The Vancouver Whitecaps kicked off their MLS is Back tournament against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday, as they fell 4-3 to their Californian rivals. Here is our match report from that one, as we break down a tough loss for the ‘Caps.
They weathered the storm for 45 minutes, but then things quickly went downhill after that.
In their opening game of MLS is Back, the Vancouver Whitecaps eventually succumbed to the San Jose Earthquakes by a score of 4-3, as they were unable to hold onto a 3-1 second-half lead down in Orlando.
After a surprisingly bright start to the game, it was a tough way to go out for Vancouver, who did well to push the Earthquakes despite a handful of key absences.
It wasn’t the most flattering end to the game for the ‘Caps, who struggled to hold on against an endless Earthquakes wave of chances, as they were just unable to adjust to San Jose’s aggressive second-half push.
Considering the overall circumstances, it’s not a bad result as a whole, but seeing that the ‘Caps had a very good chance to win this game, it’s certainly one that will hurt, especially if they struggle to pick up any other points this tournament.
Ali Adnan got the party started early for the Whitecaps, as the Iraqi international did well to collect the ball from Hwang In Beom out on the left in the 8th minute, before cutting in and curling a low right-footed striker past Daniel Vega in the Earthquakes goal to open the scoring.
Soon after that, it was all Max Crepeau for Vancouver, who stood strong to hold off a San Jose wave of shots. First, he stopped Jackson Yueill, who delivered a low and hard strike to Crepeau’s right in the 11th minute, before Cristian Espinoza forced a nice diving stop with a hard attempt from inside the box.
Despite that pressure, Vancouver would hold strong, and that would pave the way for their second goal, which came in the 22nd minute. After a San Jose short corner, Cristian Dajome caught San Jose napping and made a tackle, before running off with Yordy Reyna on what was essentially a 70 metre long 2 on 0 against Daniel Vega.
From there, it didn’t end up being as easy as it should have looked, as Reyna waited too long to shoot or pass, but luckily for him, his eventual crossed ball hit off of the backtracking San Jose midfielder, Judson, and into the gaping cage, giving the ‘Caps a surprise 2 goal lead.
Frustrated by the ‘Caps fast start, the Quakes continued to wake up as the half wore on. As they sent wave-after-wave of pressure towards the Vancouver goal, they seemed to get close to an equalizer, but their closest chance would be a curled Magnus Eriksson strike that Crepeau would just tip over.
Like the wolf that kept huffing and puffing to blow the house down, however, it would pay off. Right before the stroke of half time, San Jose sent in one of their first-half corners, and this time it would work, as Andy Rios pulled off a nice backheel flick to halve the deficit.
For the ‘Caps, it was a warning sign. They had started brightly, but faded as the half went along, allowing the ‘Quakes to grow into the game. After doing well to stand up to San Jose to start the match, they had quickly lost their influence on the game, and it seemed only a matter of time until things would slip away completely, unless something changed.
There were some positives to take away, though. The defence had looked solid, and the forwards had flashes of brilliance, so it was thought that if the ‘Caps could get some more out of their midfield as a whole, they could control the rest of the game.
And pushed on by what was surely a rousing speech for Marc Dos Santos, they started to do just that to kick off the second half. They didn’t find a way to test Vega in the San Jose goal, but they got two solid chances, as Reyna and David Milinkovic both sent curled shots just wide around the 50th minute.
That pressure would eventually pay off, as the ‘Caps would then find their 3rd in the 62nd minute, shortly after Crepeau made a big stop on Vako. David Milinkovic did well to press high and pick off an errant Vega pass, and smartly elected to play the ball off to a wide-open Dajome, who slotted home into the empty net for his first MLS goal.
But then, much like in the first half, after the goal, San Jose woke up. They continued to press for a 2nd goal, and they found it in the 72nd minute, as a hopeful long ball found its way to second-half substitute Chris Wondolowski in the box. From there, he nodded the ball on goal, and it eluded Crepeau and a defender behind him, Ali Adnan, to narrow the advantage to 3-2.
