The short-handed Union did enough to split the points in Vancouver on Saturday afternoon.
Union first XI: Matt Freese; Ray Gaddis, Olivier Mbaizo, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Brenden Aaronson, Jamiro Monteiro; Kacper Pryzbylko, David Accam
Whitecaps first XI: Crepeau; Nerwinski, Godoy, Henry, Adnan; Hwang, Erice, Teibert; Venuto, Reyna, PC
First half: Like so many other matches we’ve already seen this year, the Union owned possession while their opponent looked to strike on the counter. The Union came out pressing and asking the questions, while the Whitecaps countered through Yordy Reyna. Reyna caused havoc the entire 65 minutes he was out there, creating space in the Union box and constantly threatening on the break. The Union defense never did quite seem to mark him well. It was from a corner won from a counter that the lowly Whitecaps scored, in the 41st minute when Doneil Henry found space between the Union defenders and nodded a ball past Union keeper Matt Freese (who was making his first MLS start) to open the scoring.
Second half: The Union kept searching for a solution and eventually found one in Jamiro Monteiro. Monteiro was flying around the field, breaking up plays and winning back possession as the Union knew he could eventually do, and it was from one of those breakups that the Union scored. Jamiro broke up a play on the right side in the 66th minute then found forward Kacper Pryzbylko (who too was making his first start for the U), who streaked past the defense and slotted a low, hard shot past Vancouver keeper Creapeau from about twenty yards out to knot the match at one goal apiece.
Both sides looked to take advantage where they could after this, but nothing came of it, and the match ended a draw.
Notes: The boys in blue were short a significant portion of their roster for this one. Andre Blake, Ilsinho, Marco Fabian, Cory Burke, Kai Wagner, and Mark McKenzie were all unavailable. Although not the three points they seemed destined to get, they did well to come up with a road point.
Speaking of which, the road point elevates the Union into second place in the Eastern Conference with fourteen points. They’re coming into a month in which they have five home matches; if the boys in blue take advantage of the home cooking, they could very conceivably end May in first place. What happens in May will define their season.
I was exceedingly impressed with Jamiro Monteiro’s play. He could be the destroyer the Union have missed since Brian Carroll rode off into the sunset. On a team which faces sides who will look to counter, someone like him will be invaluable to manager Jim Curtin.
Their next match is Wednesday at home versus newly-minted MLS side FC Cincinnati.