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It may have all become a little too tense during the final ten minutes but in the end the Vancouver Whitecaps held on to beat the Philadelphia Union 1-0 on Saturday at Empire Field.

This wasn’t just their first win in MLS since opening day, it was also the first win under new coach Tom Soehn and he will have been pleased to see that most, but not all, of his tactics paid off.

Perhaps the most obvious change was that Soehn seemed to have instructed his team to build from the back rather than make use of the more direct style of play favoured by previous coach Teitur Thordarson and in the early minutes it was noticeable that the back line were perfectly content to keep the ball between themselves, happy to maintain possession rather than rush a pass that would almost certainly give the ball away, and this approach paid spectacular dividends as early as the twelfth minute.

A seven pass move that ends with a goal may not be anything special for the likes of Barcelona but it may be indicative of something new for the Whitecaps. The play began with the ball being played from left to right across Vancouver’s own penalty area before being quickly moved forward to allow Davide Chiumiento the chance to run at the Union defence, a quick give and go with Eric Hassli then allowed Chiumiento the time and space to set up Alain Rochat to hit a fantastic curling shot into the far corner.

The Whitecaps had unlocked one of the best defences in the league with a short passing game and produced another “Goal of the Week” contender in the process.

Perhaps with greater confidence they would have gone on to win the game comfortably from that position, but they still looked the more dangerous of the two teams until the final ten minutes when, maybe due to tiredness, or maybe due to the inevitable edginess that infects a side that hasn’t won for some time they began to sit back too deeply and allow their opponents the opportunity to create a number of chances that their play didn’t deserve.

Not everything was perfect of course; many of the defensive lapses once again emanated from a midfield that remains careless with it’s passing (Terry Dunfield was immediately substituted following one particularly bad example) and the 4-4-1-1 system means that Eric Hassli is too often isolated when he receives the ball, but Shea Salinas had his best game for some time and the defence is starting to look more and more solid with every game.

Most fans would have taken a win, any win, against Philadelphia but a win that also involved some genuinely pleasing football is an even bigger step in the right direction. The task now is to maintain that momentum for the foreseeable future.

 

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