After a strong performance in the week prior against Dallas, the Vancouver Whitecaps took a step back in this one as they drew with Toronto in one of the most forgettable matches of the 2019 season to date. With Toronto coming into the game only having picked up 1 point in their last 5 matches, it was expected that Vancouver could at the very least pick up some goals and provide an entertaining match for the home crowd at BC Place. Instead, both teams struggled to create any meaningful chances, with Vancouver’s only shot on target coming via the penalty spot, while Toronto came close on a few occasions as Terrence Boyd had a night to forget offensively for the visitors. After seeing a match like that one, a big positive that can be taken from it is that the Caps get 22 days off until their next game, as many players looked like they could benefit from a nice long break as they come off what has been a gruelling month that took a nasty toll on them. While some of the players do have international commitments that may take a lot out of them in the long run, getting some players fit and healthy for the stretch run may end up being the biggest benefit taken from this break. Even though it was an uneventful game, there is still a decent amount to unpack, so we’ll get right into the usual post-match analysis!
The match started off on a high note, with the 1979 NASL Soccer Bowl Champion Vancouver team getting honoured as the club officially celebrated that famed championship that inspired a city 40 years ago. With some of the original members of that team in attendance, they got a loud cheer from the stadium, one that seemed noticeably more packed, as many fans returned as the Caps released a statement this week announcing the start of an independent review on safe sport practices. Not only that, fans seemed to bring back some of that energy that has made BC Place a respected venue amongst MLS franchises, leading chants and being very loud all night despite a boring match.
The game started off a bit scrambly, with both teams trying to feel out the other to start the match. Both going with matching 3-5-2 formations, it was a case of who was going to figure the other one out the fastest, not too dissimilar to a boxing match. Because of that, or fatigue from both clubs, the game took a long time to get going, with the half ending without much of a memorable moment. Terrence Boyd got what was probably the best chance of the half, getting in behind the Vancouver back 3, but scuffing his shot at Max Crepeau. Otherwise, Lucas Venuto had some good runs, Erik Godoy thought he was Steven Gerrard as he ventured forward and one of Toronto’s best players on the evening in Chris Mavinga was pulled off with an injury.
After living through what many(including MDS Post-Match) had dubbed the worst first half of the season, the second half started with much of the same, with a few chances gone to the wayside, including a dipping effort from Inbeom Hwang and a chance from Fredy Montero narrowly missing the target.
Despite the game being even in terms of who carried the run of play, Toronto was better at creating chances, getting a few chances at goal and testing Max Crepeau. Marky Delgado had a nice strike at goal in the 69th minute, forcing a nice extended fingertip save from the Canadian International, as he kept the game deadlocked and primed for a nil-nil finish.
Right after, the Caps sprung Yordy Reyna, as he came on as a substitute after an extended period of time out with an injury. He did not look off his usual standard at all, immediately getting in behind and creating a chance for Fredy Montero that the Colombian just looped over the hands and goal of Quinten Westberg, the best chance or the Caps in that first 70, an indicative of how the match ended up going for them offensively.
From that point on, the game started to open up, as the introduction of Reyna added a little oomph to a game that badly needed it. It gave the Caps a slight lifeline in a match that seemed destined to go the full 90 without a goal and gave hope that fans could leave the building satisfied, with a positive result behind them.
But Toronto continued to attack, getting closer and closer as Jozy Altidore and Alejandro Pozuelo both had close cracks at goal that only stayed out thanks to some Max Crepeau magic. While Toronto’s chances were improving, Crepeau was on his game tonight, so it was hoped that if the Caps could pick up that precious goal that it would be enough to leave with the 3 points firmly snatched and in the bag.
And that vaunted goal came, as the Caps get out of jail card came into effect. Yordy Reyna got into a bit of space and showed some of the form that made his loss at the beginning of this month so frustrating, twisting in and out of Toronto defenders, getting behind Drew Moor and drawing a clumsy foul, granting the Caps an 84th-minute penalty. Surprisingly, Moor was not booked, despite being on a yellow and denying Reyna a clear and obvious goal scoring opportunity, but Vancouver more than gladly took the free chance to score, with Fredy Montero continuing his decent run of late and slotting home his 4th goal in 6 games, giving the Caps a lead with less than 10 minutes to go.
