Rochat scores as Whitecaps end record losing streak with 1-0 win over Philly

VANCOUVER – Alain Rochat helped the Vancouver Whitecaps and their win-starved fans breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Rochat’s goal in the 12th minute gave the Whitecaps a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union on Saturday.

The win, the first since the Whitecaps’ season opener on March 19, ended the Vancouver expansion side’s Major League Soccer losing streak at a record 14 games.

“For me, personally, it’s a great feeling,” said Rochat. “But, for the team, I think it’s even more important. We can build on this.”

New coach Tom Soehn picked up his first win since replacing the fired Teitur Thordarson at the end of May. The Whitecaps had gone 0-2-1 under Soehn in three road games.

Soehn and the rest of Whitecaps were happy to give the some inspiration after Wednesday’s riot following the Vancouver Canucks’ loss to Boston in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.

“It’s been a tough week for the city of Vancouver with the Canucks having such a great year and what happened thereafter,” said Soehn. “It’s something I felt the city needed.”

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The win at Empire was also much needed for the team after the Caps went winless in six home games. Thordarson’s firing was based largely on the club’s inability to win at home before raucous, passionate fans.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the season, that we were going to make Empire a fortress and a difficult place to come and I thought we achieved that today,” said midfielder Terry Dunfield. “Everyone worked real hard for one another and everyone bought into Tommy’s system and philosophy (of staying compact). All that hard work on the training ground paid off.”

After the game, the Empire Field crowd gave the Whitecaps a standing ovation in tribute to only their second home win. The players repaid the gesture by running around the field and waving at their supporters.

“It’s a weight off our shoulders, for sure, but we’ll stay humble by this,” said Dunfield, who returned after missing the previous three games because of national team duty. “We won’t get carried away, maybe, like we did on opening day. We’re still bottom of our conference and only we can do something about it.”

The Whitecaps improved to 2-6-8 while the Union saw its record drop to 6-4-4. Philadelphia missed out on a chance to gain sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference ahead of the idle New York Red Bulls.

“We’re dropping points – we’re like a charity right now,” said Union coach Peter Nowak, vowing to “shuffle the deck.”

The goal was the second of the season for Rochat, a 28-year-old native of Saint-Jean-sur-Richeliu, Que. He scored after taking a pass from Davide Chiumiento, who made a fine run into the middle and then passed it to the defender near the corner of the 18-yard box. The ball curled into the opposite corner of the net while striker Eric Hassli tried to get his head on it.

Rochat said he and Chiumiento practised the move during the week and he told the Swiss midfielder to look for him on the left side if had a chance to take the ball from the right flank into the middle as he did.

“He gave me a great pass and it’s in – perfect,” said Rochat.

“(Rochat) was great – what a goal,” said Dunfield. “The entire back four were good. If you look at the 11 and even the subs, I don’t think there was a poor game out there. Everyone worked hard for one another. It’s great to hear the laughing and joking and singing in the change room. You need that. You need to enjoy your football. It gets you down when you don’t win every win.”

Rochat’s goal came two minutes after Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit blocked a Justin Mapp shot after he took a through ball from recently-signed striker Veljko Paunovic and raced toward the Vancouver goal.

Paunovic, a veteran of Spain’s LaLiga, played his first game since 2008, when he quit playing for family reasons but did not officially retire. He replaced Carlos Ruiz, who scored the Union’s lone goal in its 1-0 victory over Vancouver on March 26 and was away with Guatemala’s national side at the Gold Cup.

“We had good first pressure in the first 10 minutes from the left line and they’d just find a way to get from one side to the other and they crossed a great goal,” said Paunovic, who did little afterwards and subbed out in the 59th minute. “We had to change our way to play. The Whitecaps played a very good game, but we didn’t deserve to lose.”

Vancouver survived a late scare in the 81st minute as Sebastien Le Toux’s flick-on during a scramble rolled just wide of the post.

Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon picked up his first shutout and win as a Whitecap. He was rarely tested but made a nice save on Brian Carroll’s straight-on shot from about 25 yards out in the 23rd minute.

Cannon said the Whitecaps can still be tougher mentally after almost letting the Union back in the game, but he could not fault the effort, which made his night “comfortable.”

The 36-year-old recorded his first clean sheet in almost a year. The last one came while he was with San Jose, shortly before he broke his leg in practice.

Cannon, the former MLS goalkeeper of the year, had been used primarily as a backup before Soehn sought to make a change four games ago and replaced Jay Nolly, who subsequently injured his foot in a workout.

“For me, it was huge, especially here,” said Cannon in his first home appearance. “I’ve been waiting since last November, since I was told I was going to play in Vancouver, to win in front of these fans. You could just a feel collective sigh of relief after the final whistle. . . . It’s been a long time.”

Notes: Real Salt Lake holds the record for a losing streak spanning more than one season. RSL set the mark of 18 between Aug. 10, 2005 and May 6, 2006. … Vancouver coach Soehn and Philadelphia counterpart Peter Nowak were teammates with the Chicago Fire and coached together at D.C. United. … Vancouver midfielder Nizar Khalfan returned after leaving to play for Tanzania in a June 5 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier. He subbed on in the 76th minute for Brazilian Camilo, who is usually a striker but played more of a midfield role under a new-look offensive scheme.

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