Portland Timbers v Real Salt Lake

Drilling down on: at Real Salt Lake 2, Vancouver 1

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Man of the Match: Well, well, well … look who has 13 goals, tied for second in MLS. Yes, it’s Alvaro Saborio, who scored one in each half on Friday. One was from the 12-yard spot, but the other was a well-taken header, where he got just enough weight on Vancouver’s Martin Bonjour to keep the Vancouver center back from rising to meet the header, but not enough to incur the referee’s whistle. Saborio lost possession too many times, but two goals says a lot about almost any match.

(MORE: Should Jay DeMerit have played last night?)

Packaged for take-away:

  • I like Gershon Koffie a lot, but he’s young (20), still missing some of that veteran know-how to boost that ample bag of holding midfield tricks. Next to him is Jun Davidson, who falls into the crowded MLS stash of the “good-not-great.”  Is this enough in the middle of the park to give all those attackers enough midfield passing support? I’m just not sure. On a night like Friday, with the likes Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman on central duty, it’s not.
  • If not Saborio, Beckerman could have been Man of the Match for his steady work. He was best man in the midfield on either side, although Koffie had a strong night, too.
  • With Fabian Espindola preferring to work the left side, and fellow striker Saborio taking up his usual central spot, RSL’s attack was seriously tilted to the left.
  • RSL found shooting space about 20-25 yards out. Vancouver men got in quickly to close some of the shots, but not all. With the sun casting odd shadows near both goals, these could have been real trouble for ‘Caps ‘keeper Joe Cannon. They weren’t, however, because shots by Morales (twice), Luis Gil, Tony Beltran and Will Johnson flew harmlessly high or wide. RSL shooters needed to make an concerted effort to take just a little off those shots, to get balls on goal and force Cannon to contest the sun.
  • From one of those aforementioned spots just beyond the 18, Espindola aimed a cross toward the far post rather than shooting. Whitecaps center back Jay DeMerit, perhaps seeing it late, had to throw an arm toward the ball to keep Beckerman from heading toward goal. So, cue the “should DeMerit have started” debate in 3 … 2 … 1 …
  • Vancouver’s shape and spacing in the 4-2-3-1 looked good on both sides of the ball; the Whitecaps ability to get an extra body or two into the attack and their variety needed some work, however.
  • Darren Mattocks was left stranded most of the night, with insufficient connection Barry Robson at the top of ‘Caps midfield triangle. And yet, Mattocks eventually had influence.
  • Mattocks is a poor man’s Didier Drogba. He’s young and fast and can absolutely fly. Vancouver’s early second half equalizer was all about his speed. RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando moved toward Camilo’s sneaky little pass into the penalty area but didn’t appreciate how quickly Mattocks would arrive, then paid the price when the Whitecaps’ forward got to the ball first.
  • RSL’s defense temporarily fell to pieces after the goal. Mattocks (And that speed!) created a chance for Davidson, which crashed hard off the left post. And Mattocks nearly dropped a header into the far post in another sequence of chances and half-chances. Saborio’s second goal soon shifted momentum back RSL’s way.
  • Jason Kreis removed left back Kenny Mansally, a converted attacker, in the 72nd in favor of Chris Wingert, who is a natural defender.
  • Kevin Stott’s decision to red card Cannon in the 76th minute was the right call. And it was probably the right decision for Cannon, too. You could say that Cannon erred by charging out of goal in attempting to claim DeMerit’s soft back pass, with Espindola bearing down. But what choice did he really have? And once the keeper was committed, he couldn’t give Espindola the easy goal, which would have put the game out of reach. This way, his team still had a chance, at least.
  • Kenny Miller got into his second game for Martin Rennie’s club. His open header from just outside the six-yard box with 10 minutes remaining is the very kind of ball he’ll need to bury with ruthless efficiency to have the impact officials at BC Place clearly believe he can.

Three takeaways from the Red Bulls CCL draw against the Whitecaps

New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, left, trips over Vancouver Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston inside the Whitecaps box during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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With 90 more minutes to play up in Vancouver, this tie is far from over. However, Wednesday night’s clash at Red Bull Arena surely presented intriguing storylines ahead of leg two.

The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a critical away goal in their 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal meeting.

While their CCL clash was the first competitive action for either side since 2016, both clubs showed glimpses of brilliance in the first of their two encounters in the competition.

Here’s a look back at three important takeaways from the Red Bulls’ draw against the Whitecaps.

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Red Bulls still working out kinks up front

Bradley Wright-Phillips has been one of Major League Soccer’s most prolific goalscorers since joining the Red Bulls, but even the star striker struggled to find the ball in dangerous positions on Wednesday. The Red Bulls striker netted the game’s equalizer after 62 minutes, but chances were far and few between on the night for Wright-Phillips.

Despite dominating the possession for long spells of the match (as is the case much of the time), the Red Bulls found difficulty breaking down the Whitecaps when it mattered most.

Jesse Marsch’s side managed just two shots on target throughout the 90 minutes, while Sacha Kljestan’s penalty kick miss voided the host side from leveling up the first leg just after the halftime break.

The Red Bulls have wanted to toy with a two-striker set since early 2016, and Marsch finally got his wish with Argentine DP Gonzalo Veron match fit for the start of the campaign. Veron looked solid at times with his quality first touches and quick pace, but it was the final ball that was often lacking.

