[MLS SPOTLIGHT] The coaches may change in Vancouver, but the scourge of Eric Hassli apparently cannot be exorcised.
In his first game as the Whitecaps’ head coach, Tom Soehn got a full dose of what predecessor Teitur Thordarson had to deal with. With the score tied, 1-1, midway through the second half Designated Player Hassli incurred yet another red card by lunging wildly at Ben Zemanski. The team’s top scorer with four goals is the league leader in red cards with three (to go with five yellow cards), yet his teammates managed to regroup and garner a point.
Camilo Sanvezzo had tied the game by drilling a shot into the top corner two minutes after Nick LaBrocca’s third goal gave Chivas USA a 1-0 lead in the first minute of the second half. After Hassli’s dismissal, Vancouver rode out the subsequent 23 minutes a man down to retain the 1-1 tie and give the Whitecaps (1-5-7) just their 10th point in the standings and first under Soehn, the club’s director of soccer operations prior to being named to replace Thordarson on Monday.
Soehn, the head coach of D.C. United from 2007 to 2009, brought in a couple of new faces and injected some energy into a team that had struggled through 11 matches without a victory after beating Canadian rival Toronto FC, 4-2, in its MLS debut March 19.
Joe Cannon made just his second start in goal for the Whitecaps, and first since late March; fronting him were two players making their MLS debuts: centerback Alexandre Morfaw and right back Bilal Duckett. Soehn also tweaked the attack by moving outside midfielder Davide Chiumientoto second forward in support of Hassli, with Camilo doing much of the playmaking while working both wings. Shea Salinas got a rare start working the flank opposite from Camilo.
Both teams were missing several players because of international duty, yet the play flowed much of the time as LaBrocca and Camilo found space to play crisp, intelligent balls. Left backs Alain Rochat and Ante Jazic got forward often enough to add an extra attacker to the flanks. Hassli rattled the crossbar in a first half dictated but not dominated by the home team.
LaBrocca put away a pass from Gerson Mayen shortly after the second-half kickoff to give Chivas USA the lead, but its defense broke down two minutes later when it failed to clear a loose ball and Camilo drove it high into the net. Soehn replaced Chiumiento with Russell Teibertafter Hassli’s red card, and later brought on Omar Salgado and Jeb Brovsky to further shore up the 4-4-1 formation he adopted while a man down.
Cannon stopped Justin Braun twice in the final minutes, stoning him one-on-one on a close-range chance and tipping a long shot over the crossbar. After Cannon’s first save on Braun, defender Jay DeMerit cleared a follow-up attempt by LaBrocca with a sliding block. DeMerit’s tackling and shot-blocking thwarted several of Chivas USA’s most threatening sequences; he’s missed much of the season with injuries and, perhaps motivated by not being called up for the Gold Cup, played by far his strongest 90 minutes in MLS.
The Soehn Era continues against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, the same day that Chivas USA (3-4-5) hosts the other 2011 expansion team, Portland, at HDC.