Post-Match Review #22– Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs New England Revolution: Bou! Came the Lightning

The Caps were scared off by Bou, but this time it was not a ghost but instead a high-priced DP by the name of Gustavo Bou that put them to the sword on a lightning-filled, rainy day in New England.

After a tough day of travel on Monday, the Vancouver Whitecaps made it to New England, Massachusetts alright, where they faced the surging New England Revolution on Wednesday. After a couple of tough losses for their team, it was hoped they could bounce back in this one, finding some goals and capturing some of the magic that made them a tough defensive team at the beginning of the season. Instead, it just added to their misery, as New England swept them away, with the torrential downpour serving as a metaphorical background for what ended up being a rough finish for Vancouver, as they conceded 3 goals in the last 10 minutes to fall 4-0. The result was completely merited for Vancouver, as they had an anonymous first half, and failed to turn their chances to goals in the second half, with the 1-0 scoreline through 80 really flattering them in what had been another tough performance for the white and blue. They will head back to the drawing board now, as they look to work with what they have, and possibly bring in more, as the team does not look to have any sort of spark right now. We’ll dive into all that in this, so without further ado, here is our recap. 

Recap:

Things started out poorly for the Whitecaps, as an early Lucas Venuto turnover put them on the back foot in the 3rd minute, as it allowed New England to run rampant down the right side, before delivering a dangerous cross that sailed just past the back post, nearly opening the scoring for the Revolution. 

The Revolution controlled play for much of the first 10 minutes, as the Caps were unable to get much in terms of ball possession and were equally as woeful in creating passes, which put them under siege as New England sent wave after wave of attack towards Max Crepeau’s goal. While New England was not threatening to score, bar that early chance, it seemed likely that they would find the game’s first goal from somewhere. 

The Revolution came close in the 14th minute, as full back Brandon Bye made a great run down the right flank, receiving the ball right as he got into the Vancouver box, and he struck the ball well, only to find himself denied by the uprights. There was no other way around it, Vancouver was getting its teeth kicked in territorially and statistically, meaning that they needed to find a huge boost to hope for any chance to avoid getting run out of the building, let alone find 3 points. 

New England continued to control play after that, but were just unable to get their shots on target, with many attempts falling preciously to the wayside. While they were unlucky not to have a goal, the Caps had done well to keep the ball out of their net up until the 25th minute, as they did well to limit New England to the outside for the most part. 

The Revolution were incredibly unlucky not to find the net in the 35th minute, as a low curling shot from Carles Gil was just palmed out by Max Crepeau. The next save was more impressive, however, as the rebound headed right to the feet of the striker Juan Caicedo, who had the whole net to shoot at, making it look like a sure 1-0 lead for the Revs. Until Crepeau came flying in, sticking out his arms to make an amazing desperation grab, keeping the Caps in the match with the lone highlight of an otherwise drab first 35 for them. 

Right when the half seemed about to finish with a 0-0 scoreline, the match turned on its head, as New England pulled a goal out of their back pocket, when new 6M signing Gustavo Bou found himself a worldie of a goal, as he struck a volley right off the corner, outswinging the ball from the middle to find the corner of the goal, giving himself a memorable debut goal. While it was nervy for the Revs, as VAR took a lengthy check at the goal, it was eventually confirmed, giving New England a deserved lead. 

It was a fitting end to what was ultimately a poor half for the Caps, who were outplayed in all facets of the game. Out-possesed, outshot and outpassed, they looked like they needed any sort of Massachusetts miracle to get back into this one. While losing certainly never feels great, it was mostly the way they were playing which was the most frustrating, as it was lethargic and slow, both things one would expect in preseason, not the 22nd game of the season for a rebuilding club that was trying to play a speedy and possession based style. 

The second half started brighter for Vancouver, as they got off on the front foot right from the get go, courtesy of winger Lucas Venuto. He did well to win a corner in the 48th minute, before soon after teeing up Theo Bair with a great low cross after what was a great run into the channels, but Bair was unlucky, striking the post after a great stab at the ball seemed to send it goalbound. 

Venuto continued to show signs of life in the 53rd minute, as another twisting run into the channels led to him being in a great spot just inside the box, but his cross was unable to be redirected in by Bair, who was certainly starting to bemoan his luck. 

Right after, Vancouver continued to knock at the door, as a deep set-piece was nearly volleyed in by centre back Erik Godoy, after the ball pinballed around the New England box, before the Caps did well to retain the ball on the subsequent corner, recycling possession before making a couple of attempts at goal, which were all blocked by New England defenders.  

