After dropping the ball in what had been a disappointing away performance away to Orlando City, the Vancouver Whitecaps returned home to face the upstart Philadelphia Union in a tense home clash. Chasing that elusive second victory of the season, the Caps started out the match on the front foot, taking the game to the Union, dictating the pace and tempo of the match. They were rewarded for their efforts, ending the half up by one goal thanks to some Doneil Henry aerial magic, but they were not able to convert some of their glorious chances into goals, as the 1-0 scoreline was not indicative or rewarding of the performance they had provided. As has been the case over the years in Whitecaps lore, this would come to bite them in the end, with the Caps giving up a goal in the middle of the second half, giving the match a disappointing end, at least from a Vancouver perspective. While many may look to the match and point out that Vancouver turned up with one of their most complete performances of the season, the fact remains that they were unable to find 3 points once again. The lone point may salivate a bit of confidence heading into their showdown against fellow basement dwellers Colorado next Friday, but for now, they are left licking their wounds and asking the famous question once again: “What could have been?”
Yordy Reyna led the charge from the get-go, creating chances for himself while injecting life into a Whitecaps squad in dire need of it. Throughout the first half, Vancouver looked the likeliest team to score, and it wasn’t until the 41st minute that the Philadelphia net was found. Doneil Henry’s 42nd-minute header off an Ali Adnan corner put the Whitecaps in front, providing a much-needed reward for their insistent hard-work. It was Henry’s second tally of the somewhat young season, putting him at the top of the Whitecaps scoring list as goals remain hard to come by for the Marc Dos Santos squad.
The boys in white were right to be happy with their performance heading into the dressing room at the interval, but surely Marc Dos Santos would have liked to be up by more than the single goal at that point, considering the number of chances created. It seemed an eventuality that Vancouver’s inability to capitalize further on their first-half display would allow for Philadelphia to find a path back into the game and cost the Caps two points once again, as their knack for allowing really untimely goals seemed likely to come about at any moment.
The second half didn’t start off the way Vancouver had hoped. Once again Yordy Reyna had a clean look at the goal and neatly chipped it over Matt Freese into the gaping Union cage, but it was subsequently disallowed as his run was judged to be offside. That would be the last big impact the Peruvian international provided to the match, as ten minutes later he suffered what appears to be a muscle injury that forced a substitution. Joaquin Ardaiz took his place up top for the remaining twenty-five minutes of the match.
With their best attacker on the afternoon now forced to watch from the sidelines, the Caps were left to wonder where the second goal was to come for. It turned out to not come from them, as in the 66th minute, Ali Adnan got dispossessed by Jamiro Monteiro of the Philadelphia Union and Przybyłko was quicker than Doneil Henry to get into a scoring position before putting a perfectly placed low shot in the far corner of Maxime Crepeau’s goal. It was an excellently taken chance by Przybyłko to get a half step ahead of Henry and beating Crepeau from a tight angle. It was Henry’s only real miscue in the match, although he can’t be entirely blamed for the goal.
The equalizer led to a pushback from Vancouver, but Philadelphia held firm. Marc Dos Santos made his second (and interestingly his last)substitution of the game in the 79th minute, bringing on Lass Bangoura for PC. To the dismay of the Vancouver crowd, the Philadelphia goal was not found for the second time in this one and Marc Dos Santos side were left to lament poorly-taken chances, a familiar theme so far this campaign.
Vancouver played solidly throughout the match. They wouldn’t be wrong to think that a win was there for the taking in front of them, but it is at the front of the pitch where the extra two points were lost. Despite a costly lapse at the back, there was everything there for Vancouver to grab a few more goals and bail out Ali Adnan for his giveaway. Marc Dos Santos has seemed to find a good formula with Yordy Reyna at the number nine position, but he may be forced into once again shuffling his attacking trio for next week in Denver, bringing up the possibility of Fredy Montero and Joaquin Ardaiz to return and win back the trust of Marc Dos Santos as the leading talisman for the club.
After a short break from action, Maxime Crepeau returned to the sticks, putting in a solid shift once again. One attribute that is admirable of the Canadian is his consistency, which has solidified the backline immensely. While it may be easy to point to the massive improvement made by Doneil Henry in front of him, along with the arrival of Erik Godoy, but Crepeau has proven his worth as well, showing that he can play consistently at this level. While it would be nice to see him rewarded with some more Clean Sheets for his efforts, he can look in the mirror and be confident in his 2019 season to date.
