While it may not have been exactly how they would have drawn things up, the Vancouver Whitecaps continued their strong run of form on Wednesday, as they drew a Dallas FC side fresh off a commanding 3-0 win a few days prior. Despite picking up 1 crucial road point down in Frisco, the Caps will feel hard done by the result, as they were lethargic on most of the evening, finding their moments of inspiration late in what mostly a shocking performance from the White and Blue. Despite that, they now head to Seattle with points in 9 of their last 10 matches, which is a good run of form all things considered. While their staggering amount of draws as of late has been concerning, they have been playing with a depleted lineup for the last 2 months, as the injury bug and then the international break has ravaged Marc Dos Santos’s squad. It was a strange affair down at Toyota Stadium in Texas, so we’ll jump right into our review of the muggy midweek affair.
As mentioned, it was a humid affair down in Dallas, so it was no surprise to see both teams come out flying as they chased a goal before the heat started to get to them both mentally and physically. Vancouver got the first big chance of the game, as Fredy Montero found himself alone in the box less than 5 minutes in, but he was unable to jam his strike through the legs of Jesse Gonzalez.
The Caps fell into a bit of a lull after that chance, as they dominated possession but were unable to create any meaningful chances. Despite looking in control of the match, they were not finding any end product, as most of their attacks would die out before even reaching the box. While it usually would have been positive to see Vancouver control the possession game away from home, Dallas was much more dominant in the chance-creation department, as Dom Badji, Paxton Pomykal and Reto Ziegler all finding good chances at goal, with Ziegler’s effort off a corner being cleared just off the line by Jon Erice, putting Vancouver under the sword the first 30 minutes of play.
The Whitecaps next best chance came at the feet of Montero once again, as he found himself all alone after a great ball from Scott Sutter, bringing down an aerial ball with skill, before scuffing the ensuing shot right at Gonzalez. It was disappointing to see from the Colombian, who has struggled at converting chances, finding only 2 of his 6 goals from open play so far this season.
Despite Dallas creating a few more chances after that, including a scramble inside the box where Jesus Ferreira shot the ball off Brendan McDonaugh’s chest and onto the crossbar, before getting cleared out of danger by the Caps. So, when the referee blew for half-time and it was still 0-0, Vancouver was surely thanking it’s lucky stars that Dallas had not pounced on any of the glorious opportunities they had created.
Heading into the second half, Peter Galindo’s graph summed up exactly everything that had gone wrong with the Caps offensively up to that point. In order to bring home all 3 points, Vancouver was going to have to find an inspiration going forward, and find it fast.
Soon after, seemingly having heard the cries from Whitecaps faithful across the land, the Caps created a glorious chance, with Felipe’s juicy ball into the middle landing right into Fredy Montero’s wheelhouse for a spectacular volley, or at least what should have bee one as Montero came up empty on his swing, striking out on yet another chance and continuing a frustrating outing offensively for the Caps.
And, as only the Caps can do, they conceded not long after, with the Montero miss fresh in their minds. VAR, having taken a break from harassing the Caps, instead hassling the various international tournaments going on abroad, came back to haunt the Caps once again, as Dallas opened the scoring on what appeared to be an offside play, with Micheal Barrios getting in behind before squaring the ball to Jesus Ferreira.
While there may be all sorts of excuses for this call, with it being understandably hard to tell given the (lack of) quality replays available on television, the fact that they did not even bother go and check the screens and review screams volumes about how VAR has been implemented in MLS. While people may bemoan more stoppage time and the pace of the game as impediments caused by VAR, the fact of the matter remains that the referees in MLS have been too reluctant to use the technology available to them, ignoring potential mishaps such as this one by trusting some invisible voice in the ear telling them to not even peek at the screens.
But, as they have been forced to do many times this season, the Caps marched on, with the ammunition of the missed calls propelling them on as they tried to now come back from the negative scoreline.
Or at least they should have. Instead, they came up flat, as Dallas scored nearly right after, with Ferreira almost picking up a quick brace, as Zac MacMath’s hands denied him with a solid stop. But the onslaught continued for Dallas, and they were finally rewarded for their efforts when they doubled their lead only 4 minutes later, as MacMath was slow to react to what appeared to be an Andy Rose deflection, diving the wrong way as the ball haplessly trickled by him and giving Dallas what appeared to be a near impenetrable lead.
