Three long years of hard work finally paid off for Russell Teibert on Saturday.
Teibert's first two MLS career goals lifted the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday. The goals came after he subbed on for injured midfielder Daigo Kobayashi early in the first half.
Teibert, a 20-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., is in his third season with the Whitecaps, but he had not managed to score while playing sparingly most of the time.
"It feels great," said Teibert. "I was overwhelmed to score the first goal and then the second one came, and the feeling was extraordinary."
The Whitecaps (3-4-3) ended a seven-game winless streak and beat the Galaxy for the first time.
"Beating L.A. is something we wanted to do for our fans and for this club," said Teibert. "We have a big week coming up, and this could be a turning point for our season."
The Galaxy (4-3-2) were unbeaten in five previous regular-season meetings and also eliminated the Whitecaps in the opening round of the playoffs en route to a second consecutive MLS championship in 2012.
Caps coach Martin Rennie said his crew achieved an important goal by beating L.A.
"A win like today gives an extra belief and a spring to everybody's step," said Rennie. "We think it was a real significant win for us."
The Whitecaps also remained unbeaten at home in five games (3-0-2) this season.
Darren Mattocks also scored for the Whitecaps, while Gyasi Zardes replied for L.A.
Teibert, who has come up through Vancouver's youth program, started the Whitecaps' first-ever MLS game, but has played in only 20 MLS games. Saturday marked his fifth league game this season, surpassing the four in which he saw action in 2012.
'Supported my dream'
He made personal history with his parents looking on from the stands.
"It's huge," he said of playing in front of his mom and dad. "They supported my dream to become a professional athlete, a professional soccer player, so it was a little gift for him."
His performance was also a treat for his teammates. He helped the Whitecaps rally from an embarrassing 2-0 road loss to Real Salt Lake a week earlier. After the setback, Rennie blasted the team in a rare outburst, and midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker, who has been serving as the team's interim captain in recent weeks, called the club "soft."
"I'm very happy for him," said Reo-Coker, who assisted on Teibert's first goal. "I'm very happy that he finally [scored.] I see how hard he works. I've seen how hard he's worked since I've been here. ... It's a big achievement. He didn't start today."
All of the scoring came in the second half after scoring chances were few and far between in the first half.
Teibert's second goal on 76 minutes proved to be the winner as it gave Vancouver a 2-0 lead. He sent a through ball to the corner of the L.A. box where Gershon Koffie promptly passed it back to him for a left-footed strike.
After Teibert scored, teammate Jun Marques Davidson jokingly neatened the Canadian's Mohawk to make sure all hairs were pointing upward.
Teibert opened the scoring for the Whitecaps in the 63rd minute as he took a pass from Reo-Coker near the right corner of the L.A. box, cut back towards the middle and fired in a left-footed shot.
"I was always looking to shoot there," said Teibert. "I was coming in on my left foot and I have confidence in my left foot. So whenever I get that chance, I want to shoot it."
After netting his first MLS goal, Teibert pumped his fist in the air and ran to the Whitecaps bench and hugged teammates.
After Teibert's second goal increased Vancouver's lead, Zardes cut the Galaxy's deficit in half in the 86th minute as he headed in a Villarreal cross from the right flank.
But Mattocks secured the win in stoppage time as second-half substitute Jordan Harvey chested the ball to him near the goal-line and he jammed it past L.A. goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini, who had a strong game while making six saves. Mattocks, who led the team in scoring last season and had several near-misses lately including one in the first half when Cudincini stopped his header, ended a six-game goal drought.
"Obviously, it's the first one in a while … so that's a big relief," said Mattocks.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena chastised his players for losing concentration on the Jamaican's goal.
"That's ridiculous. We should not give up a goal there," said Arena. "That's poor play by a bunch of our players."
Teibert entered the game after Kobayashi left in the 14th minute with an ankle injury suffered about three minutes earlier. L.A. midfielder Mike Magee said Teibert's insertion changed the course of the game, and the star-studded Galaxy could not counter with a similar effort from one of its players.
"There were a couple other plays he was pretty dangerous on as well," said Magee. "So, that's the perfect example of what we didn't have. I'm not saying a sub coming on, but just a guy who can just kind of take the game. [He] went at players and made dangerous plays happen. Myself and the rest of us didn't do that."
The Whitecaps hope the victory will help them raise their level of play as they head east for the first leg of the Amway Canadian Champions final against the Montreal Impact on Wednesday and then return home for a league game against the Portland Timbers next weekend.
"Now, we have to use [the win over L.A.] as momentum to be a season-changer for us and try to grow as a team — and try and achieve what we want to achieve this year," said Reo-Coker.