Post Game Review #2: Whitecaps FC vs Iwaki FC (Island Blues…)

Image taken from Vancouver Whitecaps TwitterB

Less than 48 hours after dropping the preseason opener against V-Varen Nagasaki FC, the upstart Whitecaps were in action once again in the Aloha Stadium in Honolulu Hawaii, taking on another Japanese side in Iwaki FC. Having dropped their match 2-1 against Real Salt Lake, Iwaki were hungry to get into action, engaging in a match with quite a lot of tempo and enthusiasm for a 3rd place match in a friendly tournament. The Whitecaps showed some more tooth in attack today, with Yordy Reyna returning from injury and bringing the spark he usually provides, combined with some energetic performances from Brett Levis and Lass Bangoura on either wing. However, they struggled to convert their good chance creation into shots on target, failing to test both Iwaki keepers throughout the 90, despite some good efforts from good positions. They held it together at the back for 85 minutes, with a good save from Maxime Crepeau in the first half and some good fortune and good recoveries on some Zac MacMath giveaways, but they were undone when the young fullback Gabriel Escobar continued his unlucky play at this tournament by giving away a sloppy penalty. The Japanese outfit calmly put the penalty away off the leg of MacMath, who had gone the right way, sending the Whitecaps home from Hawaii with a 0-2 record. The Caps return to Vancouver, where they will continue to train and integrate some of the new faces brought in before heading down to California in the coming week, where they will face some good sides in LA Galaxy, LAFC and Club Tijuana to conclude the preseason.

First Half:

The Caps Starting 11 vs Iwaki (WhitecapsFC.com)

The Caps came out with some minor changes from the 11 that started on Friday, taking out Theo Bair for the now healthy Reyna, swapping Levis and PC from LB to LW and inserting Maxime Crepeau for Zac MacMath. The changes were positive, with Reyna providing good hold-up play and some dangerous runs, PC showing great hustle and desire and Levis getting a chance to show off the offensive side of his game. Crepeau had a solid 45 in net, as Marc Dos Santos gave him the opportunity play with the more experienced 11 today and he took it very well, showing solid shot stopping and decent distribution from the back. On a whole, the backline did struggle once again to consistently move the ball forward, which will be interesting to see how Erik Godoy and Jasser Khemiri perform on that regard, with Khemiri in particular being touted for his good ball playing ability when he was signed.

First-Half Positives:

PC continued to impress in different ways, showing off his energetic nature once again, this time from left back, going 85 minutes and providing a spark going forward and tracking back. It is evident to see that he is quite limited technically, with some aimless balls forward at times and a lack of a consistent first touch, but he more than makes up for it with his boundless energy. He may not be a big goalscorer or a heavy tackler for the Caps this season, but he will be a key lieutenant for Dos Santos to lean on in some key games. Yordy Reyna came out with fire, coming off a minor injury after scoring in the Caps Intrasquad game last week, providing some energy that was lacking at the front in the last match. He showcased some his famed dribbling ability that we were able to witness consistently last year, and made a few good runs into the box, with one left foot connection in particular just sailing over the bar after a good bit of interplay between him, PC and Andy Rose. It’ll be interesting to see if Dos Santos sees him more of a winger, the false 9 he played today or as a number 10, but he proved once again today that if put in the middle he can provide a good performance. Lass Bangoura continued to impress whenever getting on the ball, with his great first touch and willingness to take on defenders. He has good energy defensively as well, disrupting a few passing moves from the Iwaki backline when pressing forward. He is an excellent dribbler and got a few venomous balls into the box, which will be exciting for Caps fans as the club has appeared to found a very good replacement for the flair and pace Alphonso Davies brought on a regular basis last season. On the opposite flank, Brett Levis had a positive showing after a rough performance on Friday, playing some good balls and making some good runs while linking up with Reyna nicely. The midfield trio of Andy Rose, Felipe and Jon Erice put in a solid shift today, providing the Caps with some consistent play. As usual, Felipe won a lot of fouls and had some dangerous set-piece deliveries, giving a glimpse of what to expect going forward from him this season. Rose was energetic, prancing from box to box and making good plays on both ends, as Erice showcased his pinpoint passing once again despite receiving a lot fewer touches than what he got on Friday.

