In a reunion of sorts in the “Queen City”, the Vancouver Whitecaps had the last laugh as their former friends at FC Cincinnati fell in a match between two closely linked sides.
While it wasn’t pretty at times, the Caps did exactly what they needed to do, handing Cincinnati their 15th loss in the last 18 games. They showed the kind of resilience they had been lacking all season, showing some nerve as they were able to kick an equally as downtrodden team, pushing them further down the proverbial MLS ladder. While there is still a lot to work on, achieving that result away from home will do a lot to boost a squad that has suffered a lot this season. With new hands set to join the ship, they will be looking to continue to try and rise off the ocean floor, not necessarily to make the playoffs this year, but to be able to do more than just float along next season. But, without further ado, let’s dive right into things, starting with our recap.
Cincy came flying out of the gates at Nippert Stadium. They controlled the play right from kick-off, passing the ball around well, nearly scoring a goal before Vancouver was able to control the ball for the first time in the match. Justin Hoyte snuck up from the back and had an audacious hit at goal as the ball bounced up for him to hit off the volley, and it nearly worked for him, with his strike tickling the top of the crossbar.
Vancouver would remain on the back foot, as Cincy continued to press. It would come back to cost the Caps, as Cincy would pound the ball in from out left, and they found a goal from it, with the ball bouncing around the box after Darren Mattocks was able to get his head on it, and Allan Cruz was quickest to the second ball, pouncing on it and sliding it past Max Crepeau to grab a 6th minute lead.
The game slowed down after that, with Cincy enjoying their early lead and the Caps unable to do much to challenge it. They traded chances in the 20th minute, with Emmanuel Ledesma curling one that was saved comfortably by Crepeau, while Fredy Montero had an ambitious left-footed effort that sailed hopelessly wide.
Vancouver had a good chance in the 30th minute, as they were finally able to get a good sequence of controlled possession, and they nearly scored off it, as they managed to work the ball forward effectively. Fredy Montero got the ball out wide and looped in a promising ball, but Theo Bair’s header was unable to beat the steady hands of Tyton.
The Caps continued to press, with their possession slowly improving. After another good sequence out wide, Montero found himself in the middle of the pitch, about 25 yards from goal, and he decided to have a hit, but his strike deflected and Tyton was able to get down and save rather comfortably to keep Cincy in the lead.
Despite being mostly outplayed by Cincy most of the half, In Beom Hwang found a moment of inspiration in the 42nd minute for the Caps, as the ball found him about 25 yards out after a failed Montero wide set piece. With the ball bouncing towards the young Korean midfielder, he lashed out his boot at a perfect time, striking the ball off the half volley, and it floated along like a cruising missile, finding the lower corner of the goal. While the goal was against the run of play, it was the kind of moment of genius that Vancouver has so desperately lacked all season as they have been unable to break open most matches.
The half would come to an end without much else happening, with both teams making it through 45 all tied up at 1. While Cincinnati had carried more of the play, a draw was probably the fairest result all things considered. With both teams looking rather lethargic going forward, it was up to the coaches to go to the locker room and find a spark offensively.
Cincy wasted no time coming out in the second half, starting things strong. The ball bounced to Cruz, who was looking for his second of the game, and he laid a scorching volley towards goal, with the ball destined for the top corner, until Crepeau stretched out and got a hand to the strike, tipping it onto the bar and out.
Montero had a brief moment of inspiration in the 54th minute for the Caps, zig-zagging his way through a couple of Cincy defenders, but the strike was lacking, as he curled the ball well over the goal from 25 yards out. It was nice to see the bright run from the Colombian, but the strike was disappointing considering the positive position he had found himself in.
Cincy nearly found the lead again through the dangerous Ledesma, as he cut back onto his stronger left foot from in close, but his curled effort stretched just past the hands of Crepeau and past the far post, keeping the game all knotted up at 1.
Cincy left-back Mathieu Deplagne nearly turned the match completely on its head, as he spied Crepeau off his line in the 59th minute, and he tried to chip the Canadian, which he succeeded in doing so, but just found himself denied by the crossbar, with Crepeau unable to come close to the ambitious effort to break the deadlock.
The Caps nearly replied with an ambitious effort of their own, as Fredy Montero had a great effort at goal off of a free-kick in the 65th, with the ball just tickling the top of the net. It was a good strike, and it was a sign of the Caps starting to wake up as they chased a possible lead.
Ali Adnan, inspired by the strike, had a 30-yard effort of his own a minute later, but Tyton stretched acrobatically to keep the game 1-1, as Adnan delivered a great effort at doubling his tally in MLS.
But Cincy would nearly find the next goal, as they came close in the 73rd minute. Roland Lamah had a great strike at goal, hitting a low effort far post from the left-side, but Crepeau got down quickly to deny the Belgian. Adnan reacted well after the save, as well, quickly flicking the dangerous rebound out for a corner to avert the danger.
They continued to press, with former Cap Kekuta Manneh coming onto the pitch to provide a spark for Cincy. He managed to twist his way behind Adnan, passing a great ball into the box for fellow former Cap Mattocks, but as was typical of the Jamaican in his time with Vancouver, he dribbled the ball into a great position before skying the ensuing effort well over the bar.