The game started to turn into a bit of a back and forth affair after that one, as the insertion of Lass Bangoura seemed to give Vancouver good legs going forward. There were a couple shots blocked for either side, but Vancouver looked more and more likely to find an equalizer, provided they could turn some of their pressure into shots. 

Not long after, New England won themselves a free kick in a juicy position in the 69th minute, with the dangerous Gil stepping up to take it for them, but they were unable to double their lead, as Max Crepeau’s fingertips did well to just keep his curling effort from going in. 

New England came close after a couple of well-executed corners right after, but Vancouver held strong to keep things close at 1-0. It was disappointing to see, as Vancouver looked better both offensively and defensively, begging the question of where this performance was during the first half. 

Vancouver had a bright spell on both ends in the 75th minute, as on one side of the field Crepeau did extremely well to deny Cristian Penilla on a breakaway chance that seemed destined to find the back of the net, while on the other side a great through ball by Yordy Reyna to Fredy Montero stretched the New England defence, winning a free kick in a good spot as Montero was hauled down to prevent a chance. While Reyna slammed the subsequent free kick right into the wall, it was a good chance from the white and blue. 

But, despite the positive run of play, Vancouver would concede the next goal, as Penilla whipped in an innocuous looking ball from out wide, but one that would elude the Vancouver defenders at the back post, as an unmarked Diego Fagundez was left alone to nod home the goal that would double the Revolution’s lead. 

Things continued to go from bad to worse for Vancouver, as soon after Carles Gil popped up at the edge of the box, and he struck well, finding the low corner with his strike, giving him the goal that he seemed destined to get from the beginning. New England was running away with things, and Vancouver was up to 13 goals conceded their last 4 MLS matches, with 1 goal for the last 5 matches in all competitions to go along with it. 

Soon after, Vancouver continued to wilt, as New England sensed the blood in the water. Another innocuous cross from Penilla found Teal Bunbury in the box, and he danced around, untouched, before he was able to find space to turn and fire home New England’s 4th of the game. It continued a terrible collapse from Vancouver, who looked desperate for the ref’s whistle to put them out of their misery. 

And, not long after, he did just that, spelling the end of what was ultimately a pretty forgettable match for Vancouver, with the Caps putting up a shocking performance, bar that 25 minute spell in the second half. With their playoff hopes all but dashed, it leaves a lot of questions for the rest of this transfer window and into the end of the season, as changes clearly need to be made, the question is where and how exactly should those changes come about. 

Thoughts on the Performances:

In goal, Max Crepeau had a pretty good game considering the scoreline. While he maybe could have done better on the third goal, as a low shot rarely finds its way in from that distance, it was still the result of porous defending, as no one was able to close out on Gil, making it tough for Crepeau to see. He was completely faultless on the other goals, however, as he didn’t have much of a chance to stop any of them, as the defending was noticeably poor from Vancouver. If anything, Crepeau kept the game from getting much worse, as he had some pretty stellar stops, including the one off the Gil free kick, another Gil curler, and the Penilla breakaway. It’s too bad the defence has fallen off in front of him as of late as he could be racking up some all-time performances for the Caps if they were more switched on in front of him. 

At the back, the experimental back 4 of Jake Nerwinski, Erik Godoy, Derek Cornelius and Scott Sutter held well the first half, but it was clear at times that the Sutter out of position experiment would have some warts. They managed to keep things to the outside, for the most part, limiting the sea of chances that was coming from the Revolution outplaying the Caps in the midfield. They were good for a decent chunk of the second half, as well, but everything completely fell off a cliff for them in the last 10 minutes. The last 3 goals they conceded were noticeably porous, as they all resulted from lackadaisical defending, either from failing to close out crossers and shooters, or closing down attackers in the box with any semblance of urgency. While the personnel does not appear to be an issue for their backline, bar maybe bringing in another right back, the defence as a whole has been horrible as of late, from the midfield down to the back. They showed that they could defend well as a collective unit early in the season, now they will need to show it if they want to have any chance to compete for anything this year. 

In the middle, it was a mixed bag from Andy Rose, Hwang In Beom and Russell Teibert. While Hwang and Rose both showed good qualities individually at times, they gave the ball away too much and were unable to build anything up from the back. Teibert was seemingly absent as well, unable to force his stamp on the game like he usually does so well. Because of all that, the Caps put a lot of pressure on their backline, as New England started to run rampant over them in that area of the pitch, and it showed when New England finally burst the gates open late. While it was certainly positive to see Hwang look noticeably better in this one, after a tough run as of late, he cannot do it all, and it underlined the importance of Jon Erice, as he often supports him well in the midfield. It also showed that another midfielder is at the top of their shopping list, something we’ll be saying until… well…. when we actually see it happen. 

