VANCOUVER—It was a case of two points lost rather than a point gained for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Montreal Impact came into Wednesday with the worst record in Major League Soccer, but managed to hold the high-powered Whitecaps to a 0-0 draw in a dreary match that seemed destined to remain goalless after just a few minutes.
“It wasn’t very enjoyable watching it, was it?” Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson asked the media afterwards. “I didn’t enjoy watching it and I don’t think the players enjoyed playing in it. Bad day at the office I think we call it. We take a point.”
In reality it was a missed opportunity for Vancouver (5-2-7), which entered play having scored nine goals over its last three contests, but looked flat coming out of the MLS’s World Cup hiatus that resulted in an 18-day layoff.
“We were hoping that the break didn’t have any impact on us but obviously we have to say after this match it looked like it did,” said Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted. “Definitely not the result we were looking for. We were definitely hoping for a win at home but this just shows you there’s no easy games in MLS. I think we took it a little bit too lightly today.”
Ousted was forced to make a number of key saves early as the Whitecaps—who had not played since June 7—looked asleep at the switch in the first half.
Vancouver eventually got on the front foot as the game wore on, but it wasn’t enough to earn a sixth victory on the season.
“We’ll take the positives from it. We kept a clean sheet and that’s eight games unbeaten now,” said Whitecaps defender Andy O’Brien. “I think it’s a sign … that if you don’t play well make sure you don’t get beat.”
Montreal (2-7-5) entered the night last in MLS and remains winless on the road in 2014, but gutted out a hard-fought point.
“I thought we defended very well and were committed to that part of the game (and) also had some very good chances to get the three points,” said Impact head coach Frank Klopas. “I felt in the end we got a point in a difficult place and now we have to continue.”
The result is a disappointment for Vancouver, which occupies a Western Conference playoff spot and have games in hand on every other team currently in a post-season position. The Whitecaps travels to Colorado on Saturday to take on the Rapids, one of the teams they’re battling in the standings.
After a first half that showed some considerable rust on the hosts, Vancouver came out with renewed vigour after the break.
Whitecaps midfielder Kekuta Manneh fired a shot from outside the box that Troy Perkins had dive to keep out a minute in, before Pedro Morales nearly snuck a free kick home on a shot that required a finger-tips save from the Montreal goalkeeper.
Things then started to open up a bit with 20 minutes to go as the teams finally found some inspiration.
Vancouver striker Darren Mattocks flashed a shot wide in the 72nd minute before Impact midfielder Maxim Tissot hit the crossbar behind Ousted moments later.
Whitecaps defender Carlyle Mitchell then forced a fine save from Perkins off a corner five minutes later, and Jordan Harvey’s follow up hit the crossbar.
Montreal found the woodwork again in the 83rd when striker Jack McInerney headed off the post following a free kick.
“The top teams in the world don’t play well every game,” said Robinson. “That’s the reality of it. I think every game we’ve played (at home) we’ve been excellent.
“We were not playing with an urgency and a tempo that we have done.”
Montreal also had an extended 14-day break, but an Impact team missing striker Marco Di Vaio and midfielders Justin Mapp and Calum Mallace because of injury were perhaps a bit unlucky not to be leading at halftime.
Ousted was forced to make a one-handed save off a deflection in the fourth minute that easily could have found its way over the line.
McInerney then sent a shot into the side netting of Ousted’s goal in the 26th minute, before Mattocks fizzed a ball towards Perkins from a distance that didn’t cause any trouble five minutes later.
Montreal’s best chance to take the lead came in stoppage time when Ousted had to scramble to make two saves to keep things level heading to the locker-rooms.
“They’re not going to come here and lie over, and they didn’t,” said Robinson of the Impact. “They thoroughly came and probably got something they deserved.”
The Welshman added he won’t dwell on the missed opportunity with a critical away game in Colorado set for the weekend.
“We’ll put this one to bed,” said Robinson. “I watched it once, and that was enough.”
Notes: Ousted and Perkins each picked up their third shutouts of the season. … Whitecaps striker Erik Hurtado saw his streak of goals in five straight games come to an end. … Mitchell started in place of Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit, who tore a ligament in his left ankle in the game on June 7. … Montreal’s next game is Sunday at home against the Houston Dynamo. … Montreal has had a disastrous MLS campaign so far, but did win this year’s Amway Canadian Championship. … Vancouver’s two losses in MLS play is tied for second lowest with Real Salt Lake. … Attendance at B.C. Place Stadium was 21,000.