On Wednesday night at BC Place occurred the biggest match of the Whitecaps’ 2019 season. Just on the other side of False Creek, Bard on the beach was putting on a Shakespeare play. A nearly empty stadium suggests the latter was a hotter ticket, and the two teams on display attempted to emulate a play themselves.
The Whitecaps are the bigger club, the MLS side, the expected victors. Cavalry came in as the underdogs on paper. They had already knocked out two teams to get here, and here it was going to end. It was going to be a pleasant performance… but the players had something else in mind.
Cavalry gave the opening punch, but at that point it was just to make things more interesting. Uncalled for by the director, but still something that could be worked with. It was now Vancouver who needed to score two, and on who the onus was imposed.
They took it in stride, it appeared. As both teams settled into the match, they found their expected roles. Vancouver getting more of the ball, Cavalry getting pushed a little further back. It felt as though the two sides would return to the script, the ‘Caps would take back control. They had the ball, but couldn’t find a breakthrough. This Calgary team were hell-bent on sending the crowd home with an unexpected ending, and did everything they could to sway from the planned finale. That’s essentially the way it played out.
Vancouver came back in the second half a little more daring, regained more control, and did score a goal, despite not creating the types of opportunities that they desperately needed. Then Cavalry came back, even more resilient, to nod in the game winner. As much as things have gone wrong lately for the ‘Caps, fans in the dome weren’t anticipating this. As the final whistle blew, the attendees at BC Place let out a resounding boo. The performers clad in red let out a roar of joy, almost responding to the audience. That’s the way the story went. This is sports, the story writes itself, and usually leans in favour of whoever has the greater will. Tonight, it was a Cinderella story for Calgary. Another painful sting for Vancouver and probably the most agonizing yet.
Here’s a detailed account of how exactly it went down.
From the outset, there was intent from both sides to score. It was never going to be the feeler-outer of two weeks ago in Calgary and it didn’t take long for the first goal to come. On Cavalry’s first chance of the match, a whiffed clearance by Godoy gave Jordan Brown an open look from 18 yards. He took the chance early and well, finding the top left corner on a half volley and sending the four to five hundred travelling Cavalry support into a full on frenzy.
It was really a chance out of nothing. The chance came off of a long ball by Nik Ledgerwood which didn’t seem dangerous until Godoy’s mishap.
Five minutes later, Godoy had a glorious chance to redeem himself. He drifted into open space at the back post, but somehow put it over the bar. It was, really, a spectacular miss. As it would turn out, also a very important one.
In the 27th minute, Bangoura went down injured, which forced Dos Santos into making a first substitution and bringing on Venuto.
After both teams got settled in, it was the Whitecaps who started to control possession. They kept bringing the ball up, orchestrated by Inbeom. The build-up play looked promising, but didn’t end up generating many grade-A scoring chances.
Cavalry grew in confidence towards the later stages of the half and didn’t allow the Whitecaps to take full control, but it was still Vancouver with most of the play.
Godoy’s chance was the best of the first half for the ‘Caps and that is a bit of a troubling sign. Vancouver had 69% possession, much better passing accuracy, more than twice as many passses completed and topped Calgary in open play crosses by four to two. Despite that, Cavalry had four total shots, Vancouver had three.
At half-time, Vancouver were really up against it. They needed to score twice, and make sure not to concede another. If Cavalry put two past Vancouver, the blue and white would need three, a task surely too tall.
The urgency of the matter struck Dos Santos. He chose to make his second substitution at half-time, bringing on Ardaiz, another striker, for Rose who lined up as an attacking midfielder. The change, and whatever was said at half-time did make a difference. What was lacking in the first half was some decisiveness in the final third, a bit of direct play. That’s what Ardaiz is best at.
The Whitecaps piled on the pressure as the second half started to mature. The fans felt something was coming. Vancouver’s attack was looking quicker and more fruitful. In the 67th minute, the breakthrough was found. Following a fine bit of dribbling and a blocked shot by Bair, Inbeom collected the fall and with the help of a deflection, put it past ‘keeper Marco Carducci, a former Whitecap.
At this point, it was very much in the Whitecaps’ realm to come up with a win. It felt as though the favourites were starting to take over, as if the game would go their way, but Dominik Zator had other ideas. He broke free and scored a header from just inside the 6 yard box. It really changed the mood in the building.
Just a few minutes later, Carducci pulled a Milan Borjan and Yordy Reyna stole the ball off him, only he couldn’t finish the chance into the open net. It summed up the night for Vancouver. Carriers of the play, but failing in the decisive moments. Carl Robinson loved to say ”games are decided by moments”. His quote would have worked well tonight.
Man of the Match: Inbeom Hwang
Inbeom played in an unnatural 6 role, which seemed to work for the most part. When Vancouver had the ball, he played well from his deep role, moving the ball around nicely, but without it his defensive abilities were a little exposed. It was a good idea by Marc Dos Santos in the end, though, since Vancouver wound up with the majority of possession and Inbeom was the most successful part of the build up.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Yordy Reyna
Yordy Reyna has been the Whitecaps’ liveliest player going forward of late. Tonight he started as a 9, but also roamed while his team was in possession, as he always likes to. He was almost always part of the attack, and it started working better when Ardaiz was introduced and he had another central forward to work with. All in all a decent performance, but still lacked a real breakthrough moment. The miss in the second half won’t sit well either.
Around the Voyageurs Cup
Montreal Impact FC 1-0 York9 FC (3-2 aggregate)
Ottawa Fury FC 2-2 HFX Wanderers FC (5-4 aggregate)
Toronto FC – Ottawa Fury FC
Cavalry FC – Montreal Impact FC
All that’s left for Vancouver is MLS play, which they don’t have to wait long for. The Whitecaps travel on Thursday for a Saturday match up with Minnesota United.