Post-Match Review #27– Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs DC United: A sigh of relief

With Wayne Rooney and co coming to Vancouver, the Caps were not expected to tie, let alone win and pick up a clean sheet in the process. But despite the pessimistic thoughts of others, they managed to do just that, providing a gutsy performance at BC Place, giving fans a lot to cheer about in the process. 

The Caps put in a workhorse performance on Saturday night, winning 1-0, picking up their first home clean sheet since May 10th, as well as their first home win since May 25th. While they had to bunker down and hang on at times to get there, it was overall a positive performance, as they found some reserve energy to grind out the result, something that they have struggled to do at times this season. 

And DC definitely made them work for it, peppering their goal with shots, putting the Caps defence under much duress. So while many were predicting a bit of a snooze-fest pre-match, with the Caps struggling and DC playing a boring brand of football for much of the campaign, both teams delivered on entertainment, giving the fans many reasons to make a lot of noise for the first time in months at home. So, without further ado, let’s jump into what made this game click on this mid-August Saturday night. 

Recap:

Paul Arriola got things started early on for DC, as Wayne Rooney found the winger streaking down the right side, after Rooney had jumped on a poor turnover by Erik Godoy, and Arriola had a nice hit at goal on the half-breakaway, with his strong strike just staying out as Max Crepeau did well to stand strong at his near post. 

DC continued to control the game after that point, amassing some good chances in the first 15 minutes, but despite finding themselves in good positions in front of goal, they were unable to do much to test Crepeau, with the Whitecaps defence handling the brunt of the work, with their goal remaining unscathed for their efforts. 

But despite that, the Caps would find the game’s first goal, with a moment of inspiration coming in the 18th minute. Despite being rather far out from goal, Caps striker Yordy Reyna found some space off the dribble and struck the ball well, and the ball had legs, finding its way into the low corner past DC United keeper Bill Hamid, who was slow to get his hands to the shot. 

DC, unperturbed by the goal they had just conceded, would nearly respond less than a minute later, with Rooney playing a nice ball for Ulises Segura, but the DC midfielder was unable to beat Crepeau, who stuck out a strong leg to keep things at 1-0 heading into the 20th minute. 

The game tilted in DC’s favour soon after that, as the Caps were pushed onto the back foot. DC had a pair of nice chances around the 30th minute, first through Paul Arriola, who sent a curling strike just wide, and then through Lucas Rodriguez, who found a lot of space in the Whitecaps box, but sent his strike well wide from what was ultimately a great position. 

Ali Adnan had a good rush forward soon after, putting together a nice run down the left flank in the 33rd minute, and he did well to cut inside, not too dissimilar to his goal against Dallas FC back in May, but he was unable to find a repeat of that goal, as his curling strike went past the post and out for a goal kick, keeping the scoreline intact. 

The Caps would come close to finding their second in the 42nd minute, as Yordy Reyna once again turned a couple of defenders inside out, finding some space in the box, and he hit the ball well, but it bounced off of the DC defender and off the side of the goal, giving Hamid a lot to worry about in his goal. 

Besides some close chances on either end, the first half would finish without much else happening, as Vancouver would head to the locker room with a slender lead in their back pocket. They were far from their best on a whole during the half, but they did enough to leave the pitch with the game in their favour, just needing a spark to possibly put the game out of reach in the second half. 

The half started out extremely slow from both teams, with either side unable to conjure much up in terms of chances or excitement. After some calls for a handball around the 50th minute, things finally opened up in the 60th, first via a thundering Derek Cornelius header off a corner, as he would get robbed by Hamid on what was a save of the week candidate, and soon after through Reyna, who did well to chip a stranded Hamid, but he ended up striking the bar, keeping the same scoreline for Vancouver despite their best efforts to challenge it. 

DC continued to knock on the door right after, coming close on a couple of crosses, but the Caps defence held strong. The Caps had a nice chance of their own in the 80th minute, with some fancy footwork from Theo Bair nearly causing a DC own goal, forcing Hamid to make a desperate grab to keep the ball from crossing his line. 

The game seemed to get into a bit of a weird spell after that chance, with both teams having weird sequences of play. The ball was pinballing around both boxes, both teams looked sloppy, there were wild deflections, and fans were given a lot of entertainment as both teams engaged in a less than sterling sequence of play. DC came close on one of those chances, with a nice header nearly finding the goal off a corner, but it would bounce off the post and into the hands of Crepeau, keeping things at 1-0.

The Caps would come extremely close in the 88th minute, as Yordy Reyna would once again come close to scoring his second, but he was unable to finish his chance after doing well to find some space, as his curling effort would go just wide, unable to double his tally on the night. 

Soon after, In Beom Hwang nearly found a goal himself, as he got into some space about 25 yards from goal, but his knuckling strike from his left boot would be left to sail over the goal, tickling the top of the frame in the process. The game would come to an end soon after, leaving DC disappointed in Felipe’s return to Vancouver. For the Caps, it was only their 6th win of the campaign, giving them something to celebrate in a campaign that has not had many chances to do so. 

The performances: 

The match was certainly interesting to look at from Vancouver’s point of view, as they put in an incredible team effort to ensure that they would leave the match with all 3 points, but they still have a lot to work on as a club, especially in terms of their midfield play and translating their impressive defensive efforts into more consistent offence. 