That would set the table for an electric last 20 minutes, with both teams looking to push for a victory. The game opened right up as a result, and unluckily for Vancouver, it would lead to a 3rd San Jose goal, as the ‘Quakes found a way to unlock Osvaldo Alanis at the back post off of a corner, with the defender doing a good job to jump up and nod the equalizer home.
It led to a flurry of chances at either side to end the game, as both sides chased a winner, with 9 minutes of stoppage time to aid them in that quest.
And it would be San Jose who would best find a way to take advantage of that extra time, as former Whitecaps midfielder Shea Salinas hopped on a loose ball in the middle of the pitch, before slaloming through the ‘Caps defence and slotting home past Crepeau, giving the ‘Quakes all 3 points.
After showing flashes of brilliance throughout the game, the lack of ‘Caps depth proved to play a role, as the 11 guys on the field quickly lost their energy. Considering that, it was surprising to not see the ‘Caps use all of the 5 substitutes that they had available to them, but with the young bench at his disposal, Dos Santos elected to only make 3 changes.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad game, but it was certainly a tough finish, which will likely be what this match is eventually remembered for. In a tournament like this, game management is huge, as each match can have a big impact on the standings, so to see 3 points slip away like that is frustrating.
Luckily for Vancouver, they still have 2 games to play, so they can still advance, but in this busy tournament format, every game from here on in just got all that more important.
Man of the Match: Cristian Dajome
(HM: Ali Adnan, Ranko Veselinovic, Maxime Crepeau, Leonard Owusu)
For most of the game, the defenders were leading the way for this award, but given how they eventually faded out at the end of the game, it would be hard to give them a man of the match.
As a result, Dajome takes this one, as he was lively until he was taken off. He created the 2nd goal with his defensive work, and scored the 3rd with a tidy finish, as he found a way to get involved in the final 3rd when it counted.
If he can keep getting himself involved on both ends of the pitch, he should be a key piece for the ‘Caps going forward, as his influence should help them massively going forward.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Leonard Owusu
In what was a quiet game from the Whitecaps midfield, Owusu stood out among his peers, as he had a tidy game for Vancouver.
He seemed to be most involved offensively, and had some good moments defensively, as well, making him the de-facto midfield leader in this one. Despite not having a lot of support, he stood out whenever he got the ball, as he found a way to usually pick out the right teammates with his passing.
If he can continue to stamp his influence on the midfield, freeing up his teammates, it can only help the ‘Caps, who got uncharacteristically quiet performances from In Beom and Teibert alongside Owusu in the middle.
Stat of the night:
Yeah… not every day that you see this one. The ‘Caps did well to score their 3 goals, but considering how poor the San Jose defence was, they should have certainly put them under more duress, which they just failed to do.
Bad news of the night:
In what was bad news for a ‘Caps team already struggling with injuries, it was a tough blow to hear that Janio Bikel would miss the rest of the tournament with an undisclosed injury, which was obtained in training.
For a Vancouver team that struggled to control the midfield against San Jose, they could’ve used his snarl and bite at the #6, and his absence will certainly be missed as a result.
Heatmap of the night:
It was thought that we would have to retire this segment after last year, but alas, the ‘Caps have outdone themselves.
When you look at this, the absence of Bikel hurts all the much more. Against this San Jose team, it’s not unusual to see a team’s heat map look like this, but considering the bodies Vancouver mad in the middle of the park, you expected more of an overall push.
Luckily for Vancouver, they have a short turnaround until their next game, as they take on the Seattle Sounders, Sunday evening at 19h30 PST.
After this tough-to-stomach performance, it’ll be a good opportunity for Vancouver to get back on the right track, as they look to advance in this MLS is Back tournament.
Overall, it wasn’t a bad game, but in a sport of moments, they just overall didn’t come up on top in the right moments, and that cost them dearly.
If they want to have a chance at winning going forward, they’ll need to do that, starting with the Sounders on Sunday.
Up next: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Seattle Sounders FC, Sunday, July 19th, 2020, 19h30 PST