Post-Match Review #29– Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Montreal Impact: Dinged in La Belle Province

The Caps fell 2-1 to the Impact in a hard-fought match at Stade Saputo

The lone midweek MLS fixture at Stade Saputo today was definitely a treat for the neutral. Neither club was in the best shape overall, as the ‘Caps came from San Jose a little shaken up while the Impact are becoming more desperate for victories after their loss to rivals Toronto FC. Both teams showed real desire to score and in doing so gave up spaces at the back, especially as the match wore on. The array of chances at both ends made for one of the post-games where both sides lamented the “what if”. Well one team scored two and the other scored one, and that’s the way the story went.

Recap:

Despite an energetic start from both sides, the first chance of the game came via a blunder, as Max Crepeau nearly gave Max Urruti a free goal in tight. A sloppy Derek Cornelius pass gave Crepeau little time to pick out a good pass, but he managed to bundle the chip out for a corner, averting the danger.

Montreal started to control the flow of the game, racking up a couple of half-chances. Despite that, Vancouver would find the game’s first goal, as some nice interplay on the right side led to Tosaint Ricketts finding himself in a good position to the right of Evan Bush. He made a nice heads up play, squaring the ball into a dangerous area which slid through to a wide-open Yordy Reyna, giving Vancouver the lead.

The game got interesting around the 22nd minute, as some sloppy play in the Montreal box led to Michaell Chirinos getting the ball in space around the top of the 18th box, and he would win a penalty, setting up Vancouver to double its lead. On the ensuing penalty, Reyna would step up and get his shot saved by Bush, but Ricketts would turn in the rebound for his first Whitecaps goal.

Or so he thought. After a VAR check, it appeared that there was a violation on the penalty. It appears that both Ricketts and Bush left a little early. With Ricketts entering the box early, the penalty could have been canceled altogether, as Reyna missed, but Bush’s violation made the decision a retake and redemption for Reyna.

But in a story arc with more twists and turns than the path up Montreal’s famed Mont-Royal, Reyna would find his 2nd attempt saved on a pretty identical shot, as Bush made a repeat save to deny him, the only difference being that he was able to parry Reyna’s shot out for a corner instead of back into the box. So instead of being up 2-0 as it seemed like they were en route to doing, the Whitecaps were instead left to play with their 1 goal lead, not to mention that the crowd had gained a noticeable jolt from the wild sequence of events.

And, almost predictably, Montreal would score soon after, finding a goal in the 35th minute, as Derek Cornelius made a great tackle attempt on Urruti, but he was unable to corral the ball, allowing him to run 1 on 1 against Crepeau. He crossed the ball into a crowded box, and found the Impact’s first goal of the game as a result, as the ball would bundle in off of Doneil Henry and in for the own goal.

Things went from bad to worse for the Caps soon after, as less than 2 minutes later the Impact would find their first lead of the game. Bacary Sagna would find the ball out near the right touchline, and he would whip one in towards the penalty spot, which both Cornelius and Okwonkwo challenged for, with the ball deflecting to the other side of the box. It would find an unmarked Maxi Urruti, and as he has done for most of his MLS career, he made no mistake with the chance, slamming home a volley that Crepeau could only get fingers to, giving Montreal the advantage.

Chirinos would nearly claw one back for the Caps in the 41st minute, as he almost opened his MLS account in style. Renya would curl in a dangerous cross from the right of the box, which Chirinos struck at with an acrobatic scissor kick. He did well to connect with the ball and generated good power, but he was unable to redirect the shot on target, sending it a couple of feet wide to keep the game 2-1.

With the first half finding a rather unexciting ending, both teams came back out brightly to start the second half to exchange chances. First, it was Montreal, who nearly found their 3rd goal of the game via another goalward Whitecaps deflection off a cross, but they were denied by an alert Crepeau.

The Caps would nearly equalize when they quickly countered the other way, as Michaell Chirinos would get in behind the Impact defence via a nice through ball from Reyna, but he was unable to chip the ball past an onrushing Bush, with the ensuing rebound attempt from In Beom Hwang getting blocked on the Impact goal line.

Chirinos would continue his rough night at the office, as he did well once again to find space in the 53rd minute. A cross from Ali Adnan would find him unmarked at the penalty spot for a header, but he was unable to direct it goalward, finding only Bush’s chest. Despite his lack of finish in front of goal, his play going forward was certainly positive, but much like the Whitecaps for most of the season, he just couldn’t find the end product that he desired. 

Montreal would find a flurry of chances soon after, as it was first through Saphir Taider, who’s long-distance strike was able to test Crepeau, before Urruti would find space at the edge of the box on the ensuing corner. He did well to imitate a left-footed Carlos Vela-esque chip towards the back post, but he was denied by the strong hands of Crepeau once more.