But instead, as Whitecaps of old tended to do, they did not make it easy for themselves, falling back onto the back foot as Toronto sent wave after wave of attack at the deep-lying Caps defensive line. Pozuelo got the space he had so badly chased throughout the game, getting into the box and firing one just off the outside the post, giving the Caps a warning shot in the 86th minute, as the game seemed destined for an exciting finish.
And that warning shot proved to be poetic, as the real dagger was planted mere minutes later, as Toronto found an unlikely goal through a jammed Nick DeLeon cross as it hit Adnan in a sensitive area and deflected past an unsuspecting Max Crepeau. It was a gut punch for the Caps, as a victory heading into the break would have been much appreciated after a long month.
Instead, they were left to lick their wounds as the match finished 1-1, a fair result considering the overall complexion of the match but one of those in which either team was left to lament missed chances. While the match looked bad on an individual level, with Vancouver turning in a poor offensive performance, it caps off what was overall a successful month, picking up points in 7 of their last 8 matches. Look for them to come off the break rejuvenated as they find themselves back in the playoff hunt heading into the second half of the season.
Maxime Crepeau put in another quality shift in goal, giving strong credentials to show those who may not believe that he should be an MLS All-Star this season. He steps it up every game, improving on his performances and showing why many believe he can even start a few games for Canada this Gold Cup. He stops shots, claims crosses, and commands his area like a seasoned veteran, giving the Caps a chance to play without fear, knowing that the former Impact man will be there to save the day. His distribution has been great as well, with him now churning out a highlight reel pass or 5 every game, along with some nifty dribbling moves, shown off when he dropped Pozuelo with a turn he had no business making late in the first half. He has been the Caps MVP so far this season, and will likely carry the bulk of the Caps playoff hopes in the second half.
The back 3 was solid once again, doing a great job in limiting most of Toronto’s chances on the evening. While the return of Doneil Henry and the debut of Jhesser Khemiri will help out the continued implementation of this back 3 in the long run, Erik Godoy, Andy Rose and Derek Cornelius have been nothing short of excellent the last 3 matches. While they have their few hairy moments, they play very well together and do all the little things well, holding a strong line, moving the forward up and into more offensive phases of play and winning aerial duels. They have continued to reinforce the confidence that fans can now have in their defenders and goalkeeper, a far cry from the defensive nightmare they were a year ago.
At full back, we saw Ali Adnan and Scott Sutter, with Sutter making his first home start this season, as he has been primarily used away from home. He was excellent in this one, getting forward and whipping in some dangerous balls while maintaining defensive solidity as Justin Morrow struggled to get much going against him. While he had a hairy moment early in the second, when his errant back pass evaded the last defender and ended up in Jozy Altidore’s feet before the big lad got taken out, he was excellent on the ball, showing off his veteran composure. On the other side, Adnan was world class, as usual, doing all the little things he does so well. While it was one of his more quiet nights offensively, he created some decent chances when he ventured forward, with some dangerous balls lacking end product and a shot from him creating a bit of a scramble in the box. His presence defensively was immense as usual, as his physical presence forced the Toronto big boys in Boyd and Altidore to stick more central, as they would get bullied when they ventured out wide to get service.
In the middle, we once again saw the preferred midfield 3 of Russell Teibert, Jon Erice and InBeom Hwang, as Marc Dos Santos stuck with the guys that have been bringing him success of late. While it was more of a quiet night for them, with Hwang looking really tired and Teibert struggling to get on the ball as much as he usually does, they still were solid and managed to not get overrun by Pozuelo and company in the Toronto midfield. Jon Erice was calm as usual on the ball, looking confident as ever as he sprayed passes all over the pitch, finding targets out of nowhere with his pinpoint pass accuracy. They should all benefit from the break, with Erice, in particular, benefitting from his chance to rest after playing most of the Caps first 16 games to date. While Hwang and Teibert look like they could benefit from the same rest, they will both be off to represent their countries in the coming weeks, with Hwang slated to feature in a pair of friendlies for South Korea, while Teibert will suit up for Canada at the Gold Cup. Hwang will get a chance to get some extended rest after the two matches, however, as he will stay a few extra days in Korea to see family and enjoy a bit of a break before returning to Vancouver to prepare for their next match against Colorado in 23 days.