But the Caps would find the next moment, with a counter emerging out of nowhere. Midfielder Russell Teibert made a great run forward, managing to keep an ambitious ball forward from Adnan, and he put a great ball through Tyton’s legs, and Felipe found a way to sneak his way into the box, finding himself all alone to slot home Teibert’s great ball. It gave the Caps a surprise lead in the 85th minute, giving them a chance to find their first win since May.
And despite a late push from Cincinnati, who threw everything and the kitchen sink forward to try and get an equalizer, the Caps held strong, finishing the game on top, giving them that first win in two months. While it wasn’t pretty at times, it was a result that was long-time coming for them, as they had been unable to find much of a break the past few months.
Thoughts on Performances:
In goal, Max Crepeau had another strong outing in a long line of them for him in a Whitecaps shirt, as he did well to keep Cincy at bay most of the evening. While he certainly won’t be happy with the goal he did concede, as he got hands to Cruz’s effort, it was poor defending from Vancouver, so Crepeau wasn’t to blame for the goal. He had a couple of five-alarm saves, his distribution was excellent and he did well to cheer on his teammate’s desperate attempts to keep things close in front of him. All in all, it was what we have come to consider a typical outing from the Canadian.
At the back, Ali Adnan, Erik Godoy, Derek Cornelius and Jake Nerwinski were the players expected to marshall Dos Santos’s back 4. They started out slow, with Godoy struggling to contain Mattocks on Cincy’s goal, but after the first 20 minutes they found a groove and stuck with it. Each player had a hand in the win tonight, with Adnan providing the secondary assist on the winning goal along with some good tackles, Nerwinski continuing his steady last 10 games with the Caps, while Godoy and Cornelius made sure not much would get through them in the middle. If they can find a way to limit hiccups like the one that happened early in the game, the Caps have something to build off of at the back, as they start to return to their early season form.
In the middle, we saw the return of Felipe, Hwang In Beom and Russell Teibert, who stuck together after a decent outing last week against Minnesota. They started slow, much like the rest of the team, but finished strong, putting in a good defensive shift. They also led the way offensively for the Caps, with Hwang opening the scoring with a powered finish, while Teibert and Felipe linked up for the winner. While it is clear that they need an upgrade alongside them to push play forward, they all look like good pieces to build around, either as regular starters in the case of Hwang, or as rotational options in the case of Felipe and Teibert.
Up front, it was a unique front three, as Dos Santos turned to all his strikers, putting Fredy Montero, Joaquin Ardaiz and Theo Bair together, hoping for an offensive spark. It didn’t exactly do that, with the 3 frontmen looking rather disconnected at times. Ardaiz had one of his poorest performances with the Caps, looking rather disinterested, and he was unable to link up with anyone before being meekly withdrawn early in the second-half. Montero was good, but his finishing touch was lacking and he seemed unable to play that final ball that his deeper position required. Bair was the best of the bunch, but it seemed weird to shunt him out wide, where he was excellent but felt wasted as the Caps were lacking a spark in the middle. His improvement has been massive, however, and he very much looks like the piece to be building around amongst the three striking options right now.
Off the bench, Brett Levis, Scott Sutter and Andy Rose were the men brought into the match to try and aid the cause, with Levis and Sutter coming in with the match tied. The two full-backs, who were brought in as offensive options, did well, with Levis looking great as a left-winger and Sutter stretching out the right side. While they weren’t directly involved in Vancouver picking up the lead, their presence as truer wide players opened up the pitch in a way that playing 3 strikers was unable to do. Rose came off the bench as a late sub, and he did exactly what he needed to do, helping the team bunker down and grind to a rare victory for this squad.
Man of the Match: Hwang In Beom
After a rough middle stretch of the season, Hwang showed what he can deliver when he goes further up the pitch. His passing was good as usual, but he seemed to have an extra spark that had been lacking at times during this stretch, and the strike he scored just added to that. If the Caps can surround him with some quality talent in the midfield, it’s not hard to imagine him doing that on the regular next season at BC Place.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Maxime Crepeau
Crepeau had a strong performance in the first game with his new contract, looking comfortable in goal. With each passing game, he reinforces the belief that Dos Santos and company had in him, further endearing himself to Caps fans. With him in the goal for the considerable future, the Caps got a good foundational piece to build around at the back.
Tweet of the Match:
Some hard shade from our friends over at AFTN. As good as Waston was here in Vancouver, it felt right to see him fall victimized by the wrath of Hwang. Great player, but his exit as Vancouver captain felt so wrong, and a lot of fans will feel vengeance for that one.
Crystal Ball of the Match:
The fine lads over at B&G Media peered into their crystal ball and found this before the game. Our ball didn’t work as well, as my prediction was an Ardaiz hat trick. Oh well…. maybe one game he’ll score…
The more things change…
The more they stay the same. Some good Mattocks memories resurfaced for many fans during this one.
Stat of the Match:
The Caps broke a couple of undefeated spells for Cincy at Nippert, including this one, as well as becoming the first-ever Canadian team (USL or MLS) to win at the stadium. Guess it was one of those days for the White and Blue.
Heatmap of the Match:
The Caps continue to take advantage of much-needed training time, taking the week to practice and recover before making the short trek down to Portland for their last Cascadia clash of the campaign. With a chance at a trophy that fans will certainly be wanting to win, it will be a good chance for the Caps, with some new names onboard, to keep the ball rolling into the end of the campaign.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs Portland Timbers FC, Saturday August 10th, 2019, 20:00 PST (Providence Park, Portland)