CARSON, Calif. - Joe Cannon came up big when it mattered Saturday night. The Vancouver Whitecaps' attacking players, not so much.
It led to a scoreless draw with Chivas USA, an appropriate result in a game that lacked scoring opportunities and was defined by the inability of both teams to create a coherent offence.
Cannon denied back-to-back free kicks by Juan Pablo Angel and Paolo Cardozo with about 20 minutes to go, Ben Zemanski volleyed over the crossbar from close range in the 88th minute, and the Whitecaps' defence got in the way of two Jorge his defence got in the way of two Jorge Villafana shots in stoppage time to claim a point in front of 11,659 at Home Depot Center.
Vancouver might have gotten more from the match had there been greater urgency up front. The Whitecaps (8-4-6) found their way into dangerous positions four times in the first 15 minutes and couldn't get off a decent shot.
"In the first half we played quite well," said Vancouver coach Martin Rennie, whose team posted its ninth clean sheet of the season — its second against Chivas in L.A. — and extended its shutout streak to 184 minutes. "We moved the ball well and created some good chances. Disappointed that we didn't maybe have a couple shots when we were on the edge of the box and could have — or should have."
The Whitecaps clearly missed rookie Darren Mattocks' pace and dynamism up front, but he wasn't available, suspended after a late yellow card in Wednesday's victory over Colorado.
New Designated Player Barry Robson, who made his Major League Soccer debut in Colorado, went the full 90 minutes. He got better as the game proceeded, taking the reins from Davide Chiumiento and generating much of the second-half attack.
"That's the big thing, he's wanting the ball all the time," Rennie said. "It will take him a couple more games to get his touch clean and to integrate into the team, but he drove us on."
Vancouver had a numerical advantage in midfield through the first half, with three in the middle, and it was more pronounced with Chivas' dominant holding midfielder, Oswaldo Minda, sitting out with his second yellow card-accumulation suspension of the season.
The Whitecaps used that advantage to find seams through Chivas' defence and into its box, then created nearly nothing of note the rest of the way.
The best chance, in the 13th minute, had Eric Hassli pulling away from James Riley's jersey tug — a potential penalty unrewarded — then forcing a shot through traffic. It left Sebastien Le Toux alone in front with Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, but his touch betrayed him and Riley knocked the ball away.
A minute later Chiumiento forced Kennedy to dive left to knock down a shot from distance.
"The coach told us that we have to take a chance to shoot on goal, and we didn't," Hassli said. "The second half we had opportunities to shoot, and we just passed the ball. If we want to score, we have to shoot the ball."
Chivas (5-7-5), which has been shut out in eight of 17 league games, matched Vancouver in midfield after switching from a 4-4-2 formation to a 4-2-3-1 at halftime. The Goats created a flurry of chances in the final 20 minutes, but Cannon and his defence were up to the task.
The first two arrived in the 72nd and 73rd minutes. After Martin Bonjour tripped Cardozo outside the area, Angel's free kick sent Cannon sprawling, and he bobbled the ball with Jose Erik Correa on the doorstep. A defender knocked it over the end line, and a Davide Chiumiento hand ball after the ensuing corner kick gave Chivas another free kick just outside the box.
Cardozo sent this one toward the upper-right corner, and Cannon parried it away.
Zemanski should have done more with James Riley's cross in the 88th — "I think he'll want that one back," Cannon said — but Cannon, Gershon Koffie and Jay DeMerit were in position to deny Villafana at the finish.