Sports Soccer

Vancouver Whitecaps downplay first win

By Hosea Cheung, 24 hours Vancouver

Vancouver Whitecaps player Jay DeMerit is downplaying the team’s first win of 2014.

Vancouver Whitecaps player Jay DeMerit is downplaying the team’s first win of 2014. (REUTERS)

As dominant and thrilling as the Vancouver Whitecaps season-opening performance was, let's not get too over the moon just yet.

The club sure isn't.

It's game one. There's 33 more to go. And while things at least look promising — and the bar set a little higher than previously expected now — there's still a long eight-month haul with plenty of possibilities for things to go wrong. We've all seen that before.

"It's important to take the positives out of what that performance brought … but we have to have to be careful not to get ahead of ourselves," captain Jay DeMerit said Monday. "It's important for us to know that we haven't gone very far yet but it's also exciting to know that we've come this far. There's a two-edged sword there and we got to make sure we stay on the right path."

The Whitecaps have now won all their openers since joining MLS in 2010 — having made the playoffs just once. Their 4-1 victory over the visiting New York Red Bulls on Saturday though had a much different feel — or maybe even a different sense of excitement surrounding this club, if you will.

Much of that has to do with Pedro Morales.

Credit also goes to promising performances by Uruguayan midfielder Sebastian Fernandez, who was also making his Whitecaps debut, and a seemingly revived Darren Mattocks, but the Chilean designated player dazzled in his 25 minutes of pitch time.

His touches were spot on, his vision was unmatched, and he made many things look easy — not to mention that he had only been in town for just four days prior to the game with little familiarity with his teammates, the system or the league.

"I'm really happy that after two days of training I was able to have a part in the game," Morales said through a translator, adding that he was surprised by the reception he got from the home fans. "I didn't expect it.”

Morales — who along with Fernandez is up for MLS goal of the week — is exactly that creative attacking midfielder the team has been looking for since the departure of Davide Chiumiento. And what an upgrade the 28-year-old can be for this club if he continues to bring what he did and more from Saturday's match.

"You just look at the level that he's played at and he's always going to come in and be a fantastic player," striker Kenny Miller said of his teammate. "What we did see in that 25-minute cameo on Saturday was a player with very good vision, great awareness, his passing range looks good and also brings a calming influence on the team when he gets the ball."

Don't forget about the Scot either.

Miller scored twice — once on a penalty and the other with a tremendous lob feed by Morales over the heads of a couple Red Bull defenders to put him in on a breakaway.

Despite the confidence boost, the veteran knows this is just the beginning, with lots of work ahead as the club prepares for a road match Sunday against Chivas USA.

"It's a great start for us, but it's important to keep our feet on the ground and we do realize that," he said. "There's no way the coaches and the manager will allow the lads to get carried away … we will enjoy but it's back to work now."


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