Post-Game Review #1: Whitecaps FC vs Minnesota United FC (Spoiling the Party)

Here is the first of our many match reviews to come during the season, where we go in-depth on the match that was.

After a long offseason, the Whitecaps finally got a chance to get out and play their first match in what promises to be an intriguing 2019 campaign. For fans, it was a chance to see the Caps for the first time at BC Place since last season, when Alphonso Davies ended off a relatively sour campaign on a high note, scoring 2 goals and sending himself off to German giants Bayern Munich. After all that had transpired in the 4 or so months since, it was a much needed opportunity to get the season underway and officially usher in the beginning of a new era. Clad in the much anticipated 40th anniversary hoop kit, the Caps came out flying, fuelled by the crowd as they looked to bring a good first impression to fans starved for some game action after an under-televised preseason. After only scoring twice in the 5 tune-up matches played, they left little time to get the MLS account up and running as they scored around 10 minutes in off a nice set-piece delivery. It looked like they were well on their way to a rampant debut victory to start off the Marc Dos Santos era, but alas it was not meant to be on the afternoon as they ended up fading after the first 20 minutes. Some individual mistakes ended up taking the air out of their tires, reminding us all that this is a pretty new team with a lot of new signings and not a lot of time to integrate them all together. All-in-all, there are a lot of positives to take from this outing, as most of the mistakes that the Caps made can be attributed to the growing pains associated with learning a whole new system. They have appeared to come a long way since their first preseason match a couple weeks ago, despite not having a full squad to train with since about a week and a half ago.

First Half:

The first half started out very well, with newcomer Erik Godoy getting on the board early with a set-piece goal after a wicked delivery by Yordy Reyna. Minnesota keeper Vito Mannone probably would have liked that one back, caught flat-footed on his line, but it was the kind of inswinging deliveries you hope to whip in from the wide areas, aiming for that corridor of uncertainty between the defensive line and the keeper. Often, you end up putting the ball either too far away from the goal to do anything with it or put it right in the keeper’s hands, so to see that kind of dangerous ball from Reyna early in the match was positive.

The first 20 minutes were very encouraging for the Whitecaps, as they showed a good indication of how they are going to be playing on a regular basis once they sort the minor issues out. Despite some misplaced balls to empty spaces where teammates should have been, they got some good interplay with the ball, with Hwang InBeom, Lass Bangoura and Jon Erice, in particular, getting some nice sequences where they fizzed it around and found space. Bangoura was menacing throughout the half, constantly swapping flanks and giving Minnesota full backs Francisco Calvo and Romain Metanire a lot to deal with. One bursting run in particular started around 40 yards out near the half-line, and ended with a foul on the edge of the area. The free kick routine left a lot to be desired, but those kinds of situations should sort themselves out as the season goes along. Bangoura and other winger Yordy Reyna were a handful in the half, with Reyna’s trickery and deceptive speed along with Bangoura’s technical aptitude and surprisingly fast acceleration giving the Caps a few chances with the balls they delivered and the fouls they won.

Fredy Montero was quiet and unassuming up top, but despite looking fatigued he did what he did best and held up the ball and distributed it out wide when he could, despite the backline and Erice giving him a lot too many high, long balls for my liking. Erice was pretty solid in the half, working hard defensively and playing his role as advertised and being a good leader, but at times the penchant for long balls and ambitious passes were kind of derailing the attacks they had going for them. Hopefully, those were just brought on due to the occasion and the fact that everyone is still developing an understanding with each other, cause otherwise he appears solid both defensively and going forward.

Felipe Martins, a player tipped to be an important part of the attacking side of the system, looked relatively lethargic most of the half. He made 27 passes, with an 88.9% accuracy, but most of them ended up being lateral and backwards. He had some moments of positive interplay with Erice, but for the most part, he ended up lagging on the ball a lot. He draws a lot of fouls with how effective he is at holding onto the ball, but for a team looking to release speedy wingers like Reyna, Bangoura and Lucas Venuto down its flanks, Felipe will have to speed up his game if the Caps are looking to get some more direct attacks going. He didn’t have a bad half, per se, but seeing how dynamic and fast Hwang was moving the ball around alongside him, it would have been nice to see Felipe join in on that. With the other midfield options being an untested 17-year-old in Simon Colyn and two industrial players in Russell Teibert and Andy Rose, Felipe will have to provide more going forward to compensate for his lack of mobility coming back.

As mentioned, Hwang was a revelation on the afternoon, running all over the park and being a sparkplug in the middle, as showcased by this run in the second half.

