No defensive failures. No missed marking. No what-in-the-heck-were-you-thinking blunders. Just a hard-fought game that was missing one key thing: “We never really had the great, killer ball,” said manager Adrian Heath.
Heath spoke disapprovingly of his side — now on a nine-game unbeaten streak in competitive games — two days before the game. “Everybody thinks it’s easy now, we’ve cracked the code and it’s dead easy,” he complained following a “poor” training session. “It can change just as quickly as it changed for us to get on this roll.”
Though Saturday’s scoreless draw was far from the dominant result expected of the club, Heath’s complaints of his players’ energy vanished. “I can’t fault their effort,” he said. “It’s another point toward where we’ve been trying to get to. I’ve been doing this too long to turn a point down. Points are important.”
Winger Ethan Finlay, who started but was substituted in the 66th minute, wasn’t quite as satisfied. “Well, the fact is it’s one point earned,” he said with an air of disappointment. “I think we feel like we gave two up tonight in the end. It’s obviously a game that we think we should win. But saying that, we had a good game-plan tonight and executed it.”
The Loons were not by any means outclassed against the Whitecaps and had plenty of opportunities. United fired 37 crosses into Vancouver’s box over the course of the game. They completed three.
“If we’re going have 37 crosses we need to be having more bodies in the box. That’s something we need to work on,” explained Finlay. “I’d have to go back and look ... how many times we have two or more guys. I felt like a lot of times you looked up and it was one or two guys.”
While it’s hard to argue with United’s decisiveness on their recent run of play, the Loons have now scored just two goals in their last three competitive games. That’s a small sample size of course, but it bears resemblance to some prior offensive struggles this season.
Heath routinely lines up his side in a 4-2-3-1 formation in the hopes that four attackers can engineer victories. “I expect one of them to produce me something at some stage. We haven’t really had that today,” he said.
This might not be the only game where the Loons face a team more occupied with neutralizing their offense than scoring goals on the opposite end. “With teams that come in, they’re possibly going to bunker in like that,” said Finlay.