Defensively, things were stout, with the Caps stemming the tide of DC chances like a solid dam in a river of shots that was flowing from the DC attack. When their near impenetrable dam leaked a couple of chances, Max Crepeau was there to stand strong, patching up the cracks and ensuring that the clean sheet would be in order for his side. Derek Cornelius and Erik Godoy were noticeably commanding as well, guiding the Whitecaps ship right into port, and once it was docked, they did well to stop anyone from doing any damage to it, putting in a gutsy performance and being key engineers in the production of the 3 points. 

Derek Cornelius was a noticeable standout, as he had a team high 9 clearances, to go along with 2 blocked shots, as his growth in the centre back position continues to be immense for the Caps. With Ali Adnan and Jake Nerwinski (and Erik Godoy when Doneil Henry replaced Nerwinski due to injury) doing well to shore things up out at full back, the Caps had crafted a recipe for defensive success. 

Further up the pitch, things started to get a little more cloudy. Defensively, the midfield trio had excellent evenings, doing their best to suffocate DC with good back pressure every time that they had the ball at the top of the Whitecaps box. While DC did well to break that at times, with Rooney being noticeably impressive at penetrating the Whitecaps defensive lines via incisive passes, the Caps did well to ensure things wouldn’t be done easy. 

Offensively, the Caps midfielders were lively at times, getting the ball forward via In Beom Hwang and Russell Teibert at times, but not doing it enough to push DC United back onto the back foot. Andy Rose was an interesting tactical anomaly amongst his fellow midfielders, as he struggled with passing, as he only completed 29 passes at a 49% clip, compared to Hwang and Teibert, who both had 80+ percentages. With Rose occupying a more attacking role despite being stronger on the defensive side of the game, yet Hwang playing deep despite having some good shots at goal, one could have wondered if they could have swapped roles on the evening, letting Hwang run free. 

The midfielders had good chemistry with the forward line during the match, as secondary strikers Theo Bair and Fredy Montero both looked good in their respective roles, with Montero looking lively with some good dribbling and through the creation of 2 key passes, while Bair turned heads with a flashy display of skills, setting up many chances en route to another strong performance for the young Canadian. With both of them flanking Yordy Reyna, who was the best player on the night for Vancouver, the Caps were a lot more lively when they got into the opponent’s final third, with the three frontmen wreaking havoc on the DC backline. 

Ultimately, with those three looking good as of late, it brings up a lot of questions for the Caps. With their midfield often struggling to transition the ball forward with more volume and more efficiently, one could wonder if the insertion of more traditional wingers could give them some more juice during the run of play. But with the front three already looking good, they could prove to be devastating when the service does improve, so maybe Dos Santos is right to continue down this path for now. Either way, something has to turn in either regard, so hopefully they can find a solution that ultimately does end up working, instead of ending up in no man’s land with half-solutions that don’t really end up doing much for the club. 

The subs Marc Dos Santos inserted did inject good energy into the match, with Scott Sutter and Doneil Henry shoring up the Caps defensively en route to the clean sheet. The best sub, however, was the introduction of new signing Tosaint Ricketts, who showed exactly why he is so valued as a super sub, as he came off and made an immediate impact, creating chances and causing DC problems. So while the move to bring him in seems curious on the surface, he looks to have some value through his hard work, so maybe the Caps were onto something by bringing him in, even though he’s not the kind of impact player that they so desperately need.  

Man of the Match: Yordy Reyna

The Peruvian was at his sparkling best as the spearhead of the Vancouver attack, giving the Caps energy up top. When he’s in the mood, he can be extremely fun to watch, and he certainly has been that as of late, racking up chances and giving fans a lot to be excited about. While his future is up in the air heading into the offseason, the Caps would be wise to keep him ahead of next year’s campaign. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Tosaint Ricketts

The Canadian made his debut on Saturday, and he did well in his short time on the pitch, adding a different attacking dynamic to the Caps. His late-season audition may prove to be good for the Caps, as he looks to be a good piece to keep around as a rotational attacking piece, providing good depth, but not breaking the bank at a DP-level salary. 

Tweet of the Match:

Our friends over at B and G Media have been on a bit of a hot streak the last few weeks. Let’s see if he can continue to strike while the iron is hot. Andy Rose natural hat trick next week? Max Crepeau goal? Joaquin Ardaiz’s first goal? Let’s see if he can conjure up some more magic. 

Frustration of the Match:

Wayne Rooney didn’t have the grandest of debuts in Vancouver, unable to help his team find a victory, and because of that he decided to vent some frustrations on the 4th official. Will he get fined for his actions? Tune in for that… His efforts did prove fruitful in the immediate aftermath however….

Heatmap of the Match:

This heatmap does show a lot of what the Caps did good and bad on the evening. They defended well deep, had good glimpses on the wings, and transitioned well when closer to their end. They struggled to transition in the space typically occupied by an attacking midfielder however, and didn’t offer much presence in the box, but the former of the issues remains the bigger issue to sort out, with the lack of bodies in the box more by design. 

#PlayYourKids

With people calling for kids all season, and seeing what Bair has done when giving a shot, this movement will continue to gain more credence amongst fans. Don’t blame them, so hopefully the Caps youngsters can put their heads down and grasp their chances much like Bair has done, giving Vancouver a bright future. 

Looking Forward:

The Caps get a week to train before heading down to San Jose to face off against the Earthquakes. With the Quakes in the midst of a resurgent campaign, and the Caps bouncing back as of late, there is a lot to look forward to in a game that many would consider to be a write-off. While the Caps will not make the playoffs this season, the glimpses they have and will continue to show does provide some excitement heading into an important offseason. 

Vancouver Whitecaps vs San Jose Earthquakes, Saturday August 17th, 2019, 19:00 PST (Avaya Stadium, San Jose) 

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