Despite resurgent performance, Whitecaps slip-up in rainy night at Saputo

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Montreal Impact in a slippery performance at Saputo, and while they would eventually fall to their Eastern Canada foes, they did well to bounce back on Wednesday, so soon after a statistical tidal wave in San Jose put them well underwater heading into this one. 

With the memories of that San Jose game behind them, Vancouver got right back at it against the Impact in Montreal on Wednesday, as they took on their longtime rivals at Stade Saputo. Despite a bright start from the Whitecaps, who scored first and looked much better from the beginning than they ever did against San Jose, they were just unable to lock down the game, as the last 20 minutes of the first half would prove to be their eventual downfall, as they would miss the chance to go up 2 goals thanks to VAR, and it would cost them, as they would eventually find themselves down 2-1 at the end of the first stanza. 

Despite an energetic start from both sides, Vancouver would find the games first goal, as some nice play on the right side led to Tosaint Ricketts finding himself in a good position to the left of Evan Bush, and he squared a nice ball across goal, which Michaell Chirinos appeared to get a touch on before finding it’s way through to Yordy Reyna, who would tap in his 6th of the season. 

“I don’t agree that it was a good start,” Dos Santos said after the game. “I agree that it was a good start (because of the goal), but apart that, there were the goals by Montreal.”

The game turned on its head early on, as things would get really interesting in the 22nd minute. After a messy scramble in the Montreal box led to Michaell Chirinos drawing a penalty for the Caps, Reyna would go on to have his penalty saved, only for Tosaint Ricketts to score the rebound. After a VAR check, however, it was determined that both Ricketts and goalkeeper Evan Bush had committed encroachment violations, leading the ref to retake the penalty. 

On the retake, Reyna missed, and just like that, the Caps had gone from 2-0 up right back to 1-0, and that seemed to deflate the side. The Impact would score two more to end the half up 2-1, thanks to a Doneil Henry own goal off of a Maxi Urruti cross, to go along with a tidy finish off of the volley from the Argentine just a few minutes later, and all of a sudden the whole VAR situation had a bigger stamp on the game than anyone would have hoped. Manager Marc Dos Santos certainly was not happy with the outcome it provided, and he didn’t mince any words after the game. 

“I think that the key point in the game is that penalty shot situation that I totally disagreed with,” Dos Santos said frankly. “It’s a huge mistake, these calls are not called, there’s no chance it’s called back in Atlanta, in Seattle or in LA, no chance.”

“But it’s called right now because we don’t have the full respect right now of officials, and that’s going to change, but it shouldn’t be called back, it needs to be clear and obvious to be called back and for the official to call it back, it’s ridiculous”

The Caps would desperately try to claw things back to 2-2, but they were foiled on their many attempts to so, with Michaell Chirinos finding 3 glorious chances to tie things up, but he was unable to find the back of the net to find his first MLS goal. 

We played overall a good 2nd half,” Dos Santos said. “We tried to score, create, then of course once we push so many bodies up, there’s the awareness in the danger of transition that for Montreal it’s a big part of their game, but overall the only thing negative today (for me) is the result.”

As Vancouver pushed forward in the second half, the only reason they were not left to rue the space left on the pitch was due to Max Crepeau, who was stellar once again for the Caps, making 6 stops overall, amongst them some impressive highlight reel ones. If it were not for Crepeau clawing away a second-half Urruti chip, slapping away a near own goal at the near post and denying Bojan with a pair of clutch saves later in the half, there was no way Vancouver remained as close as they did on the night. 

Ultimately, the match was another case of the Whitecaps being unable to convert on their chances, as they did well to keep 61% possession, completed an efficient 490 passes to the tune of 87%, and they generated 8 shots on goal, but they just couldn’t beat Evan Bush when it counted. 

With a short turnaround from the San Jose game, forcing them to condense their training due to the travel and the midweek game, it was a good bounceback effort, it was just unfortunate that they were unable to find a result for their troubles. So for Dos Santos, while the homecoming was not exactly as he drew it up, he can be happy with the resiliency of his squad. 

“We stressed closing down (Montreal),” Dos Santos said. “That was very bad in against San Jose, we stressed a lot the quality of our 1st pass out of pressure so we start possessions. We spoke so much, we went through video because we can’t train a lot, and again the response was perfect, the only thing that was negative today was the result.”

