February 23, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
CHARLESTON, SC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC shared the spoils in an even contest as they drew 1-1 with Chicago Fire at Blackbaud Stadium on Saturday. Chicago took the lead in the second half before a Darren Mattocks penalty leveled the game.
Whitecaps FC named a strong starting lineup in their penultimate match of preseason and their final match in the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup.
Coach Martin Rennie was encouraged by the team's reaction to going a goal behind and is looking forward to the upcoming season opener next Saturday, March 2 at home to Toronto FC at BC Place.
"I thought they scored a fantastic goal, there wasn't too much we could've done about that, but then I felt like we picked it up, we pressed the ball a little bit better and had a good move that let to the goal," said Rennie. "Overall I think tonight was the end of a long preseason and I think probably both teams will be looking forward to the first game. I know for us we're just really focused now on getting a little bit of rest, getting back to Vancouver and gearing up for a fantastic game against Toronto on March 2."
With kickoff brought forward by 30 minutes due to the inclement weather, the match started at a frantic pace with both teams carving out early opportunities. In the second minute Fire midfielder Dilly Duka found himself in space in the box but his shot was kept out by a reflex save from Joe Cannon .
Two minutes later, Mattocks received the ball on the left flank and beat the Chicago defender but hurried his shot to give Sean Johnson in the Fire goal an easy save.
The 'Caps then created a clear chance as a deep cross from Young-Pyo Lee on the right wing found Daigo Kobayash free in the box but the midfielder sent his shot narrowly over the bar from point blank range.
Chicago were next to enjoy a spell of pressure as a well-timed challenge from Brad Rusin denied Duka a clear sight of goal in the 16th minute before a well struck long range effort from Logan Pause sailed wide of the goal in the 23rd minute.
The 'Caps nearly grabbed an opener in the 27th minute as Kekuta Manneh and Mattocks linked up well with a quick one-two before Mattocks laid the ball off to Manneh whose shot from just outside the area was deflected narrowly wide for a corner.
Cannon enhanced his claims of a starting spot in next weekend's opener with a fine double save to deny Chicago. Sherjill MacDonald was played through but his shot was parried away into space by the veteran 'keeper who then got up quckly to beat away the follow up shot from Chris Rolfe.
The end-to-end action continued as two minutes later Alain Rochat found himself outside the area, turning the defender and curling a shot towards the top corner but his effort was comfortably saved by Johnson.
With the halftime whistle looming, a foul by Gershon Koffie outside his own penalty area gave Chicago Fire a free kick in a dangerous position but the resulting effort was blazed over by Rolfe.
The second half took a while to get going but a telling contribution from Chicago Fire's halftime substitute Maicon Santos opened the scoring in the 57th minute. Rolfe headed towards the area and passed it to Santos on the edge of the box. The Brazilian took one touch to control the ball before unleashing a left-footed shot past Cannon and off the underside of the crossbar to make it 1-0.
Whitecaps FC almost conceded a second shortly after when a Chicago corner found Joel Lindpere whose close range header was cleared of the line by covering defender Lee.
Despite the continued pressure, Whitecaps FC equalized in the 68th minute against the run of play. A searching cross-field ball from Lee found Mattocks on the edge of the area who cushioned his header towards the advancing Kenny Miller as the Scot was brought down inside the box as he controlled the ball. Mattocks stepped up to take the penalty and sent Johnson the wrong way with a clinical strike into the bottom right-hand corner.
The 'Caps almost grabbed a winner with 15 minutes to go as Miller cut open the Chicago Fire defence with an intelligent through ball which sent Manneh clear on goal. The situation was well-read by Johnson as the Chicago 'keeper came out quickly to smother the ball receiving a head injury in the process which required lengthy treatment.
As the match concluded, there was a first taste of first team action as Whitecaps FC Residency prospect Sam Adekugbe who came on for Manneh with five minutes remaining.
Whitecaps FC will now head to North Carolina where they take on coach Rennie's former Carolina Railhawks side at WakeMed Soccer Park Sunday. Kickoff is at 10:30 a.m. PT. and you can follow the game on Twitter with @WhitecapsMatch for live updates.
Whitecaps FC 2013 MLS season tickets start at $349, plus applicable service charges and fees. To secure a seat and for additional information about Whitecaps FC MLS season tickets, including Pitchside Club and suites, call 604.669.9283 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.