• Montreal Impact 1 (Mancosu 81’), Vancouver Whitecaps 2 (Kamara 63’, Davies 70’)
GAME RECAP IN A SENTENCE
A dull and dire match sprung to life in the second half with three goals in an 18-minute span, including the first ever in Major League Soccer by Canadian teenager Alphonso Davies to give Vancouver the win before a record home crowd.
THE MAIN TALKING POINT
The Whitecaps were coming off a very busy winter of activity as they prepared to host the Impact in Sunday’s season opener for both clubs. No less than 17 players were traded, moved or left since Vancouver’s playoff loss to Seattle last November, the latest being central defender Tim Parker, who was traded on Friday to the New York Red Bulls for Brazilian playmaker Felipe.
With so much roster turnover, questions were being raised about how the club would gel and come together on the pitch, and whether the lack of continuity would hurt it. There were a few hiccups on Sunday, most notably the communication between new central defensive pairing Kendall Waston and Aaron Maund, and new starting goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
But newcomers Kei Kamara and Mexican midfielder Efraín Juárez seamlessly fit into the starting 11 for a Whitecaps side that bossed and dictated the pace of the game. Kamara opened the scoring and effectively led the line up front in serving as the Whitecaps’ main attacking reference point, while Juárez linked up well with Cristian Techera down the right side.
Overall, it was a balanced and cohesive performance by the Whitecaps. Credit must be given to coach Carl Robinson for incorporating his newcomers into the lineup alongside so many holdovers from last season, and for showing faith in Davies in such a big game.
70’ GOAL! Montreal Impact 0, Vancouver Whitecaps 2: Kamara gave the Whitecaps the lead with a header off a beautiful cross into the box from Davies. Seven minutes later, Juárez played a lovely chip pass that released Techera down the right flank, and the Uruguayan cut into the box before squaring the ball into the middle for an unmarked Davies to slot home. It proved to be an important goal – Montreal surged in attack for the final 20 minutes, and managed to make a game of it after Matteo Mancosu scored to make it 2-1.
What was with all of the Canadian content? It’s not very often that you see so many Canadian players involved in an MLS match. Six members of Canada’s national team started Sunday’s contest: Davies, Marcel de Jong and Russell Teibert for Vancouver; Michael Petrasso, Raheem Edwards and Samuel Piette for Montreal. None of these six players were on the field simply because this was a Canadian derby – all of them are expected to be key figures for their clubs this season. Davies, especially, could have a breakout year. Robinson was very protective of Davies last year and limited his playing time when the team could have benefited from his dynamic play, but it looks as though the Whitecaps coach is going to unleash the young Canadian this season.
You have to hand it to the Impact for the way they thwarted the home side for more than 60 minutes, and for the way they battled back and almost secured a share of the points after going down 2-0. The fact that Montreal was able to stay so organized without its new defensive leader Zakaria Diallo, the club’s major off-season addition who is out with an Achilles injury, made its defensive performance all the more impressive. Also, left fullback Daniel Lovitz showed a real knack for getting forward in attack and delivering dangerous crosses into the box, like he did on Mancosu’s goal. Lovitz nearly set up the Italian again minutes later with another beautiful delivery from the flank.
Sunday’s attendance at BC Place was 27,837, which set a new club record for opening day in MLS. The Whitecaps’ previous best crowd for a season opener was 22,592 fans for their first match in their debut MLS season in 2011.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Kei Kamara, Vancouver Whitecaps: It was a fantastic Whitecaps debut for the Sierre Leone forward, who joined the West Coast club in the off-season. Kamara provided the home side a solid presence up front, as he used his size to effectively hold up the ball and bring his teammates into the game. A noted threat in the air, he opened the scoring with that wonderful headed goal, and continually dropped back to lend a hand in defending. Kamara was deservedly applauded off the pitch when he was subbed out late in the game for his hustle and work rate at both ends of the pitch.