He was a bit timid at first, but grew into the game and ended up going a full 90, positive signs for someone who was unsure if he’d get the start or not for the match. He still has some adjusting to do, but a secondary assist and some good shots to go along with quality passes and dribbles is a good debut for someone who is going to be key for the Caps playoff hopes.

At the back, goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau was very calm on the ball, seizing his debut chance very nicely after a few people (myself included) had thought that the veteran MacMath would have started. Clearly, Crepeau had shown a lot in those close-doored friendlies and last week on training to merit the chance, and he took it well. Along with Doneil Henry and Godoy, they moved the ball around nicely and mopped up a lot of chances created by Minnesota in the half.

Godoy was particularly impressive, as he opened the scoring with a smart run and cool finish and was good on the defensive end, winning headers and being the commanding presence he was brought in to provide. His passing accuracy in the half (62.5%) is not ideal for someone who was on the ball a fair bit, but for the most part, he appeared to distribute relatively well and his play should soon put the memories of Kendall Waston to the back of most fans minds. Along with Henry, he defended well and kept the fort solid in the half, with the main chances originating from down the flanks. Henry as well had a few poor giveaways, but if him and Godoy iron those out there is no reason why they can’t form a good pairing for the Caps to rely on.

While the centre backs were doing well, the full backs were more of a mixed bag, not surprising from someone in Derek Cornelius who was new to the position but a lot more surprising from Jake Nerwinski, someone expected to be a key and consistent performer for this club. Cornelius is rather limited going forward, and his lack of mobility often hindered attacks down the left side as he wasn’t able to push up and provide passing support for the wingers and midfielders, and going back defensively he was doing ok. Nerwinski did better going forward, but it was his reckless lunge on a nothing play in the box that ended up undoing the Caps on the night. Hanging on after the good start had worn off, his challenge gifted Darwin Quintero. Jr a chance to open his account and he made no mistake, taking the BC Place crowd out of the match in the process. It was a surprising mistake from Nerwinski, who is usually reliable defensively, and it ended up taking his confidence for the rest of the match. All in all, a solid half, but one that should have left the Caps with a 1-0 lead, which they would come to rue in the second half.

Second Half:

The second half started out relatively tame, with Montero in particularly looking a little fresher after half-time. Hwang, Bangoura and Erice continued to show good chemistry, with some positive interplay down the left-hand side. It is enticing to imagine what a more attacking left back could have done in those kind of sequences, but they were nice to see nonetheless. Hwang really started to impose himself at this point, showing off some of the things that we had seen in the highlights reels and had heard from people who watched him regularly. He was composed on the ball, making smart turns and cuts in the midfield to open up space, while providing a good give and go options to Bangoura, Reyna and later Venuto when brought on. You can tell how well he thinks the game, as he will hold onto the ball to open up space when needed, but playing quick and direct when the opportunity presented himself. Look for him to really make an impact the next few weeks, a lot earlier than any of us would have imagined coming in but a very welcome sight to see nonetheless.

Crepeau, along with Henry and Godoy, continued to move the ball around relatively well, keeping Minnesota to the outside defensively. Henry really picked it up this match, giving hope that he can rediscover some of the talent that earned him a move to West Ham. However, all the positive work was undone around the 65th minute, when a move between Godoy, Erice and Bangoura fell apart and the other midfielders were caught too high up the pitch. It allowed one of the most dangerous players in the league, Quintero, a bit of space and did he ever use it well, crafting a delicious curled chip pass for Calvo to hop on and nod home easily. It was one of those passes that could breach even the most organized of lines, and just like that, the Caps were trailing.

Venuto was brought on for Bangoura, hoping to make an impact and he was lively, drawing a few fouls in the process. It all fell apart relatively soon after though, with Erice getting caught in possession pretty deep in his half, leaving Romario Ibarra plenty of space to whip a ball in, getting a fortunate bounce to slip the ball by an unsuspecting Crepeau. It was a tough one to swallow for the Caps, but it should provide some good lessons on the training ground this week. Refusing to succumb to the scoreline, MDS brought in Joaquin Ardaiz and PC for Felipe and Cornelius, shifting to an aggressive 4-4-2. It got the team going again, and somewhere Carl Robinson, clad in a nice sweater, smiled on as the Caps pulled some set-piece magic out again and got their second goal of the game, from the other defender, Henry.

It was a delicious ball from PC, leaving Henry to just nod the ball past a scrambling Mannone. It is always positive to see defenders score, so to see Godoy and Henry to open their accounts for the season will be good for their confidence. It was all they were able to muster up for the rest of the match, with a few chances, including a Hwang strike that missed by mere inches, going by the wayside. It allowed Minnesota a chance to leave with 3 points, something that they have never done away to Western opposition, and something only done twice total in their time in MLS.