Speaking of Henry and Godoy, they were solid once again on the 90. While it was disappointing to see Henry burned hard on the goal the Caps conceded, he turned up with a workmanlike performance, marshalling the backline with his leadership and athleticism. (Editors Note: MLS certainly agreed with us on that statement, naming him to the MLS Team of the Week and also naming him MLS Player of the Week!). His growth from last year has been stupendous and has been one of the bright spots this season. With Erik Godoy being exactly as advertised and more, the Caps have seemed to leave their 2018 defensive woes behind them (*Knock on Wood).
Out at full back, we saw Jake Nerwinski and Ali Adnan once again paired together after Nerwinski sat out the Orlando match, as the pair that had worked so well against LAFC in that first victory had the chance to prove their worth once again. Nerwinski was solid, limiting mistakes and making decent forays forward, as he continues his redemption arc after a disappointing start to the season. With him and Sutter trading solid performances, the supposed right back woes from weeks ago have seemed to erode. On the other side, Ali Adnan continued to show flashes of the player that Marc Dos Santos has christened “the best left back in MLS”, or at least on the offensive side of things. While his defence has been a commendable attribute so far in his time in MLS, his shaky defensive lapses that he can be prone to have reared its uglier head in the second half, as a poor turnover was the immediate catalyst to Philadelphia’s lone tally. While the talented Iraqi should bounce back from the unfortunate error, seeing an individual error like that one undo the Caps left a sour taste in the mouths of many Caps fans.
In the middle, we saw a return of the Russell Teibert, Hwang InBeom and Jon Erice trio, as they were broken apart due to the rotation done in the Orlando affair. Once again, they proved they can at least competently hack it together, controlling most of the game and being key catalysts to the Dos Santos way of doing things. Each player has such different attributes, with Erice being the creative, deep-lying hub, Hwang the energizer bunny that commands the game from box-to-box, and Teibert the engine that presses high up the field and busts back to ensure defensive solidity. While it is clear the Caps could benefit from the presence of another quality DP at the position, at least to vault themselves into top team status, these three showed that they still have the quality to compete in MLS.
Up front, we once again saw the PC, Lucas Venuto and Yordy Reyna trio reunited, after a sparkling showing against LAFC in that key victory. And, as like in that match, they were dominant, pressing hard and creating chances. Reyna, in particular, was unplayable on the night, running at defenders, getting onto balls and creating chances. It was the kind of performance you hope to see rewarded, but Reyna was unfortunately denied that right when his great run and subsequent chip was disallowed due to an offside, denying the Peruvian what would have been his second goal of the season. It was disappointing to see him carted off with the injury, as he had appeared to be the answer to Vancouver’s striking woes, but it has sadly been indicative of the kind of poor luck he has had over the last little while. On the wings, the Brazilian duo was solid once again, with PC grinding all match, pressing hard as usual while Venuto sparkled offensively. They have quite contrasting styles, with Venuto preferring to take guys on and run while PC plays off the midfielders and loves to shoot, but they have found a way to compliment each other nicely. Venuto was nearly unplayable on the afternoon, picking up chance after chance, but was just unable to find a way to score, disappointing considering the impact he had. Hopefully, he can find that goal as the Caps face Colorado last week, as he has done all but finish so far this season.
Lastly, we had the substitutes, which for the first time this season only amounted to two players. They ended up being Joaquin Ardaiz, who turned in a good shift after a listless performance against Orlando, and Lass Bangoura, who ran at defenders and did the things that makes him such a tantalizing player. While it was a small sample size for either, seeing the chances they created when brought on the pitch gives them both a shout to be considered for selection next time out. Ardaiz needs a bit of luck, as he was once again denied by the post, as he looks to find form and confidence as he feels out the tough love brought to him by Dos Santos. He is a good player, and he can be a difference-maker, but he has a lot of inconsistencies to sort out. For Bangoura, he constantly shows flashes of the top player he can be but needs to find a way to string out his performances over a longer period of time, as his flashes of brilliance can be often met by lulls in energy.
BTSVancity Player to Watch:
Our player to watch for this week was Yordy Reyna, who rewarded our faith in him with a dazzling performance in front of the BC Place lights. While fans may leave with a sour taste in their mouth as his injury status remains unclear, he was still outstanding on the night and now fans will impatiently await his return as he begins his recovery.
As well as being our player to watch, Yordy Reyna was also our Man of the Match, as his performance was excellent, as mentioned. Special Shoutout to Doneil Henry, who led our poll on Instagram, as he had an excellent match as well.
Honourable Mentions: Doneil Henry, Lucas Venuto, PC