Up 2-0 at home, with the Caps looking fatigued due to the heat and the Colorado match, Dallas was in cruise control, and they continued to press, nearly scoring with a Dom Badji chance being struck right into the bell logo on his kit, sending a warning sign to Vancouver that time was running thin and that they were ready to go for the jugular.
But, down 2-0, that warning sign was everything they needed. Dos Santos brought on Jake Nerwinski and Brett Levis in a curious double full back swap, after having brought on Lucas Venuto not long before that, using all three of his subs and going for it.
Despite the defensive nature of those subs, it ended up working wonders for Vancouver, as everyone seemed to perk up at the thought of a possible comeback. They started to generate some more traction going forward and were rewarded soon after in the 80th minute when a Jon Erice pass from the midfield broke apart the Dallas midfield and forward press, slicing through 3 players to find Lucas Venuto at the top of the box. Freed up by the pure genius of the ball, Venuto had space to find Yordy Reyna beside him, who struck the ball marvellously with his weak foot, finding the top left corner and giving Vancouver some hope.
All of a sudden, Vancouver were back in the match, and it seemed only a matter of when, not if they were going to tie things up.
And boy did they sure ever leave it late. Deep into stoppage time, 4 minutes out of what was supposed to be 6 of added on minutes, Lucas Venuto received the ball from Andy Rose and did exactly what no one expected him to do, which was slam the ball from 25 yards out past Jesse Gonzalez. It was a dream finish for Vancouver, and it was certainly surprising to see Venuto, who has struggled to finish chances in the box all season for Vancouver, pull up and strike one from distance. He now has 3 goals this season, a paltry total but one that nonetheless has him tied for second on the Caps with Yordy Reyna, only behind Montero and his 6.
Despite some late theatrics from the referee, who booked Ali Adnan for dissent after refusing to come off injured, setting off a boostorm from the Dallas supporters. But despite the shenanigans, Vancouver held on for the draw, continuing their points run. While it was not ideal, it was certainly inspiring to see this squad come back from a precarious scoreline, down several key players, after doing the same a few days prior, so they didn’t have much to complain about on that front. While they obviously have some warts to sort out over 90 minutes, including defending early in matches and getting the ball into the opponent’s box, the hustle and fire have not been lacking late from this bunch of late.
In goal, it was a mixed game from ZacMacMath, who continues to confuse many of the Whitecaps faithful with his performances. While it his clear he is a decent keeper, he has some moments which makes you question why the Caps gave up Nico Mezquida and money to bring him over, as Max Crepeau has been miles better than the MLS vet this season. He has good shot-stopping ability, making most of the routine saves, but often seems to be off his toes, looking slow on some strikes that should be easy for most keepers. There is no better example than the second goal, as MacMath was caught leaning the wrong way as the ball took a deflection and went in. While it is harsh to fault a goalkeeper on any deflection in any situation, he could have done a lot better than what he did. But, besides that one moment, he did pretty good in the grand scheme of things, with his saves in the first half keeping his team in the game. At this point of the season, it appears that he will be a solid backup for Vancouver, but it will be interesting to see if he stays, as Vancouver may want to get some assets for him since it’s uncomfortable to have a backup keeper making more than the starter, like they have in this case with MacMath bringing home quite a bit more than Crepeau.
At the back, we saw a return of a 5 at the back led by Erik Godoy, Andy Rose, Brendan McDonaugh, Ali Adnan and Scott Sutter. It was a big night for McDonaugh, in particular, as he made his MLS debut after being picked in the second round of the SuperDraft this past winter. He looked great, showing composure beyond his years as he slid into Dos Santos’s back 3 without much of a sweat. It showed the great work done by Vancouver’s U23 development squad, as they have been working with the youngsters on the same tactics as the first team, allowing for smoother integration across all levels of the squad. It will truly start to show it’s value the next few years as they find a new league and continue to give a home to young Vancouver talent.
Godoy and Rose were solid in alongside McDonaugh, as they did some solid work to keep the game level the first half. While they played a lot deeper than they usually do, they did a good job at getting in front of shots and keeping tidy in possession. The 3 of them don’t have much of the blame to shoulder on the first goal, where a neat (and offside) run from Micheal Barrios broke them apart, and they were unlucky on the second goal as the ball bounced off of Rose and in. While it appears that their best back 3 may end up being Godoy alongside Doneil Henry and Derek Cornelius, the performances of Rose and McDonaugh have shown that the position is in great hands, while the potential debut of Jhesser Khemiri provides excitement for the future.
