The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up their first 3 points of the season this weekend, as they downed the LA Galaxy down in Carson, giving them their first victory in 2020 MLS play. Here is how things broke down on the night.
They had a ticket to the dance, and once they got in, they sure made it count.
Fittingly enough, the man who seemed to hold the ticket, the aptly named Tosaint Ricketts, made sure that the Vancouver Whitecaps were full value for their money on Saturday, as they downed the LA Galaxy by a score of 1-0.
Buoyed by a second-half Ricketts goal, the ‘Caps did what they needed to do in order to keep the high-flying Galaxy attack off the board, defending resiliently en route to the clean sheet.
After a tough opening-day matchup, one where they looked quite outmatched in some areas of the pitch, they did well to compete all over the park in this one, which eventually led to a positive result.
Heading into what’s going to be a tough portion of their 2020 schedule, it was a great way to get some points on the board, as they get set to show that the work they’ve done this offseason was not for naught, as some initially feared after the 3-1 opening day loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Down in LA, this match got off to a more even start than the SKC one, with both teams spending the first few minutes to feel out the other, as is often typical of an early season MLS match. LA came out aggressively in their 4-3-3, while Vancouver sat back a bit more in their 4-4-2, but despite those tactical differences, both were able to control the game in their way.
From that statemate, the Galaxy would be the first to emerge for a chance, as Cristian Pavon set up Aleksandar Katai in the 8th minute, with the Serbian just nodding his header wide, keeping things deadlocked.
On the other end, the Whitecaps came quite close to scoring less than 5 minutes later, with Hwang In Beom finding himself in a good position at the top of the box, yet it would eventually amount to nothing, as the South Korean would be unable to find a wide-open Cristian Dajome to his right, as he instead struck the ball right into a defender.
Soon after, LA would continue to push for an opener, with their fans urging them on with each touch of the ball. Pavon came close in the 15th minute, after Rolf Feltscher did well to set up the Argentine with a lovely ball, with the LA #10 only finding himself let down by the height of his strike, as he did well to get good contact on the ball.
At the other end, LA would find their best chance of the first half less than 10 minutes later, with Vancouver gifting them a beautiful chance in the 24th minute, one that the Galaxy were just unable to convert on.
After Janio Bikel nodded the ball forward, as he failed to hear the calls to leave the ball from his goalkeeper, Max Crepeau, the ball fell to Sacha Kljestan with an empty goal in front of him, but the MLS veteran would find himself unable to finish, just sending the ball wide with his strike instead.
With that defensive error in mind, the ‘Caps would nearly find their breakthrough less than a minute later, as they did well to win a foul deep in the LA half. In Beom would step up to take it, and he struck it well, doing a good job to find centre back Andy Rose at the near post.
Unfortunately for the Englishmen, however, his header would not be enough to find the back of the net, as it looped over LA’s goalkeeper, David Bingham, only finding itself denied by the crossbar.
From there, the half would slow right down, with no team finding much else in terms of chances the rest of the way. After their disappointing first-half performance a week ago, the ‘Caps did well to keep up with the Galaxy in their own stadium, as they looked very much up to the occasion throughout the first 45.
They needed a little more in the middle of the park, with the LA midfield looking vulnerable at times, but they did well to expose the Galaxy in wide areas, which led to them getting a solid 7 shots throughout the first stanza of play. Considering that they only had 9 throughout the entirety of 90 minutes against SKC, it showed their improved play in this one, which led to hope that an opening goal could be found sometime in the next 45.
Much like they did in the first half, LA would get the first good chance in the second, however, as they put together a nice sequence of play down the left-hand side. It allowed Pavon to run into a good area near the byline, and he dinked a lovely ball into Feltscher, who did everything but score, with Andy Rose heroically throwing himself in front of the volley to keep the score level.
After that, the game settled right down for both teams, with the LA heat certainly playing a role in the sluggish play of either team. Lucas Cavallini nearly broke that lull in the 70th minute, as David Milinkovic played the Canadian in nicely, with Cavallini only finding himself denied by Bingham’s legs, along with the offside flag of the assistant referee.
