 with the Philadelphia Union in a thrilling game at PPL Park.
Vancouver showed fight with the late equalizer, pushing their unbeaten streak to seven games and finishing the first half of the season with road points in back-to-back weeks.
"We managed to take our chances," said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. "I think the two goals we scored in the first half were from some excellent football, which is something I'm trying to instill in the club. The second half, I think we went away from what we were doing very well in the first half."
Robinson made three changes to the side that beat Portland 4-3 last week, starting Russell Teibert and Nicolas Mezquida in place of Kekutah Manneh and Sebastian Fernandez. Andy O'Brien was given a rest as Johnny Leveron took his place at centre back.
The first good chance of the game fell to Philadelphia in the 10th minute. Cristian Maidana's in-swinging cornerkick met the head of Conor Casey, who flicked on to captain Amobi Okugo. The ball was slightly behind and the centre back could only head over the crossbar.
It was the Whitecaps, though, who started the scoring.
Collecting the ball with space from 30 yards out, Teibert found Nigel Reo-Coker streaking forward from his right back position. The Englishman's one-touch cross found the head of Erik Hurtado, who placed a perfect header downward and into the corner for his fifth consecutive goal in all competitions.
But the Whitecaps were forced to make a change in the 24th minute, with O'Brien coming in for the injured Jay Demerit. The Vancouver captain felt soreness in his previously-injured left foot and was forced out of the game. He walked to the team bus on crutches.
The Whitecaps then got a second goal in 42nd minute, this one from a counterattack.
Sequential passing from Pedro Morales to Reo-Coker got Hurtado into space on the right. Cutting to his right, he was able to play a short diagonal for Mezquida, who slammed it home from point-blank range.
In the second half, Vancouver survived a scare in the 51st minute when Philadelphia hit the post. Looping a loose ball back into the box, Vincent Nogueira's pass went over Danny Cruz's head, bounced in front of O'Brien, and fell to Maurice Edu. The Union midfielder was turned around, and the ball somehow caromed off the woodwork and out of the danger zone.
Philadelphia would then score three goals in eight minutes.
The Union got a goal back in the 63rd minute through the active Casey. It was Fabinho's ball that put Maidana into space on the left side, and the Argentine's cross was met by a diving header that hit the post and rolled into the back of the net.
It didn't take long for substitute Sebastien Le Toux to make an impact, as he found the next goal in the 68th minute.
Again the attack came down the left, with Maidana pushing the ball into space for Nogueira to collect. The midfielder got his head up and played a left footed square ball for the oncoming Le Toux, who finished calmly into the back of the net.
The Union went ahead just two minutes later, on Casey's second goal of the game. This time the forward got the ball outside the penalty area, was left unchallenged, and hit a low drive into the bottom right corner.
Vancouver countered with a 74th minute substitution, bringing Darren Mattocks in for Matias Laba.
That sub would pay off, when the Jamaican forward earned a penalty kick for the Whitecaps just six minutes later. Latching onto a deep ball in the left channel, Mattocks charged into the penalty area and was brought down by goalkeeper Zac MacMath. Morales stepped up and converted the spot kick to level the game 3-3.
"It's a good point away from home," said Reo-Coker. "That game had everything in it. We were fantastic in the first half and played some great football. Second half, they were the better team. To go down 3-2 away from home and get it to 3-3, it's a good result.
"We're disappointed in the way we conceded some goals and we've let teams back (into games), but overall we've got to say it's a good point away from home."
Vancouver enters the 18-day World Cup break with 21 points and a 5-2-6 record.
"We do feel happy with where we are going (into the break)," Hurtado said. "Obviously we're disappointed with (giving up the lead), but it just shows the character of our team. We want to win away, just as much as we want to win at home. We're going to look at that when we come back from our break. We're not going to take a physical break, just a little mental break. We're going to come back fit and ready to go."