Up front, we saw the return of a trident, as Yordy Reyna, Theo Bair and Lucas Venuto were tasked to lead the frontline in this one. Bair was good, as his size allows for him to have a bit of freedom on the pitch, and he was unlucky not to score on a pair of chances in the second half. While he is still learning a lot about the technical side of the game, he has definitely made the case for more minutes as of late, especially with the other strikers struggling quite noticeably. Reyna had his flashes, like he usually does, but was maybe better suited to playing in the middle, as he did later in the match, to good results, or out wide only when left back Ali Adnan is playing, allowing Reyna to cut in. Venuto was great on the right, as when the Caps started to get him the ball in the second half he did well with it, capitalizing on the space behind the full backs available for him. 

Off the bench, Lass Bangoura provided a great spark, giving the game life in that second half. After not featuring for the Caps for a while due to injury and international absence, he made a strong return to action, providing value with his speed and dribbling ability. The other subs, PC and Fredy Montero, failed to make similar impact, however, with Montero looking anonymous besides a few flashes, and PC being unexciting considering the Caps brought him into the match down a goal to try and help overturn the deficit. 

Man of the Match: Lucas Venuto

Venuto was effective in the second half against the revolution (Taken by: Keveren Guillou, June 29th, Seattle)

Tough to pick a man of the match in a game like this, but Venuto did everything he could to try and chase an equalizer when down 1-0, whipping in some juicy crosses for Bair. When he is allowed to get into those channels and run, he can be very useful, as he does well to generate chances both for himself and others. If the Caps continue to stick with the 4-3-3, he will be useful for them going forward. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lass Bangoura

Bangoura gave Vancouver some life off of the bench (Taken by: Keveren Guillou, March 2nd, 2019)

Bangoura had a strong return to action for the Caps, with his speed and dribbling providing a noticeable boost for them in the second half. He and Venuto as a winger pair needs to happen more often, and strong performances from the both of them tonight are a reason why. Them, Bair, Crepeau, and Reyna in the second half, were the lone bright spots for Vancouver, despite not being able to find a goal. 

Statistically Speaking:

The Caps are mired in a bad stretch, and they need to find a way out, bad. Out-possesed, outshot by a 4-1 ratio, completely dominated in all passing stats and run out the building on the scoreboard, it was another dire performance for the Caps, pushing them to be winless in 8. They have conceded 13 unanswered goals the last 3 MLS games, and have scored once in the last 5 in all competitions. At this point any sort of offence (and defence) would come as a huge boost, as they look lost in all facets of the game. It will be interesting to see if any changes come soon, as not to be reactionary, but to light a spark, as this team looks like it needs any sort of shot in the arm that it can get right now, giving them some life as they try and revive what looks like a dead 2019 season. 

Stat of the Match:

Continuing our theme of statistics, here is another fun one. The Caps went without both a shot nor a key pass in the first half, which is pretty impressive if anything. If there is something that sums up why the midfield needs refreshening, watching that first half will convince anyone that they should pursue one hard.

Ominous Warning: 

The Caps should have just convinced the Revs to cancel at this point, as the match was delayed due to this ferocious storm. The crowd was noticeably empty as a result, as many fans (understandably) did not show up. The Caps got that memo in the first half, as evidenced by their poor start (and lack of shots and key passes) as that lightning seemed to give New England a pretty impressive home-field advantage. 

Ominous Warning Part 2:

As we awaited the delayed start of this game, we put out a question on twitter asking about some prior Whitecaps storm delays. Needless to say, after remembering the one like the TFC 2011 Voyageurs Cup final, yeah maybe this game should have been cancelled for the Caps sake (Alphonso Davies’s winner over SKC in the CCL is still a great rain delay memory, at least). 

Looking Forward:

Vancouver gets two days to lick their wounds, as a long travel day awaits them tomorrow. They get to regroup against their 2019 rebuilding cousins, San Jose, who themselves have been on a tear as of late after a slow start to the season. Both brought in new coaches, but went about their rebuilds differently, with Vancouver overhauling while San Jose chose to stand pat, which ended up working for them. It’s the first chance to see how close the two teams are at in a match, so at least that should be interesting. Until then, here’s to hoping the Caps midfield problems are remedied via a transfer acquisition, which cannot come soon enough for this edition of the Caps. 

Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs San Jose Earthquakes FC, Saturday July 20th, 2019, 19:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver)