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Caps Corner: Win resembled World Cup quarterfinal

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Peter Schaad, Team 1040
7/6/2014 3:35:02 PM
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If you've been revelling in the glorious feast of World Cup action like me, you will have noticed a distinct difference between the tempo and excitement of the round robin phase versus the careful and more conservative approaches in the knockout rounds.

The group stage of Brazil 2014 may never be equalled in terms of entertainment and production.  Goals were flying in, teams were in the mood to attack and managers seemingly took the shackles off their players. 

Not unlike the pre-World Cup Vancouver Whitecaps who scored nine goals in three games leading into the MLS-imposed break.

But once the knockout stages in Brazil took hold and the stakes became infinitely higher, the games changed.  No less drama, but certainly less expanse, far less risk and fewer goals. 

Saturday night at BC Place, the Whitecaps took an early lead, did create some opportunities to stretch their advantage, but ultimately provided a performance that felt very World Cup quarterfinals-like. 

Germany scored first against France, Argentina tallied in the eighth minute against Belgium and Brazil got an early goal against Columbia.  We could be forgiven for thinking those goals would have opened the games up and led to more of what we saw in the group stage. 

Instead, those matches became very well managed. 

Brazil did get the benefit of a David Luiz howitzer to briefly make it comfortable for the hosts, but the hallmarks of those three quarterfinals were very similar; the team with the lead wasn't going to be left exposed and wasn't going to give away possession cheaply.

At BC Place, Erik Hurtado had a chance to seal the game thanks to a brilliantly weighted, defence-splitting ball from the best player on the park, Pedro Morales, but beyond that, the Whitecaps looked like a side that was committed to keeping what they had, rather than adding to it.

And the stakes were certainly higher than during the World Cup break run-in.  Winless in three and coming off two listless performances, Vancouver needed maximum points at home and especially against a Western rival that was missing arguably its best five players.

After the season opening New York victory, coach Carl Robinson shared one particular philosophy during his post game address;  the best way to kill off a game is to keep attacking, which on that occasion, Vancouver did.

But instead of introducing a fresh-legged Darren Mattocks to run at a tired Seattle back line Saturday, Robinson took the advice of his assistants (Gordon Forrest and Martyn Pert) and subbed Nigel Reo-Coker on for Kekuta Manneh at the 68-minute mark.

The savvy Englishman rarely gave the ball away after that.  The Whitecaps, as a group, strung minutes-worth of passes together, all on the heels of Seattle's best spell of the match. 

It was a mature coaching decision that changed the momentum back in Vancouver's favour and it was a sage, professionally executed performance by the younger team on the field. 

While the Whitecaps didn't reach a World Cup semi-final with the win, they did end a mini-slide, improved their league and Cascadia Cup prospects, while proving to themselves that they're capable of grinding out a result. 

Something tells me they'll need the same nerve this Saturday when they host a Chivas USA side that's won three in a row, and is starting to appear in the Western Conference rearview mirror...a tasty appetizer to the World Cup final a day later.

Whitecaps celebrate (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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