BTSvancity player to watch:

For this match, we tipped newcomer Lass Bangoura as our player to watch, and he impressed, with good energy and skills throughout the match. He is very rapid, and it is tantalizing to imagine him running at MLS full backs if he can get some good distribution from the midfielders and adapt to the league. You can tell that it was a bit of an adjustment moving from the perfectly manicured grounds in Spain to the artificial surface of BC Place, but as he adapts it will not be an issue. Overall, a good debut from the winger and he should continue to impress as the season goes along.

MOTM:

Picking a man of the match is always hard under any circumstance, but today we will go for one of the few returnees in Yordy Reyna. He picked up where he left off last season, picking up an assist and running at defenders all night. He looked good as a winger, and it is easy to imagine him and Bangoura causing havoc on both flanks all season long. Look for Reyna to pick up a lot of assists once again this season, after picking up a team-high 11 last year that tied him with the outgoing Davies.

Picture taken by: Keveren Guillou, March 2nd, 2019 Minnesota vs Vancouver

Honourable Mentions: Hwang InBeom, Erik Godoy.

Moment of the Match:

Erik Godoy’s darting run early in the match set a good tempo for the match and got everyone in the building energized. After a preseason with not a lot of them, a goal was a very welcome sight for the fans at BC Place. It got the MDS era off to the good start, and despite the result, it gave some good impressions of what to come.

Funny Moment:

With all the new guys brought in, the supporters struggled with the announcement of the lineups before the match. Reyna and Felipe ended up getting the loudest receptions, mainly because they were the only names everyone was familiar with. The more complicated the name, the quieter it was as most fans tripped over the name or mumbled it out to avoid screaming it wrong. It is completely understandable, and it is part of the whole adjustment to the new guys. Look for a better attempt against Seattle in a few weeks.

Quote of the Match:

“There’s a lot of moments that we have possession and suddenly we make the decision to go over the top, looking for Fredy between Boxall and Opara. That’s bad decision-making. (…)I don’t want to make the excuse of chemistry, we know it’s a real thing, but I want to focus on the soccer part” -Marc Dos Santos during the post-match press conference.

Was rather refreshing to hear Dos Santos bring this up on his own accord, acknowledging the fact that the Caps did way too many long balls for the kind of personnel they had, making it tough for Montero against the beast of a man that is Ike Opara. If Kei Kamara had still been around, it can be used as a viable option, but with the personnel they got they need to keep the ball on the floor to generate chances so look for Dos Santos to harp on that during training. It was overall pretty refreshing takes from Dos Santos, looking at what his side did well and didn’t do well instead of being overly complimentary to the opposition and lamenting the fine lines of the game. Carl Robinson’s press conferences provided good protection for the players, but it is refreshing from a Media point of view to get some blunt takes on the match.

*Honorable mention to his answer on Hwang InBeom, as it was a first chance for BTSvancity to attend a press conference and ask a question! More of a personal side note for us, but hopefully, we can continue attending and ask more questions in the future. Check out his full presser here:

Score Predictions:

As outlined in our preview, here is what our team thought would go down.

Alexandre: 2-0 Whitecaps, Montero and Felipe the goals.

Karim: 1-0 Whitecaps, Reyna goal

Keveren: 2-0 Whitecaps, Montero and Reyna goals

Jan: 2-1 Whitecaps, Reyna and Bangoura Scoring, with Quintero tallying for the Loons.

So far, Jan takes the lead with 2 points, and Alex and Keveren are tied with 1 point. All 3 got the Caps tally correct, however, no one got the result, Minnesota’s tally or the Caps goalscorers correct. Jan takes the lead as he correctly predicted that Quintero would score. Karim remains in last with 0 points.

Looking Forward:

A good week of training is ahead of the club, as they look to use all the practice time they got as they look to catch up after being behind on the preseason. A few players have only been here a week, so this time is valuable to get them integrated with the others as everyone grasps the new system. In 6 days they take on conference rivals in Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, a matchup that hasn’t been too kind to the team the last few years. It has been a tough matchup for the away teams when these two play, with RSL getting some big results at home and the Whitecaps returning the favour at BC Place. Look for MDS and his squad, reportedly growing with the addition of an unnamed left-back, to look and change that and bring back the first 3 points of his tenure.

15:00 PST, Salt Lake City

Reyna and Erice photos taken by: Keveren Guillou, March 2nd, 2019 Minnesota vs Vancouver

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