The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the New England Revolution on Wednesday, winning 2-0 to kick off their 2nd match of the ‘Rose City Invitational’. Here is a look at how the game shaped up down in Portland.
It’s only been 5 games, but so far, the Whitecaps continue to look a lot better this preseason than they did in their last one.
Be it their 2 victories, already 2 more than they had all of last year’s preseason, or the improved offensive tally, of which they added 2 more to on Wednesday, this team looks a lot better out of the gates than they did last year.
While both they and their midweek opponents, the New England Revolution, fielded rotational squads, the Whitecaps did well to generate some chances, with their play improving as the game went on. With a lot of their expected regular starters coming in and making an offensive impact, they seem well prepared to kick off the season 10 days from now, when they’ll take on Kansas City at BC Place.
In this one, two of Vancouver’s most expensive players, Lucas Cavallini and Ali Adnan, made the difference on the night, as they each found the net to help Vancouver overcome their Eastern foes by a score of 2 to nil.
On an evening where they were playing in front of an unusually empty Providence Park, they found a way to overcome a slow start to the match to lead to a respectable finish, with both teams trading chances en route to the eventual Vancouver victory.
The 1st half started out quietly for Vancouver, who very much looked like a team that had made several changes to their starting 11 after playing Portland on Sunday. There were some flashes of strong play, but they were contrasted with equally as long lulls in the action, making for an overall pretty uneventful half.
That doesn’t mean the game was completely devoid of action early on, however, as both teams found some life as the half wore on. Cristian Gutierrez, who was filling in for Ali Adnan at left back, found himself in a good shooting position going forward, but he would send his 32nd-minute strike over the bar.
Vancouver would continue to play the role of the aggressor, and it would pay off in the 34th minute, as Cristian Dajome appeared to win a penalty. Hauled down in the box, after he had done well to open up space through his fellow attackers, it seemed that the Whitecaps had found the breakthrough they had been searching for all half.
But unluckily for Vancouver, their good friend VAR would pay them a visit, denying them of the spot-kick. Despite it only being a preseason tournament, the technology was implemented for this competition to give teams a taste of what MLS has to offer, which unfortunately for Vancouver, denied them of a penalty.
Unperturbed by what was a harsh but correct decision, Dajome continued to push forward, and he found a chance soon after, as he did well to open up space for a half-chance, but his shot was too tame to test Brad Knighton in the New England goal.
Ultimately that would be all that the half had to offer, as both teams headed into the break still deadlocked at 0. Vancouver had found more chances, but no side had done enough to create a clear advantage, with the game doing its best to live up to a midweek preseason friendly.
Motivated by the break, New England would find some fire to start the 2nd half, as they’d push forward aggressively. After a failed wide set-piece, they curled a low ball into the middle, where they found an unmarked Justin Rennicks, who did well to hit the target, but his shot was not strong enough to beat Bryan Meredith in the ‘Caps goal.
Yet despite that opening wave of pressure, it would be Vancouver that would find the game’s opening goal, coming in the 66th minute, after they did well to ride out that Revolution wave. A bit of fancy footwork at the edge of the box from Fredy Montero would open up some space for a back-post cross, which fell well for Lucas Cavallini, who did well to bring down the ball, slamming the ball into the low corner with plenty of conviction.
And that would open up the flood gates for them, as they would find their second soon after, this time through second-half substitute, Ali Adnan. With Vancouver winning a free-kick in a great central position, it allowed the Iraqi international to step up to take it, and he made no mistake with his set-piece, curling it over the wall and off the post to double the scoring for the ‘Caps.
With that goal in the bag, that would be all this game had to offer for both sides, as the Whitecaps weathered a late New England flurry to preserve their clean sheet. After falling in the first game, they did well to hold off the Revolution long enough to find a goal, and then once they had that, they did well to coast to the finish line.
All-in-all, it was a solid performance from Vancouver, who despite the mixed lineup, had flashes in both halves. They looked better at the end, with the second-half substitutes making a big difference in the game offensively, but there were a lot of positive performances to pick through, which heading into the last game, should make for some interesting lineup decisions.
Now with 2 wins, 2 losses and a draw to take from 5 preseason matches, the ‘Caps have had a solid start to preseason, which is hoped leads them to a strong start to the 2020 campaign. After a discombobulated 2019 preseason slate, things are looking up in Whitecaps land, which considering the rough couple of campaigns that they’ve had, should lead some optimism.
It’s still to be seen how this puzzle all clicks together, and no doubt there are still some missing puzzle pieces, but year-over-year, the progress has been noticeable, which at the very least, should lead to improved results.
In the Mixer:
- After a tough end to the last game, Fredy Montero looked a lot crisper in this one, while 1st game standout Yordy Reyna was a tad bit quieter. Overall, Reyna has been the better of the 2 in the fight for the #10 spot on opening day, but Montero kept himself alive with his performance in the 2nd half on the day, with his assist for Cavallini being the crown jewel of his play.
- Defensively, Vancouver kept things mostly to the outside, bar a few scares, which for a patchwork backline, was quite impressive. They do seem to have quite an impressive cache of defensive depth, so it’ll be interesting to see who the two main centre backs end up being, with the two central defending positions being in constant flux so far. Jake Nerwinski and Ali Adnan seemed to be locked in at full back, but beyond that, it’s been anyone’s guess for the players in the middle.
- In the midfield, In Beom continues to control the game, which is no surprise, but beyond him, there have been some interesting performances to dissect. Russell Teibert has had a solid preseason, and continued it today, while Patrick Metcalfe had a surprisingly good first start in the white and blue, possibly throwing his name in the hat for more minutes. Along with Aboubacar Sissoko, who was quietly effective in his minutes, and the incoming Leonard Owusu, there’s going to be some interesting battles for midfield time. Will they have enough in the midfield to compete in MLS? Hard to see, yet, but at the very least it should be interesting to watch, especially going forward.
- Offensively, the Caps depth continues to shine through. David Milinkovic has had a strong preseason, making him a very likely day 1 starter, while Lucas Cavallini continues to do what he gets paid to do, which is to annoy defences and score goals. Along with Montero and Reyna, and the sneakily effective Cristian Dajome, who has been quiet but good in his appearances, and the ‘Caps have some firepower up front. And that’s without mentioning the potential of young Theo Bair, and the reliability of Tosaint Ricketts, either…
The Whitecaps will finish off their tournament on Saturday, with an early clash against Minnesota, before returning home to Vancouver to prepare for their home opener. With positive results like this one in their back pocket, it’s hoped that they can continue their good vibes into the last game of preseason, before getting set to come out of the gates strong for the 2020 season.
There are still many question marks around this team, no doubt, but the progress has been good to see, and it should lead to a much stronger start this time around. Some of the new signings have been exciting, while some of the returning faces look rejuvenated and ready to work, which all together could lead to some more exciting football.
Which after last season, a season that was often equal parts frustrating to watch as it was to process, to see the improved mood has been good.
Now it’s time to see if it translates into better performances, starting with opening kick on February 29th. After a long offseason, it’s almost time to get things going for real, which is plenty of reason to be excited heading into the end of this month.
Cover Photo: Vancouver Whitecaps/Sheldon Rogers