FOXBOROUGH. MASS. -- Goalkeeping was not seen as a disadvantage for the Vancouver Whitecaps, but neither was it seen as an advantage.
Yet the urge to write off David Ousted as a serviceable but unspectacular ‘keeper was stopped in his tracks Saturday, as the Whitecaps fought the New England Revolution to a stalemate, 0-0, at Gillette Stadium.
Ousted was outstanding, especially in the first half, his first clean sheet of 2014 extending the Revolution’s goalless drought to 270 minutes. New England, playing in its home opener, has yet to find the net in three Major League Soccer starts.
Not that the home side was lacking for opportunities.
Desperate for offence, the Revs mounted a comprehensive attack in the first half but couldn’t dent Fortress Ousted, who allowed Vancouver to earn a point and remain undefeated (1-0-2) after three games.
“He (Ousted) was a big part of why we got points,” said Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson. “Your goalkeeping needs to be important throughout the season. He made a couple of big saves, one of them was a super save, and he got us a point.”
Denying the Revolution a victory in a home opener is no small feat. New England was 6-0-1 in its previous seven home debuts going into Saturday’s game, played on a chilly, windy afternoon that made creative soccer difficult, if not an impossibility.
“It was really difficult for the ‘keeper’” Ousted explained. “It was tough. Every time the ball came up, the wind would take it and carry it somewhere. It was about being ready, and anticipating what was going to happen.”
Ousted was not only assertive, he was acrobatic, though he had some huge assistance from central defender Andy O’Brien, as New England’s quality attackers -- Teal Bunbury, Diego Sagundez and Kelyn Rowe -- stretched the Vancouver defence.
O’Brien had a couple of key blocks, on dangerous forays by the Revolution into the box.
“I’ve got a few grass stains on my shins, yeah,” O’Brien said. “It was take-no-prisoners out on the pitch. Given all the circumstances that arose today -- it was a heckuva long way to travel -- we could have won, or we could have lost. We’ll take the point and move on.”
In the first half, Whitecaps fans had to grit their teeth and wonder what happened to the side imbued with new levels of skill and inspiration, as demonstrated in Vancouver’s impressive season-opening 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls.
After playing uninspired football six days earlier on the road against Chivas USA (Vancouver escaped with a 1-1 draw, despite playing 11 men against 10 for much of the game), it looked to be more of the same for Vancouver. Long balls and Hail Mary pass were the order for the first 45 minutes.
In the second half, however, Robinson sent on substitutes Pedro Morales, Kekuta Manneh and Gershon Koffie, and their speed and assertiveness swung the game in Vancouver’s direction.
Morales, especially, created dangerous chances, his free kick in the 56th minute beating New England ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth but flying just wide of the far post.
A strike by Sagundez, which brushed the far post in the 68th minute, was as close as the Revolution came to solving Outsted.
In the fifth minute, the Danish ‘keeper came up with a Save of the Week candidate, his right arm extended to rob Andy Dorman of a goal on a header, following the first of four corners by the Revs in the first half.
In the 13th minute, Outsted’s decisiveness off the line thwarted Bunbury on a dangerous ball that held up in the wind.
Twenty minutes in, Outsted was called on again to cover a left-footed strike from Saer Sene from the edge of the box.
Once more, in the 33th minute, Ousted fielded a tough test from Sagundez at the top of the box to keep the score 0-0.
Whitecaps midfielder Sebastian Fernandez, who looked to have the fierce eyes of a natural-born scorer in his debut game, was neutralized by marking defender Andrew Farrell and was parked by Robinson for the second half.
Allowed no time for build-up by the Revolution, the Whitecaps only real scoring chance in the first half came in stoppage time, when Kenny Miller, the acting captain, tested Shuttleworth for the only occasion in the opening 45 minutes.
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