SPORTS

Whitecaps snap 450-minute goal drought in 2-0 victory over Earthquakes

09/11/2014 12:14 EDT | Updated 11/10/2014 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - The Vancouver Whitecaps can finally exhale.

Pedro Morales converted a penalty in the first half Wednesday to snap the Whitecaps' ugly 450-minute scoring drought as Vancouver cruised to a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Morales stepped up to the spot and beat Jon Busch in the 39th minute after Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston was fouled in the area off a free kick to give Vancouver its first goal in exactly 7.5 hours of play, or five full games.

Up until that moment, it looked like the Whitecaps — who had been shutout in four straight games, and five of their last six — could be headed for another tension-filled night of wasted chances.

"You do tend to worry and you tend to think and things like that. You've just got to keep going," said Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson. "You can feel sorry for yourself, or you can roll your sleeves up, meet the challenge head on, and I think that's what we've done all along."

Vancouver's last goal before Wednesday came off the boot of Darren Mattocks, coincidentally in the 39th minute of a 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Aug. 10.

"I'm sure it will be nice for them to get three points on the board and keep ticking along," said Robinson. "I tried to take the pressure off the group in there because we haven't won as many games as we should.

"I'm sure players do feel it. I don't want them to feel it, but it's natural that they do. Today they didn't show as if they were playing with any pressure."

Waston — who missed a great opportunity early — put the game out of reach in 56th minute when he headed home a Morales corner for his first goal with the Whitecaps (8-6-13). The big defender pumped his fists and was mobbed by teammates before dropping to his knees in celebration.

"I had the first chance in the first half and I missed it," said Waston. "I had to keep on working hard because I knew at any time there would be another chance.

"From the beginning everybody was focused on what we (needed) to do."

Robinson was thrilled for his summer signing, who he said has fit right in since being acquired from a Costa Rican club last month.

"If you get to know Kendall off the field he's a really likable, lovable guy. He's brilliant. The boys love him," said Robinson. "He wants to learn and it just sets the tone for everything we do. He's part of the group, he's delighted to be here, and we're delighted to have him. You need players like that to be successful and he's a big addition for us."

Morales — who now has eight goals on the season, including six from the penalty spot — snapped a six-game scoring slump of his own as Vancouver leapfrogged the Portland Timbers into the fifth and final playoff spot in Major League Soccer's Western Conference.

Both teams have seven games remaining on the schedule, including a critical encounter in Portland on Sept. 20.

Vancouver entered Wednesday with just two wins in its last fourteen games and a recent stretch of 0-2-2 that forced the club out of the top-5 in the West.

Coming off a hard-fought 3-3 road tie against the Timbers on Sunday and having given up 14 goals in its last five games, San Jose (6-11-9) was just what the Whitecaps needed to shake their scoring woes and get back in the win column.

Robinson again opted for a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield, the same setup that failed to find a way through in Saturday's 0-0 home draw against D.C. United. Mattocks, who started that one but picked up an ankle injury, was replaced in the lineup by Erik Hurtado up top alongside Sebastian Fernandez.

The Whitecaps had the bulk of possession before the breakthrough, with San Jose failing to even direct a shot towards Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted in the opening 45 minutes.

Waston should have scored in the 13th minute but instead sent a free header just over the bar off a corner kick as a season-low crowd of 17,183 at B.C. Place Stadium groaned in disapproval.

The Earthquakes entered Wednesday winless in their last six (0-2-4) and finally got a shot on target when captain Chris Wondolowski directed a header at Ousted off a corner in the 55th with the score still 1-0.

After Waston stretched the lead to two, Morales almost bagged his second in the 73rd, but Busch got his fingers to a shot that was headed to the bottom corner.

"I think everybody was happy with not just the win, but with getting a clean sheet, getting the goals," said Ousted, who picked up his league-leading ninth shutout of the season. "You saw how happy the guys were, and the fans as well."

Morales again thought he had another in the 86th minute after scoring on a breakaway, but the referee judged that he controlled the ball with an arm.

"What pleased me the most was that it was a team performance today," said Robinson. "It's not easy when you're in a tricky patch to perform but we did that."

Notes: The loss leaves San Jose 10 points back of Vancouver and eight adrift of Portland in the chase for the final playoff spot in the West, but the Earthquakes do have a game in hand. ... Morales' assist on Waston's goal was his 10th of 2014 to set a Whitecaps' single-season record. ... Former Vancouver striker Carl Valentine was inducted into the Whitecaps' Ring of Honour prior to the game. ... Vancouver defender Steven Beitashour returned to the starting lineup after missing out on Saturday with a hip problem. ... The Whitecaps will play their third game in eight days on Saturday when they travel to take on FC Dallas. ... San Jose hosts the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday, also their third game in eight days.

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