Up top, the partnership of Lucas Venuto and Fredy Montero stayed intact, and they had their moments on the evening, with Venuto being electric and Montero being reliable. Venuto has been an interesting conundrum so far this season, as he often looks like the most entertaining Caps player to watch on the pitch, but struggles severely with his end product, lacking key decisions when he finds himself with great chances to score. It has become frustrating, as he looks to be someone that can impact games, but he needs to figure out soon because it is games like these in which a timely goal from one of his chances could have been extremely beneficial in terms of maintaining playoff hopes. Alongside him, Montero continued his good run of form of late, holding up the ball, drawing fouls and getting a few attempts at goal. While the service to him has been a bit lacklustre at times, he has found a way to impact games of late, picking up goals and creating chances for others. With Reyna back and fit, the 3-5-2 looking good and Venuto’s struggles with decision making, a Reyna-Montero partnership might not be the worst idea the next match as the two could potentially show off some of the chemistry that they showed back in 2017, giving the Caps a little more tooth up front.
Off the bench, we saw the introduction of Reyna, Felipe and PC, as MDS had to deal with a bit of depleted bench in terms of attacking options. Reyna was electric in his minutes, putting in a commendable performance, while Felipe and PC were decent in trying to patch up the game and provide a bit of hard work. With the game being lethargic as it is, it would have been nice if the Caps could have introduced a Lass Bangoura or a Joaquin Ardaiz, but due to injuries, they had to keep things a little more conservative. They were smart subs from MDS, but the last two did little to push the needle in the game as the Reyna one was able to do.
BTSVancity Player to Watch:
We tipped the Iraqi international as a player to watch in this one, and he delivered, putting in a solid shift. While it would have been nice to see some of the magic he showcased on his goal last week, it’s hard for a full back to get a chance to do that every week so dependable play is everything you can expect and need in a match like this. Hopefully, he can stay and we can see more moments like that in the future!
Man of the Match:
Our man of the match award in this one goes to Crepeau, as he was outstanding in goal for the Caps once again. He was unlucky not to get a clean sheet, as his saves kept the Caps in the game, and he has grown to be such a key part of everything the team does in terms of building up the play and helping out the defence. Should be exciting to keep an eye on him as he heads into the Gold Cup in scorching form.
Honourable Mentions: Scott Sutter, Yordy Reyna
Tweet of the Match:
While this tweet was not exactly promoting MLS or this match, it summed it up pretty well. While it sucked to see the match be so poor, it was the last match before a break and it sure looked like it, as it was not the greatest display to witness. Hopefully, Chapman gets to see a better match next time he tunes in when Vancouver is playing.
Moment of the Match:
It was very sad news to hear about the passing of the young SFU centre back the last week, so the tribute done by the Whitecaps and Southsiders was very classy and a great way to appreciate the life of one who was taken from this planet way too soon.
Stat of the Match:
The Caps had one shot on target in this one, and it came from……..the Fredy Montero penalty goal. When that is your only shot on target in a match, it shows why many were less than complimentary of this match.
Second Stat of the Match:
Montero is quietly heating up, starting to get in form here as the second half begins. Will be interesting to keep an eye on him as summer goes along and he continues to pick up goals.
Interesting to note that the one time we were overly complimentary of an opposing player on twitter he pulled out early with an injury. Was too bad for Mavinga, who had an excellent night for TFC.
Glass Half Full:
Even in a dull affair like this one, the Caps pull a little magic out of the hat. Gonna be exciting as they keep improving that part of their game.
The Caps return to BC Place in 23 days, taking on the Colorado Rapids in what promises to be an entertaining clash as Kei Kamara makes his return to BC Place. After participating in an entertaining and aptly named “Toilet Bowl” just over a month ago, it may be the best occasion for the return fixture fresh off the international break with a few key names missing. Until then, enjoy the start of the Women’s World Cup, the Gold Cup, Copa America and AFCON.
June 22nd, 19:00 PST vs Colorado, BC Place.