Spurred on by that moment, the ‘Caps would soon find their opener, with their defensive persistence finally paying off. After Ali Adnan had done nicely to open up space down the left-hand side, he was able to find Tosaint Ricketts at the top of the 6-yard box, where the veteran Canadian would find himself able to look up and slot home calmly, giving Vancouver the lead.
And his good work would continue on later into the game, as he seemingly seemed to appear all over the park for Vancouver. After doing well to cross up Giancarlo Gonzalez on a darting run in the 87th minute, he would help Vancouver win a penalty, which allowed Lucas Cavallini to step up and open his MLS account.
Or so everyone thought. Surprisingly, Cavallini seemed taken aback by the occasion, and struck his penalty right down the middle, right into the feet of Bingham, who read the strike well. It was another missed occasion for Cavallini, who’s yet to transfer his strong preseason form into everyday MLS action, unfortunately for him and his team, who could certainly use his goals.
Luckily for Vancouver, that miss would not come back to bite them, as they would close down the rest of the game in a professional manner. Despite a couple of close calls from the Galaxy, they locked things down when needed, giving them a much-needed result early on in the season.
They were made to work for it, no doubt, but they rose to the occasion, overall emerging as the better team over the course of the 90 minutes. After looking so poor against SKC, they showed more of the side that had impressed observers throughout the preseason, looking much more assured in their play.
It’s early days, no doubt, but with more to come from the likes of Bikel, Leonard Owusu, Ranko Veselinovic and Erik Godoy, there’s definitely something brewing here.
Man of the Match: Tosaint Ricketts (HM: Andy Rose, Janio Bikel)
It was hard to pick a man of the match between the 3 nominees (the choice on twitter was quite split, as well) but Ricketts gets the nod tonight. He scored a huge goal, set up what should have been another, and was just all over the park offensively. His touch let him down at times, and he didn’t offer the same link-up play that Yordy Reyna did in his 2nd striker role, but he brought his own flair to the game, which paid off for Vancouver in the end.
Elsewhere, Bikel was composed and controlled in his debut at right back, shutting down the talented Pavon, while Rose did not look out of place at centre back, helping keep Chicharito and company at bay over the course of 90 minutes.
BTSVancity Player to watch: Lucas Cavallini
It’s been a tough first 180 minutes of regular season play for Vancouver’s newest DP, who much like the last game against Sporting Kansas City, was unable to finish his big chances when needed. He worked hard without the ball, winning fouls and making things happen, but his finish is going to be crucial in big games, so hopefully it comes sooner rather than later.
History suggests that it will happen, now it’s only a matter of when, with the ‘Caps certainly
hoping it comes as quickly as possible.
Debut of the night
Bikel came in hot in this one, racking up tackles, doing well to shut down a dangerous Pavon. Even despite his deployment in a less than preferred right back role, he rose to the occasion, showing off some of his defensive chops.
All-in-all, a valuable defensive performance in a long line of them for Vancouver, who after the SKC loss, did well to regroup and pick up the clean sheet.
Optimism of the night
Is this the start of a midfield? With Owusu on his way, after a good cameo tonight, you’d certainly hope so.
It’s been a long time since the ‘Caps had a heatmap like that one, so let’s see if this is the start of a trend, not an anomaly.
Stats of the night
Ricketts and Khemiri love Los Angeles, eh?
The ‘Caps get right back at it 7 days from now, this time at home, with the Colorado Rapids looming as their next test. It won’t be an easy one, with the Rapids so far looking like an early darkhorse candidate in the West, but if Vancouver shows up with a similar defensive attitude, anything can happen, especially if we see more of Owusu and Bikel in the middle of the pitch.
After a tough start to the season, it was hoped the team could avoid the nightmarish start of 2019, which luckily for fans, they did. It wasn’t a Mona Lisa of a performance, yet that didn’t really matter, with it being quite the impressive road MLS match.
With the tough opening day loss now behind them, hopefully they can use this match to spring themselves forward, while also using their new additions to help boost them into a good start to the campaign.
It’s too early to see if that will be the case, as this one game won’t mean anything over the long run, but at the very least, it shows what they do have in their locker when they play the way that they want to.
Up next: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Colorado Rapids, Saturday, March 14th, 2020, 16:00 PST (BC Place, Vancouver)