Vancouver Whitecaps vs FC Dallas: 4 Thoughts From Saturday's Loss
The Vancouver Whitecaps (6W-17L-10D) broke their modest two game winning streak in a 2-0 loss to playoff-bound FC Dallas (15W-11L-7D). The defeat leaves the Blue and White winless (0W-12L-5D) on the road in their inaugural MLS season.
Coming off a midweek match, head coach Tommy Soehn made a number of changes to his starting lineup.
He inserted Michael Boxall for injured centre-back Carlyle Mitchell, left Alain Rochat on the bench, pushed Jordan Harvey back into defense with Shea Salinas starting in his place in midfield.
He handed Designated Player Mustapha Jarju a start in place of Chinese striker Long Tan.
The changes didn't help the Whitecaps as they fell to two goals by Honduran international Marvin Chavez and United States international Brek Shea.
Here are four thoughts from a disappointing night in the Lone Star State.
Kevin Hartman Saves FC Dallas
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FC Dallas has better thank their lucky stars that they had Kevin Hartman in goal last night.
The big keeper made a number of big saves that kept the Whitecaps off the scoresheet.
His first major call to duty came in the 32nd minute from a Camilo free kick.
The Brazilian struck the ball ferociously towards the top of Dallas' goal, but Hartman was equal to the task in tipping it over the bar.
Later, in the second half, a cheeky Eric Hassli back-heel sent Jordan Harvey sprinting into the Dallas box, only for Hartman to come up big again and smother the attack before Harvey could score.
Add another couple of saves from well struck Nizar Khalfan shots, and it's clear that the result would be very different if the Whitecaps had faced a different keeper.
Mustapha Jarju: This Guy Is a DP?
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When the Whitecaps held a press conference in August to announce the signing of their second Designated Player, excitement abounded.
A number of big names were floated around, including that of current Manchester City Canadian-born midfielder Owen Hargreaves.
Considering that the Whitecaps needed a central midfielder, the Englishman made sense.
Instead, the Whitecaps announced that they signed Gambian international striker Mustapha Jarju.
Well, okay. Let's give him a shot. He's young, big, and has a good scoring record in the Belgian second division.
Fans grew restless after a couple of listless games from the Gambian, but allowed that he might not have been fully match-fit yet.
But it's mid-October now, and Jarju has no more excuses for yet another listless performance on the pitch last night.
The game last night was a microcosm of what we've seen from Jarju all season: poor first touches, runs that lead to nowhere, lack of finishing, and a mystified look of confusion perpetually fixed on his face.
If he is to earn his salary as a DP, he'll have to really step his game up under Martin Rennie next season, or else the Whitecaps will have no choice but to find a way to cut ties with him and find someone else.
Long Tan = Ji-Sung Park?
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An interesting sight greeted the Vancouver Whitecaps at the airport when they left for Dallas on Thursday.
According to the Vancouver newspaper The Province, a contingent of reporters from OMNI TV and Sing Tao newspaper were on hand to see Chinese striker Long Tan on his way.
The Province and Sing Tao are two of the biggest news outlets for the city's Chinese community.
While it may not be the media circus that follows Asian sports heroes like Seattle Mariner's Ichiro Suzuki, the coverage and exposure that Long Tan is receiving in the Chinese press, and the fans, are not being ignored by the Whitecaps brass.
Whitecaps CEO Paul Barber to The Province:
"We know how big the Chinese community is here and how important, and to have a hero, like Ji-Sung Park is for Manchester United in Korea, it's a powerful thing.
"If he can help engage the community that's great."
When Ji-Sung Park was signed by Manchester United, many felt it was simply a ploy to increase United's Asian profile. But as the former South Korean captain played, it became increasingly clear that Park was a hero both on and off the pitch.
Could Long Tan fill the same role for the Whitecaps? The Chinese community, and indeed the Asian community as a whole, is passionate for the sport. Long Tan could certainly be used to increase the Whitecaps' profile the way Park did for United.
And if recent performances are any indication, Tan could also have a lasting impact on the pitch as well.
Jordan Harvey: Vancouver's Best Left Midfield Option?
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On Saturday night, with Rochat on the bench, Harvey was pushed back to the left-back position and the midfield suffered for it.
Quite often during the game, central midfielders Gershon Koffie and John Thorrington would bring up the ball, try to make plays, and find that there was nobody to pass to.
Later, when Rochat was restored to the side, Harvey was pushed up once again and displayed the darting runs and smooth passing that had been missing from the left wing.
His runs even lead to a golden scoring opportunity that would have seen the Whitecaps pull one back if not for Kevin Hartman's heroics.
This begs the question: Does Jordan Harvey belong on the left wing full time?
Depending on what the injured Russell Teibert does when he comes back, Martin Rennie will have some interesting choices to make next season.
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So there you have it.
With last night's loss, the Whitecaps have the distinction of finishing their first MLS season with a total of zero wins on the road.
Everyone knew that first year expansion teams always have it rough, but could anyone have guessed that it would be this rough for the Blue and White?
With only one more game left, at home against Colorado Rapids, the Whitecaps have an opportunity to end the season on a high note. Let's hope they take it.