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Creating scoring chances has not been a problem for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season.
But in their first league game since July 15 and their first game altogether in two weeks, finishing was a struggle for the Whitecaps, who fell 1-0 Sunday evening at B.C. Place to the visiting San Jose Earthquakes in front of an announced crowd of just over 16,000.
The Caps came out of the gate flying, creating a mountain of chances. But they couldn’t finish.
And as the first half wore on, you started to get the sneaking suspicion this could turn into a banana peel game.
The Whitecaps play very attractive, energetic football, but their finishing was slow out of the gate on the season as well, which is why they came into the night still only on the edge of a playoff spot in Major League Soccer’s western conference.
The Earthquakes have got by this season on pluck and guile and because of it were hanging around the ‘Caps in the standings before the night began.
And with the Whitecaps pressing for a goal late in the first half, you knew a sudden change in possession might leave the home side vulnerable.
What came next was a San Jose goal.
Cristian Espinoza hammered in a deft cross from Jeremy Ebobisse, finishing off a 4 v 2 counter by San Jose in the 43rd minute.
It was San Jose’s only shot on target.
Talk about smash and grab.
The second half saw the ‘Caps carry the play again, but with the Earthquakes nursing a surprise 1-0 lead, they inevitably parked the bus and the home side couldn’t connect on anything.
Richie Laryea’s last action was on July 9 for Canada at the Gold Cup.
His lack of polish due to a lack of game action over the past six weeks was evident, but the zip that is a big element to his game wasn’t rusty.
The energetic wingback was very evident throughout the first half, finding plenty of space to attack, showing no lack of pace when he did go on the attack and getting several scoring chances because of it.
A more in-form version of the Canadian international probably would have scored, but on this night, he kept putting the ball square into San Jose keeper Daniel’s chest.
He was replaced at halftime by fellow debutant Sam Adekugbe.
Sergio Cordova’s presence is never hard to miss.
The big, physical Venezuelan gets on the ball and the ball tends to stick to him.
He was a big influence on the ‘Caps’ first two chances of the game — first forcing Daniel to spill the ball, creating a chance for Alessandro Schopf, who couldn’t get the ball over the prone Quakes keeper — then had a great chance himself in the 14th minute, hammering a shot from the right but hitting Daniel square.
He also intercepted a lazy pass back and got around Daniel, but the angle was too tight and his attempt to thread the ball over the line clanged off the post.
Several times in the second half he reeled in through balls and was able to put the ball back across his body towards the top of the six-yard box, but his teammates were never able to get to the well-placed chances.
Ryan Gauld has been nursing a hamstring strain since the Whitecaps’ Leagues Cup PK loss to Tigres two weeks ago.
He’s been occasionally limited in training since then and so it wasn’t a big surprise to see him on the substitutes’ bench to start the game.
The Caps’ superstar playmaker subbed on in the 59th minute.