'Caps beat Crew; Miller outstanding
By Jon Szekeres
The Vancouver Whitecaps improved to 2-0 on the season, with a well deserved, 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew. Daigo Kobayashi and Kenny Miller scored for the 'Caps, who were in control for most of the match, their attack never looking better. Both of the goals were absolute beauties, with Kobayashi opening the scoring just 6 minutes in. From 30 yards out, Kobayashi unleashed a perfect shot; a hard curling strike that found the back of the net, bringing the Whitecaps faithful to their feet. It was a marvellous goal, an obvious candidate for goal of the week, and a feather in the cap for Whitecaps management for bringing the midfielder over to the club. Seriously, he's made us all forget about Davide Chiumiento.
The second goal was a great individual effort by Kenny Miller, but we'll get back to that in a bit. Let's talk a little bit about Miller.
The veteran striker entered the season as an overpaid bust, joining Mustapha Jarju and Barry Robson on the list of bad signings by the club. Rumors swirled that he would be gone as soon as the Whitecaps could convince him to leave, and those rumblings only intensified after Robson took his leave. Instead, Miller stayed, worked hard in the off-season, and has now arguably been the best attacker on the Whitecaps for the past two matches. Miller didn't score in the opener, but was buzzing. He was all over the pitch, pressuring opponents into making bad decisions, hustling back on plays, and yes, even getting a few chances himself. Against the Columbus Crew, Miller would tickle twine, pick pocketing Crew defender Glauber before going mono et mono with Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, before slotting home the eventual match winner. After his goal, he raced up the pitch, leaping into the arms of Nigel Reo-Coker. This was a man having fun playing the game. He looked relaxed, he looked confident, something that was definitely not the case last season. Plus, he did all this wearing the Captains armband in place of the injured Jay Demerit.
Seriously, have you ever seen a guy reverse public opinion this quick before? He was basically a leper just a few short weeks ago, now he's a hero! As a guy that was on the 'overpaid DP' bandwagon, Miller is making me look like an idiot in the early going. (Not that I need much help in that department.)
Anyways, back to the match. The 'Caps attack, led by Kobayashi in mid, was outstanding. It seemed like when the Whitecaps stepped on the gas, the Crew could do nothing but play catch up, and hope that Gruenebaum could bail them out. Credit the keeper on that note; Gruenebaum played very well in the match, stopping several onslaughts. The two goals that were let in were not his fault, that much is certain.
If Kenny Miller wasn't the best man on the pitch, that honor would fall to Kobayashi, who was the pulse of the attack for most of the night. The one negative note I would bring up is Darren Mattocks, the super sophmore, who had an off match. It's not often that you say that about Mattocks. He's usually the best player on the pitch, using his speed to create room, using his finish to pile up the goals. Against the Crew, he had some problems. He couldn't seem to hold on to the ball, coughing it up far too much for a player of his caliber. He had trouble getting scoring chances, and when he did, they were often listless, lackadaisical advances. In any case, it was just one match, and Mattocks is still the most talented player on the team. Look for him to bounce back next match.
Lastly, Joe Cannon has now started back to back matches. He let in a questionable one against the Crew, so perhaps now Brad Knighton will get his shot. If not, it's questionable as to how long Knighton will be content playing Rita Wilson to Cannon's Tom Hanks. Simply put, he wants to play.
How's this for irony? The Whitecaps will be without Kenny Miller for their next match on March 23rd against the Houston Dynamo, as he's been called up for international duty. Kenny Miller has been their best attacker, and his absence will create a hole in the 'Caps lineup. Who would have thought I'd be writing that this season?