Sacha Kljestan and Daniel Royer interlinked well with one another behind the two strikers, and with Mike Grella and Alex Muyl also tabbed as rotational players in the midfield, Marsch will have a solid group to pick from to help his attack develop moving forward.

Manneh is coming into his own

He scored, facilitated and just looked all around dangerous against the Red Bulls. Kekuta Manneh has become one of the most intriguing MLS players over the past 12 months in large part because of his success in the league as well as the opportunity to represent the U.S. Men’s National Team.

While his goal wasn’t the prettiest six minutes before halftime, the Whitecaps attacker was in the right spot, just as he was for much of the night. His three shots on target led all players involved, but it was Manneh’s confidence under pressure that was most impressive.

The Whitecaps didn’t throw too many numbers forward on the night — with the second leg being north of the border — but Manneh and the Whitecaps attack thrived on the counterattack on several occasions.

With a number of players unavailable for Carl Robinson’s side, including Yordy Reyna, Christian Bolanos and Fredy Montero, the visitors played a strong opening leg, particularly after playing the final 20 minutes down a man when Cristian Techera was dismissed for a high tackle on Red Bulls defender Sal Zizzo.

Youngsters show out for both sides

Experience is still the name of the game for both the Red Bulls and Whitecaps, but Wednesday night also provided a glimpse into the future with several stellar performances from the youngsters on the pitch.

Sean Davis was tasked with filling the hole in the central midfield after Dax McCarty was treaded away from the Red Bulls this offseason, and although the youngster has had experience in the past, he certainly didn’t disappoint for Marsch’s group. The 24-year-old looked confident in his distribution and defended well when called upon alongside Felipe.

Meanwhile, Whitecaps attacker Alphonso Davies continues to turn heads for a player that is only 16 years old. Davies only appeared in eight MLS matches last season for the Western Conference side, but looked like a seasoned veteran against the Red Bulls at times with his blazing strides and pinpoint passes.

The young attacker surely has room to grow, particularly in front of net, but hey, he’s 16.

New York Red Bulls 1-1 Vancouver Whitecaps: BWP saves a draw

New York Red Bulls' Aaron Long, top, climbs over Vancouver Whitecaps forward Erik Hurtado while competing for the ball during the first half of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal soccer match, Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2017, in Harrison, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
AP Photo/Julio Cortez
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  • ‘Caps nap road goal
  • Techera sent off in 71′
  • Return leg March 2

Kekuta Manneh and Bradley Wright-Phillips traded goals as the Vancouver Whitecaps and New York Red Bulls drew 1-1 in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg on Wednesday at Red Bull Arena.

Cristian Techera sent the ‘Caps down to 10 men in the 71st minute when he connected with a kick between Sal Zizzo’s legs.

A deft touch by Wright-Phillips set up Sacha Kljestan for a fifth minute chance, but two sliding Whitecaps helped pressure the captain’s shot wide of the near post.

Vancouver had a chance two minutes later when Alphonso Davies played Russell Teibert down the right wing, and the Whitecaps wide man curled a shot wide of the far post.

[ MORE: Amazing beach soccer bicycle kick goal ]

The Whitecaps beat Luis Robles before halftime. Kendall Waston flicked a ball toward the net, and Kekuta used his head to turn the ball off Justin Bilyeu and behind Robles. 1-0, 39′.

A foul outside the 18 nearly saw Kljestan level it up with a 45th minute free kick.

Kljestan should’ve tied it up with a PK just after the break. He didn’t, barely chipping his Panenka attempt above shin level. Woof.

Wright-Phillips made it 1-1 in the 62nd minute, when Zizzo’s cross dropped at his feet. A quick reaction had the ball in the back of the net.

Sacha Kljestan stars in “When Panenkas Fail” (video)

HARRISON, NJ - MARCH 22:  Sacha Kljestan #16 of New York Red Bulls heads the ball in front of Steve Birnbaum #15 of D.C. United during their match at Red Bull Arena on March 22, 2015 in Harrison, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
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When Panenkas don’t go well, players look foolish.

Sacha Kljestan looks foolish.

The New York Red Bulls captain strode to the penalty spot to level the score in Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps.

[ MORE: Leicester grabs away goal ]

Only he didn’t. Kljestan chipped his attempt barely a foot off the ground, allowing David Ousted to kick the chance away. Bradley Wright-Phillips blazed the rebound over the frame, and it remained 1-0 for the ‘Caps.

WATCH: Liverpool loanee nets hat trick for U.S. U-20 side

STEVENAGE, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:  Brooks Lennon of Liverpool celebrates his goal during the Premier League 2 match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at The Lamex Stadium on September 19, 2016 in Stevenage, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
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If Brooks Lennon brings this sort of scoring prowess to Real Salt Lake, he may just walk away Rookie of the Year.

On loan from Liverpool, Lennon is first on duty with the United States U-20 men’s national team in Costa Rica.

The U.S. opened U-20 World Cup qualifying with a 1-0 loss to Panama, and was under the gun when it allowed an early goal to Haiti late Tuesday evening.

[ MORE: Rooney’s agent in China ]

But Lennon scored a trio of goals and sent in the corner that Luca de la Torre eventually finished as the Yanks won 4-1. The U.S. has St. Kitts and Nevis in the final group match on Friday.

The top two teams from each group of four advance to the next round, in which four teams will qualify for the U-20 World Cup. That tournament is set for May in South Korea.