Shorthanded Metro stomped by Vancouver, 4:1
March 8, 2014

Vancouver New York
Miller 2
03.08.14 · League

A year ago, to kick off their Supporters' Shield-winning campaign, Metro traveled up to Portland and came away with a point in a memorable 3:3 draw. This season, to kick off their defense of the regular season title, Metro again returned to Cascadia but the result was far more disappointing. Missing stars Titi Henry and Jamison Olave due to concerns about the turf field at BC Place, Metro was routed 4:1 by the Vancouver Whitecaps in a game where they rarely looked threatening.

Due to longstanding worries over Henry and Olave playing on turf, Mike Petke had to craft his starting eleven without either star player. The third member of the Metro superstar triumvirate, forward Tim Cahill, shook off fatigue and jet lag to answer the bell at kickoff. He was paired up front with Peguy Luyindula, leaving Eric Alexander to start in central midfield alongside stalwart Dax McCarty. As expected from his excellent preseason form, Lloyd Sam got the call on the right flank, with returning starter Jonny Steele on the left. Newcomers Armando, Richard Eckersley, and Bobby Convey all made their Metro debut along the backline with holdover Ibrahim Sekagya taking Olave's place. Luis Robles, as he did all of last season, manned the goal for Metro.

The game started tentatively with both sides trying to feel each other out, but it quickly became apparent that new Whitecaps boss (and ex-Metro) Carl Robinson had crafted his gameplan to try and exploit the space behind the statuesque Metro center backs with long balls over the top to striker sprinter Darren Mattocks. The tactic showed signs of promise early with Vancouver the more dangerous side in the early going, though the home side was thwarted by both the excellent work of Robles and their own ineptitude in front of goal.

Metro remained sloppy in possession throughout the first half, and they were finally punished in the 33rd minute when Eckersley conceded a penalty on a handball call that was sufficiently obvious for the scab referees to notice. Kenny Miller converted the ensuing shot with little drama, faking Robles into to diving in the opposite direction from his softly chipped ball. The remainder of the half transpired without much of a response from Metro as they meekly went to the locker room without suffering further damage.

Alas, it didn't take long after the second half kickoff for Vancouver to increase their margin to two goals. Four minutes in, the Whitecaps' kick-and-run tactic paid dividends as Mattocks fed Sebastian Fernandez, who juked Eckersley to create a little space for himself and fired a rocket into the upper right hand corner, which Robles did well to get a piece of on its way into the net. A few chances involving Sam and Luyindula notwithstanding, Metro could offer little in reply.

It all came crashing down in the 77th minute, when Pedro Morales played Miller through as the entire Metro defense stood and watched. The experienced Scottish striker easily chipped Robles to seal his side's victory. Garbage-time goals from Morales and Bradley Wright-Phillips completed the final scoreline.

So one down, and already one loss in the books. While this is certainly not how Petke and his charges wanted to start their Shield defense, it would be wise to hold judgement for the time being. There are enough moving parts, especially on the backline, where improvement can reasonably be expected over time as the players get used to one another. That being said, it's entirely possible that this result could be a harbinger of what's to come -- but unlike at any point in this franchise's past, we can point to the current regime's recent success as reason to preach patience.

Lineup: Robles, Convey, Sekagya, Armando, Eckersley, McCarty, Steele, Alexander, Sam, Cahill, Luyindula. Subs: Miller, Wright-Phillips, Bover.

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