Get to the net and good things will happen. That's exactly the strategy the Calgary Mustangs employed as they beat the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 in front of 1,800 at McMahon Stadium last night.
Calgary striker Conrad Smith was the difference as he scored twice to lift the home side to only its second victory of the season. Frustrated by his lack of scoring this season, Smith made the most of his opportunities last night. "I knew that if I got more chances I could be more help to this team," said Smith, who missed a penalty kick the last time Vancouver visited McMahon.
"I came into this one more mentally focused and I got the right connections from my teammates. The coach said I could be more help if I made myself available in front and I had good players with me, which makes it easier to score. Today's game is going to help this team mould together."
The Mustangs opened the scoring in the 18th minute when Smith headed in a cross from Sergei Kolomiets-Raad.
Kolomiets-Raad, who hails from St. Petersburg, Russia, caught up to a deep ball inside Vancouver's box. A quick burst of speed allowed the speedy midfielder to move around the Whitecaps defender and place the cross into the middle of the crease, where Smith was waiting to head it past a sprawling Alex Marques.
After that it was all Mustangs. The local side seemed to gain some offensive confidence with the opening marker and managed to keep the pressure on. Eventually, the tenacity paid off.
With less than 10 minutes left in the half, Smith struck again.
This time the pass came from Dutch captain Geert Brusselers, who made a couple of nifty moves inside the box, which freed him to sift a short pass to Smith.
The striker from Trinidad, who holds the distinction of scoring the franchise's first cap, booted a hard shot that Marques got a piece of but couldn't stop.
But the 'Stangs weren't done there.
With the seconds ticking down in the first half, Calgary made it 3-0 with a play reminiscent of the opening goal. This time, however, a Kolomiets-Raad pass across the box never left the turf but wound up on the foot of Mesut Mert. Mert patiently waited out the 'Caps netminder and placed a low shot just inside the post.
"We knew we had to be more solid in the midfield," said GM-head coach Thomas Niendorf. "This allowed us to put more balls over Vancouver's defence and get some of our strikers into position. The goals allowed some of the pressure to be taken off the defence, which made everyone play with more confidence."
Upset by their first-half performance, the 'Caps came out with some more energy and some new bodies. Although under fire from a more inspired West Coast squad, Calgary didn't allow any point-blank chances. Mustangs 'keeper Lutz Pfannenstiel earned his first shutout of the season. Calgary moves to 2-7-2 after the win, while Vancouver falls to 5-4-1.