VANCOUVER — The Vancouver Whitecaps made earning a win tougher than it needed to be Saturday night, said the team’s head coach.
Carl Robinson said his players should have shut down the Chicago Fire as Vancouver held on for a 3-2 win at B.C. Place.
“I think we make things more difficult for ourselves than we need to,” Robinson said, adding he believed his team “thoroughly deserved” the victory.
“We knew it would be a difficult game. They’re a very, very good team with key players in key areas. But we did well to limit them.”
Teenage star Alphonso Davies was all over the field, helping Vancouver improve to 7-7-5, good enough for sixth place in the Western Conference. Chicago dropped to 6-8-5.
The 17-year-old midfielder was foiled by posts multiple times, including on a breakaway in the 30th minute when he bounced a shot off the iron, then shook his head in disbelief.
Robinson wanted his team to focus on turning opportunities into goals coming into Saturday’s match. He felt the Whitecaps had dominated the Colorado Rapids on Canada Day, but lost the game 1-0 on an own goal.
He also asked some of his top scorers to step up and striker Kei Kamara responded, notching two goals.
A battle in front of Chicago’s net in the 28th minute saw Fire goalkeeper Richard Sanchez stop a shot from Vancouver midfielder Yordy Reyna. But the rebound bounced to Kamara, who rocketed the ball into the back of the net to open the scoring.
Davies joined him for a synchronized dance to celebrate.
The pair teamed up again in the 71st minute, when Davies blasted past Chicago’s defenders and lobbed a shot at Sanchez. The rebound went straight to Kamara, who tapped it in for his second of the night.
Defender Marcel de Jong was credited with a second assist.
Kamara said he was simply in the right place at the right time to create some magic with Davies.
“We just have to help him out,” he said of the young star. “He’s a kid who has a lot of talent, and we just have to mature his game a little bit.”
Davies will play in the MLS all-star game against Italian champion Juventus on Aug. 1 in Atlanta.
Chicago midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said the teen’s skill was obvious on Saturday.
“You can see he has speed and he has skills and transition-wise, he’s very good,” he said.
Vancouver’s other goal came in the 46th minute, when midfielder Jordon Mutch waltzed past Sanchez at the top of the box and slowed the ball down before tapping it into the net for his first MLS goal. Efrain Juarez got the assist.
Mutch said he could feel the crowd’s tension as he took his time getting set.
“The ball wasn’t sitting right and I had to wait. And I think in the crowd, people were getting nervous a little bit. But I just had to wait to settle it a little bit and then put it in,” he said.
Chicago’s first goal came in the 42nd minute, after Vancouver midfielder Felipe Martins was beaten down low, allowing the Fire’s Kevin Ellis to get a pass off to forward Nemanja Nikolic, who beat Whitecaps keeper Brian Rowe. It was Nikolic’s eighth goal of the season.
Robinson said he could feel his team coming undone in the dying minutes of the half and yelled at his assistants that they needed to make it a dull game. He added that the goal came because of a simple mistake.
Fire midfielder Tony Tchani drilled one past Rowe in the 81st minute to bring his team within one. Chicago applied major pressure in the dying minutes, but could not net the equalizer.
It was Tchani’s first game back in Vancouver since he was traded from the Whitecaps in February.
“It’s always good to score, but I don’t really care about that goal,” said Tchani. “Our team wants three points, or even one point, going home.”
The loss snapped Chicago’s five-game unbeaten streak.