Crepeau continued to stand strong in the 58th minute, as Bojan and Urruti continued to torment the Vancouver defence, playing a tight 1-2, leaving Bojan with another look from close, but the Canadian international did well to deny the ex-Barcelona man his second goal in MLS. 

The game would hit a lull after that chance, as both teams would trade half-chances, but there was nothing that would threaten Bush’s or Crepeau’s respective goals. Ricketts did well to find space off of a well crafted through ball in the 68th minute, and he hit the ball well towards the near post, but Bush did well to parry the ball off of the side of the net and out for a corner. 

Vancouver would continue to press, but Montreal’s back line would hold strong. Some nice play on the left side after a corner nearly led to a nice Doneil Henry header in the 76th minute, but his strike would tickle off of the post and out for a goal kick. 

With Vancouver pressing high up the pitch, it left swaths of space for Montreal to expose on the counter, and they did that in the 78th minute, as some slick passing would leave Bojan all alone at the top of the box. The Spaniard struck the ball well, sending a shot that seemed destined for the top corner, but Crepeau did well to extend and punch it out, leaving Vancouver only a goal behind heading into the last 15 plus added time. 

The game would continue to remain wide open, with both teams leaving themselves open for chances. Ali Adnan would nearly tie things up with a knuckling free-kick from deep, but he was denied by Bush. Lappalainen had one last look at the other end where he nearly added another for the Impact, but his left-footed shot would just go past the far post.

Performances:

Jon Erice played for the first time since July 20th.

The big story in the team today was the midfield and its ability to not only keep the ball better, but play forward quickly into dangerous areas. A big part of that is surely a change in personnel. Jon Erice made his first appearance in five and a half weeks. Dos Santos says the absence is due to fatigue, since he came into the season already halfway through the season with his former club in Spain. Nonetheless, his presence made a difference. He was an important link in the heart of the team and even contributed in providing service to the attacking players.

The return meant that Inbeom headed into his more natural number 8 role after spending the last month as a holding midfielder. Not that he didn’t do well in the deeper role, but his more advanced position got him on the ball in more dangerous areas.

Yordy Reyna has been one of Vancouver’s best lately as he settled into the striker position. But, Dos Santos switched things up again today. He inserted Reyna as a winger, the position he played to start the season. His two missed penalty kicks aside, he still managed to have a positive influence on the game from out wide.

In Reyna’s place up top Tosaint Ricketts made his first start in the Blue and White. He looked promising throughout, but was always searching for that breakthrough moment.

Back in goal hometown buy Maxime Crépeau had another stellar display. He made a few important saves in the game to keep it in the balance until the end. Despite the friends in attendance at the stadium he attended as a kid, he left frustrated with the outcome.

Storylines

VAR controversy

The game took a drastic turn midway through the first half. Ricketts thought he had his first goal as a Whitecap after putting in the rebound of Yordy Reyna’s penalty… until VAR had its say. It was deemed that Ricketts had entered the moon shape above the box before the shot was taken, meaning the goal didn’t count. But, given that Bush stepped off his line prematurely, it ultimately resulted in a retake. Of course, the drama wasn’t over then. Reyna missed the subsequent penalty and left a sour taste for the Whitecaps of the whole affair.

“I watched pretty much every MLS games and it’s not called.” said coach Marc Dos Santos, who expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision in his post-match comments.

Newcomers adding some punch

Dos Santos showed some faith in his latest recruits by starting Ricketts and Chirinos for this one. It was the first start for both of them and they brought excitement to the side today. Ricketts with his pace and Chirinos with his trickery reminiscent of the departed Bolaños. The final product wasn’t there today, as some glorious chances were squandered, but they were performances which should deserve at the very least some more opportunities.

Tosaint Ricketts now has two substitute appearances and one start for the Whitecaps.

Stat of the match:

Possession: Whitecaps FC 61% – 39% Montreal Impact

This is the first MLS game since June 22 that Vancouver has more than half of the ball. After hitting a low against San Jose on the weekend where the ‘Caps had just 25% possession, Dos Santos said that some focus was put on that aspect of the game in particular and that it paid off today.

“We stressed closing down (Montreal), as that was very bad against San Jose, we stressed a lot the quality of our first 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.”

Marc Dos Santos

Looking forward:

Up next is New York City FC in three days time. It’s a quick turnaround which NYCFC hopes to make the most of as they are already in Vancouver getting comfortable. The Whitecaps fly home tomorrow before they prepare to get back to work at BC Place.

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