VANCOUVER – The Vancouver Whitecaps didn’t play their best soccer on Saturday night, but it was good enough for a win.
Cristian Techera scored the game’s only goal in the 32nd minute as the Whitecaps blanked FC Dallas 1-0.
“We didn’t play that well,” said Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted, who posted his 10th shutout of the season. “We controlled it well and we got away with the three points. So we’ll be entertaining another day.”
The Whitecaps (14-9-3) regained first place in the Western Conference, moving two points ahead of the idle LA Galaxy. Vancouver posted its fourth win in five games while Dallas (11-8-5) suffered its third consecutive loss.
Dallas ousted Vancouver from the playoffs last year. Saturday’s game was the first of three regular season matchups between the two teams which could have strong playoff implications.
“I don’t think we kept (the ball) as well as we can,” said Ousted. “That said, some games you need to be scrappy. You need to not be pretty, but just win, and I think that was a perfect point today.”
Techera stunned the sellout crowd of 21,000 at B.C. Place Stadium when he back-heeled in a pass from Kekuta Manneh while being sandwiched by Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and defender Je-Vaughn Watson.
It was the third goal in three games for Techera, a speedy Uruguayan midfielder.
“It just happened really fast, and it was something off instinct where that was the only option that I had,” said Techera through an interpreter.
After squandering a pair of two-goal leads in their previous game against Sporting Kansas City, the Whitecaps defence tightened up considerably against Dallas.
Vancouver’s stronger defensive effort could be attributed largely to the presence of central defender Kendall Waston, who returned after sitting out a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation. Unlike Kansas City a week earlier, Dallas could not gain any advantage off crosses into the box, and rarely managed to send any there.
Dallas mustered only two shots on target, by former Whitecap Atiba Harris in the 13th minute and Michael Barrios in the 60th, which Ousted stopped without much difficulty.
“Today was: Roll your sleeves up, fight, scrap, run tackle, and obviously, whoever was going to get their noses in front was probably going to win the game,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson. “Fortunately, it was us.”
Vancouver only managed to put two shots on target as well. But Robinson, who held a team meeting last Tuesday to help his team get back on track after the loss in Kansas City, liked the way the Whitecaps responded after last weekend.
“We tried to be better and we (were) today, because the same things arose,” said Robinson. “We were winning the game, but our management of the game was slightly different, which is a credit to (the players), because they can take information on board. So I’m delighted with them today. I think every player, to a man, gave absolutely everything for me.”
Whitecaps captain Pedro Morales, used as a substitute in recent weeks due to a nagging calf injury, made his first start since June, logging 68 minutes.
Vancouver lost defender Jordan Harvey to a leg injury in the 76th minute, but Robinson sidestepped a question on his health. Techera left in the 82nd minute after dropping to the turf on his own, but said he only suffered a leg cramp and should be fine.
Notes — Vancouver hosts the Montreal Impact on Wednesday in the second leg of the Amway Canadian Champion final. Former Chelsea star Didier Drogba is slated to play for the Impact after making his Montreal debut in Saturday’s game against Philadelphia. … Whitecaps rookie Tim Parker started in place of injured central defender Pa-Modou Kah (cheekbone). … Ex-Whitecap Harris played right back for Dallas. He was used primarily as a striker during two injury-riddled seasons with Vancouver in 2011 and 2012.