For the Whitecaps, striker Darren Mattocks — who the Montreal Impact passed on, choosing Andrew Wenger instead at No. 1 in the SuperDraft — scored early, as the Whitecaps and Real Salt Lake played to a 1-1 draw in a 125-minute match in Arizona.
Mattocks scored after early in the first half on a chance carved out by veteran Atiba Harris, who continues to be mentioned regularly when the preseason match reports come out. Harris, who missed most of last season due to knee injury after a heck of a start, is asking questions of coach Martin Rennie. Does he find a way to get wedged into the lineup along with the Big Three of Camilo, Eric Hassli and Sebastien Le Toux?
Fabian Espindola converted a penalty late in the first half to tie the game.
The Whitecaps had two excellent chances to take the match. First, Davide Chiumiento smacked a second-half free kick off the post, then Irish trialist Patrick Cregg saw his effort beat everyone but the crossbar in the final stages of the match.
Wes Knight, who the Whitecaps waived last season, played part of the second half for Real Salt Lake, where he’s a trialist. And Jonny Steele, who spent last season with the Carolina RailHawks had a reunion of sorts, as his ex-coach Martin Rennie is now behind the Whitecaps’ bench, and ex-RailHawks Jun Marques Davidson, Matt Watson, Brad Knighton and Floyd Franks (who is a trialist) all played for the Caps in a match that had a very NASL-esque feel to it.
Meanwhile, the Impact had two preseason tilts in the Los Angeles area; the main group faced the Portland Timbers, while another group, which featured younger players and trialists, faced the USL’s L.A. Blues.
Both matches ended in 0-0 draws. When you look at the Impact’s roster — as it stands now — you automatically think, this team might be OK in keeping balls out of its own net, but how’s it going to score any? While two preseason games are not a true indication of a season, the Impact played more than three hours of soccer today — a big chunk of that against a third-division team, and couldn’t score.
Sanna Nyassi got the closest for Montreal, hitting the woodwork early in the first half of the Portland match.
And, in keeping with the theme of “who is going to score?” the Impact gave us all a hint of where it sees No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wenger fitting into its lineup. Wenger got a brief run-out in the game against the Blues — as a striker.
Wenger excelled as both a defender and striker with Duke University, and we all wondered how the Impact would utilize the No. 1 overall draft pick. If this preseason cameo is any indication, the thinking is that Wenger will be used up front.