Out at full back, Adnan and Sutter were solid going forward, pressing high up the pitch to provide width, but it came with a risk, as there were often moments where they were caught way too high up, unable to track back and leaving space for the speedy Dallas wide men. After a man of the match performance against Colorado, it was disappointing to see from Adnan, as one of his best assets is that he provides values both going forward and coming back, allowing for tactical flexibility. Sutter was less guilty of defensive lapses, but he appeared unable to keep up with the speed in the second half, so he made way for Jake Nerwinski as the Caps made a full back for full back sub for the second match in a row. Besides that, it was another solid performance for the Englishman.
In the middle, it was a pretty anonymous performance from the three pivots, as Jon Erice, Hwang InBeom and Felipe were quiet for most of the match, which was not necessarily the worst thing, but disappointing to see from a fan’s perspective. Defensively, they were anonymous at times, with the second goal being a prime example, as they struggled to track back and close down space on Hollingshead, allowing him to get a shot off. Offensively, they were better, as Hwang got a few chances, Felipe was lively and Erice made a great pass on the first goal, providing Vancouver with opportunities going forward. While it would have been nice to see some more work done defensively, they have all shown to be better in that regard, so chalk it up as fatigue caused by the conditions.
Up front, we saw the return of the Yordy Reyna and Fredy Montero as a duo, and once again they played a huge role in generating offence, with Reyna finding the net on his strike, and Montero getting himself into good areas, just lacking that finishing touch. While it was pretty painful to watch him waste away chance after chance, seeing him get into those positions is positive after seeing him left on an island early into the season. Reyna has been a revelation of late, as he has come on in his new role centrally, wreaking havoc with his dribbling and his ambition going forward. After looking like a possible trade candidate early in the season, he looks crucial to the MDS offence going forward.
Off the bench, Brett Levis and Jake Nerwinski were useful off the bench, doing nothing of note but solidifying the flanks and adding energy to push forward and drop back, giving the attackers less to worry about defensively. The big sub, however, was Lucas Venuto, who came on and had one of his best matches of the season, picking up 1 goal and 1 assist as he helped Vancouver get right back into the game. It was certainly positive to see, as he has struggled a lot of the season with his end product, frustrating fans due to his heftier transfer fee, so if he is able to continue this run it will go a long way to keeping the twitter fiends off his back.
Man of the Match: Lucas Venuto
There was only one man who could receive this award after this one, and it was Venuto. After a decent match against Colorado, he was removed in favour of McDonaugh, as MDS went for defensive solidity. He amended his mistake by bringing on Venuto on in the 60th minute, and he came out and gave the match a much-needed spark, inspiring the comeback. If he is to continue this run, along with Lass Bangoura picking up confidence after getting some much needed minutes at the AFCON and Yordy Reyna continuing his run of late, the Caps look to be in a good position out wide, just needing some reinforcements at striker and at the central midfield position.
Player to Watch: Ali Adnan
While it was a disappointing performance from the Iraqi, he still had his chances on the night, as his offensive acumen was apparent as always. Defensively, he had an off-night, but he should figure it out as they return to a normal climate up in Seattle, as he looked off in the muggy heat of Dallas.
Tweet of the Match:
This could also double as the stat of the night, but Vancouver’s offence was rather…uhhh…. anemic as they struggled to get the ball into the Dallas box. Call it the ghost of Robbo’s past, but Vancouver needs someone or something that can get the ball into the box, as they look so great on the ball all the way up until that final third, where it turns into a black hole.
The Couch Ultras (great account, check them out) keeping it real as they celebrate yet some more points dropped by VAR. Now only to get this to hang off the jumbotron at BC Place…
Stat of the Match:
Manuel summing it up well, Vancouver struggles to get the ball into the box and it shows. If they turn half of their 8 draws into wins? They’re a pretty darn good MLS team. Getting some more chance-generators and finishers will make them a great team.
A short turnaround after this match, as they play Saturday in Seattle. It should be an exciting match, as both teams never leave much on the field when they play, and with Vancouver chasing a playoff spot, they will come out flying after 3 consecutive draws, before the points dropped start to catch up to them. A lot of Vancouverites will make the drive down for that one, so it should be a great time on Saturday night in another edition of the Cascadia Cup.
Whitecaps FC vs Seattle Sounders, Saturday, June 29th, 2019, 19:00 PST. Centurylink Field, Seattle.