First-Half Negatives:

The backline continued to show some growing pains, with Doneil Henry and Derek Cornelius struggling at times on both sides of the ball, with some lacklustre marking on set pieces and crosses on the defensive end and uninspiring ball movement and a few missed open headers on the offensive side of things. It was disappointing to see from them, with Godoy and Khemiri not yet participating in game action it was a good chance for them to get ahead in the pecking order for the defensive rotation to start the season. With the others arriving in the coming week, they lost a chance to establish themselves in what is going to be a very interesting logjam to monitor going forward. After enduring Carl Robinson’s porous defensive record last season despite it usually being a staple of his 5-year reign, Caps fans will be keeping a close eye on the situation. Another disappointment was the Caps slow start, as they struggled to string passes together and achieve some form of defensive consistency for the first 15 minutes, which was often something that hindered them last season. It is not too big of a worry, however, as the preseason is meant for shaking off some of those offseason cobwebs, but it is something to look out for going forward to see if it becomes a trend or if it is just a blip on a growing teams radar.

Second Half:

The second half started out alright, with the Caps having good energy, but there were some shaky moments from the backline once again. With MacMath coming in for Crepeau, he had a wildly inconsistent half, at times showing off some great long passing, and at others giving away routine short passes that almost ended up turning into a few goals. As promised by Dos Santos, the starters got a lot more match time today, which was good to see as most went at least 60 and a few going 70+. The academy players got slowly integrated in throughout the half, avoiding the rough start that hampered them vs Nagasaki. They showed off good energy and decent ball movement once again as a few players had some bright moments, so it will be interesting to see who Dos Santos decides to bring along to California as the main roster starts to take shape.

Second-Half Positives:

The Caps starters used this extra playtime well, getting some good moves strung together from the midfield and attack. Theo Bair came in for Reyna at half time and had a good bounce-back performance, showing off better hold up play and some good attacking instincts. It was good to see as it will be positive for the young Canadian to keep on competing as new signing Joaquin Ardaiz and rumoured acquisition Fredy Montero join the camp in the next week or so. Young Georges Mukumbilwa impressed at right back, coming in for Scott Sutter and showing some good runs going forward and an impressive defensive work rate after a solid performance at right wing on Friday. Other youngsters Colyn and Norman. Jr performed well once again, showcasing some of their growth since signing last year as young prospects. Colyn always seems to have good ambition going forward and Norman.Jr has great tenacity that this fanbase will probably come to love over the next few years. After shaky ball movement from Cornelius and Henry for 60 minutes, it was positive to see Brendan McDonaugh and Norman.Jr come in and do very well in that regard, with McDonaugh in particular impressing once again with some excellent deliveries from the backline. Habibullah, Metcalfe, Cambridge and Quireoz were solid in their short cameos, which was also another positive to see. Quieroz in particular will be an interesting situation to monitor, as the young 22 year-old Brazilian is in here at camp on trial.

Second-Half Negatives:

Besides the Escobar and MacMath brain cramps, there was not much too negative to harp on the younger squad this half. It was unfortunate to concede the goal late as they did, but they showed good energy to try and pick up an equalizer, which was positive to see. The MacMath-Crepeau battle has gotten a lot more interesting after the performance today, with clarity probably not coming until the opening match of the MLS fixture list against Minnesota in early March.

Up Next:

The Caps are back to training in Vancouver for the next few days, before heading down to California for the affromented LA Galaxy, LAFC and Club Tijuana clashes. A lot of the new faces are expected to join the camp during this time, so we will see a lot of the key positional battles develop over this time period. Despite the losses, this tournament was a good opportunity for a lot of fresh faces to showcase themselves and for some familiar ones to shake off some rust as the camp will ramp up into high gear. The next few games will be key as we start to see a development of the “Dos Santos Way” we are expecting to consistently see from the White and Blue this coming season.


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