AC St. Louis and the Vancouver Whitecaps played to a scoreless draw Friday night at AB Soccer Park before a crowd of over 2,300. The season series between the NASL Conference leading Whitecaps and the expansion St. Louis team ends with Vancouver winning once and the teams playing to three draws. All told, only three goals were scored between the two teams in their four matches.
Vancouver got a reprieve from the oppressive heat and humidity they encountered on their last trip to St. Louis, and the contest was played with pace and energy by both clubs, and was entertaining despite the absence of goal scoring. The Whitecaps started off a bit brighter than the home team, as Phillipe Davies had a third minute chance that he couldn’t quite get a foot on, and forward Nizar Khalifan looked dangerous with a chance at the 10 minute mark but shot wide, and AC St. Louis goalkeeper Alec Dufty saved a headed shot by Whitecaps’ captain Martin Nash shortly afterwards. Davies created another Vancouver chance at the 12 minute mark, but his low cross escaped Khalfan and Alex Semenets, who was making his first start of the season. Semenets later had a shot deflected that resulted in a Vancouver corner.
At the half hour mark, reliable defender Nelson Akwari swept a way a dangerous ball near the Vancouver goal after some nice play by AC St. Louis midfielder Chris Salvaggione. AC St. Louis midfielder Gauchinho played a nice through ball several minutes later, but no one was able to take advantage and the Saints’ talented rookie defender Mark Bloom made a nice run down the right side but to no avail. In the 38th minute, AC St. Louis’ Jeff Cosgriff looked to open the scoring off a rebound from a Salvaggione shot, but the goal was nullified by a controversial offside call.
The second half opened with AC St. Louis stepping up. Gauchinho had a shot that went wide , and the Saints’ Mike Ambersley, the USSF D2 Player of the Month for July, had a scoring opportunity but headed directly to Vancouver’s outstanding goalkeeper Jay Nolly. Vancouver replied quickly, as Khalfan had a cross that just eluded Cornelius Stewart near the AC St. Louis goal. Salvaggione had another chance near the 77th minute mark off a long free kick but fired wide. AC St. Louis had a dangerous run by sub Brad Stisser down the right flank in the last minutes of the contest, but his low cross across the box went untouched. A late chance by Vancouver was stopped by a fine sliding tackle by defender John Lesko of AC St. Louis.
AC St. Louis captain Jack Traynor commented after the game. ““As a whole team we played real well defensively. To come away with a point against the top team in the league is always good. We still think we could have come away with a win tonight.” I also had the pleasure of chatting with Jack’s dad, Larry, prior to the game, a great guy, too, and a NASL Fanatic reader.
Nolly and Dufty both earned shutouts, although neither goalkeeper was severely tested. The two teams each had six shots, and both had three shots on frame. Vancouver earned seven corner kicks to three for AC St. Louis. Vancouver Coach Teitur Thordarson used substitutes Chris Williams, Ethan Gage, Cornelius Stewart, Zurab Tsiskaridze and Alex Elliot, while Dale Schilly brought in Brad Stisser, Tim Velten and Anthony O’Garro for AC St. Louis.
AC St. Louis now have a record of 5-10-6, and although gaining a point against an elite club like Vancouver is a positive, the team will have to earn some victories to manuever into a solid playoff position. They are 1-0-2 on their long-awaited home stand, and host the Portland Timbers next Saturday. Vancouver leads the league in ties with 11, as their record is 8-3-11, and their run their road unbeaten streak to eight games. The Whitecaps next contest is on the road against NSC Minnesota.
AC St. Louis Starting Lineup: Dufty, Traynor, Lesko, Bauer, Bloom, Kreamalmeyer, Cole, Gauchinho, Salvaggione, Cosgriff, Ambsersley
Vancouver Starting Lineup: Nolly, Knight, Janicki, Hirano, Akwari, Bellisomo,Wagner, Semenets, Nash, Davies, Khalfan