Captain Erice returns to the team

Erice looks to be back in the Whitecaps plans after a mysterious absence (Keveren Guillou)

After nearly a month on the sidelines, Jon Erice made his return to the Whitecaps starting 11, wearing the captain’s armband once again for Vancouver. He added an element that was missing in the squad, as his presence on the field aided the Caps in multiple ways, as he pushed Hwang In Beom further up the field, while still providing many of the attributes that In Beom had shown in his stint as the 6. 

“He played a good game,” Dos Santos said of his deep-lying playmaker. “Especially in his passing game because he has that quality. We felt again that Jon (Erice) needed a little bit of a break because of the 13, 14 months (he played) in a row, and yeah he is going to help the team in moments like this for sure.”

Erice was crisp in his passing, completing 91 passes at an 89% clip, adding in 1 key pass as well. After the Caps struggled in the midfield against San Jose, with Rusell Teibert and Andy Rose combining for 29 passes overall, what Erice added on Wednesday played a big role in the Whitecaps improvement on the attacking side of their game. For Erice, after getting the chance to watch the San Jose game from the sidelines, he felt prepared to add his attributes to the squad, and it certainly showed.   

“It was two different games,” Erice said after the game, speaking of the teams last two matches. “San Jose is a team that presses during 90 minutes, their games are always very open, and it’s difficult to take the ball away from those teams, especially when they lose the ball in your half, as they press a lot. Today was different, the first 30 minutes I thought that we could win the game 3-0, but we didn’t do enough and we gave away 2 easy goals, and in the second half we tried, tried and tried but we couldn’t score.”

The Caps were much more solid defensively on Wednesday as well, and while Erice didn’t turn the tide all by himself, he certainly played a role in doing so, adding 3 tackles, 2 interceptions and 1 clearance, helping the Caps only concede 2 on the night. The two they did concede were a mixed bag, as the Doneil Henry own goal came about after Cornelius was unable to complete a routine tackle on the wet surface, and the Urruti goal was a little more calamitous, resulting from some poor defending from the flanks, and poor reactions on the initial cross. 

But either way, Erice looks to be back for now, with the cause of his mysterious absence finally being revealed. While his contract situation leaves a lot of questions heading into next year, as he is one of the top earners on the squad at $650 000, his attitude and desire cannot be questioned, as he has shown himself to be a wise head that has made him the obvious choice as captain since day 1. Despite his absence from the squad, he took the time to address the situation after the game, and he remained humble and honest despite his age, salary and captaincy role. 

“It’s part of soccer,” Erice said honestly of his time out of the squad. “You know that when you are on a roster of 25 guys you have to work for the team, work for your moment, so the coach (Dos Santos) decided to give me a rest for the team”

“Fined” Lines being toed?

Dos Santos was not a fan of the refereeing in Montreal (Keveren Guillou)

As mentioned, Dos Santos did not stay quiet with his words on the officiating, dropping a couple of loaded quotes after the match. For all the turmoil the Caps have faced this season with VAR, he has managed to hold his tongue, so to see him lash out over a decision that wasn’t even wrong seemed a bit curious. 

But, having seen VAR take away a lot of joy from the team this season, he may have figured that it was his time to have a go at it, and did he ever do that post-match. 

“I can’t talk about VAR this year because it’s been disastrous for us in many moments,” Dos Santos said bluntly. “I never speak about these moments, but right now I feel that at the game 28 if I don’t defend my group, then I’m being a coach that never defends them.”

“It was horrendous. The game is changing. I fell in love with another game, this game is so robotic that one day there’s not going to be players on the field. I think Playstation on TV is going to sell more than the real games. It’s becoming so robotic it’s incredible.”

For a Vancouver team that has had its fair share of debacles with VAR, it is unsure how this rant will aid the team, but for many people around the club, they will certainly feel vindicated in Dos Santos’s venomous tongue-lashing. 

The Whitecaps have had a tumultuous relationship with VAR, and while this will do little to aid their reputation in the short-term, they appear to be at rock bottom in that regard anyway, so Dos Santos felt it was time to put out a message. With 5 games left in the campaign, now we’ll see how much of an impact it truly has. 

“I’m being honest for me this is not called in other places,” Dos Santos finished. “it’s not, and right now it’s where we are, but it’s not called in other places, I watch pretty much every MLS game, and it’s not called.”

Next Up: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs New York City FC, Saturday, August 31st, 2019, 19:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver)

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