Trouble in Toronto: Piatti brace sinks Vancouver Whitecaps in tough 3-0 loss against Toronto FC to restart MLS play

After a short break, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto FC resumed their respective MLS season’s on Tuesday, as they took each other on in a big game at BMO Field, in which Toronto eventually cruised to a 3-0 victory. Here is our match report from that one. 

It almost looked like they’d never left Orlando. 

Maybe not in a physical sense, as the Vancouver Whitecaps were very much present against Toronto FC on Tuesday, but maybe from a spiritual sense, as they seemed to lack some of the passion that they showed at the MLS is Back tournament down in Orlando. 

As a result, they were carved up by Toronto FC on Tuesday, as TFC wasted no chance to dispatch their Canadian rivals, dominating them to a tune of a 3-0 victory that could’ve easily seen Toronto score more goals than they eventually did. 

For Vancouver, it was a tough way to return to MLS action, especially after building so much positive momentum down in Orlando, as they received a tough gut check from one of the MLS’s best. 

Luckily for them, they get to play Toronto on the same field in 3 days, giving them a shot at revenge, but after this one, in which they were outclassed in pretty much every department by their rivals, they’ll have a lot to work on if they’re going to make some noise in the rematch. 

To start the game, Vancouver made 3 changes to its lineup from their last game against Sporting Kansas City at MLS is Back, as Lucas Cavallini slotted in for Theo Bair up top, Yordy Reyna came in for the departed In Beom Hwang as a #10, while Andy Rose took the place of Derek Cornelius at the back.

Over on Toronto’s end, big-name attackers Jozy Altidore, Pablo Piatti, Alejandro Pozuelo and Jonathan Osorio all started together for the first time, with the rest of their squad looking the same as it was from their last game at MLS is Back against New York City FC. 

The Whitecaps started out with lots of energy, especially up front, best summarized by Lucas Cavallini, who took out his best friend Jonathan Osorio with a harsh tackle inside 4 minutes, showing his enthusiasm at returning to the ‘Caps lineup after opting out of MLS is Back for personal reasons. 

Despite that energetic start from Cavallini, the first half would be all Toronto FC, however, as the ‘Caps would struggle to hold off their Toronto rivals through the first 45 minutes. 

First, Michael Bradley had a good attempt in the 7th minute, as he sent a good strike towards Thomas Hasal in the Vancouver goal, but his shot would only sting the hands of the young goalkeeper. 

Soon after, Pablo Piatti would repeat a similar trick, but from the opposite side, as his low and hard strike was enough to test Hasal, but not enough to do more than sting his hands. 

That pressure would prove to be tough for the ‘Caps to handle, and Ranko Veselinovic nearly succumbed to it in the 21st minute, as he failed to react to a bouncing ball, allowing Altidore to sneak in behind him, but his snapped shot would be saved by Hasal in the ‘Caps goal. 

Unfortunately for Vancouver, Hasal wouldn’t be able to solve all of their defensive woes in the first half, as Toronto opened the scoring in the 35th minute, breaking Hasal’s streak of not conceding a goal in over 240 minutes since making his MLS debut. 

In a moment of brilliance, Piatti cut in from the right for TFC, and found a bit of space after an Osorio pass, of which Leonard Owusu and Cristian Gutierrez both misread, giving Piatti space to pick out the top corner from 25 yards out, leaving Hasal no chance at keeping the shot out. 

While the goal itself was an amazing strike from Piatti, Russell Teibert did Hasal no favours in how he defended the Spaniard on the shot, as he failed to close down space before Piatti let fire. 

Luckily for Vancouver, despite only holding 24.7% of possession at the half, they’d avoid further trouble before the first stanza concluded, as the closest TFC came was via a Piatti volley that hit the head of Andy Rose and sailed just over the crossbar, much to the relief of Hasal.

At the half, the ‘Caps had a lot to sort out for them to dream of possibly snatching the result, as they looked second-best for most of the first half. Defensively, they’d kept things tight despite a few breakdowns, so there was less to worry about there, but up front, they’d looked quiet, as their forwards had struggled for service throughout the half. 

To start the second half, that would change, at least at the start, as Lucas Cavallini was unlocked with a nice long ball by Andy Rose in the 47th minute, but he would find himself denied by Quentin Westberg, who did well to puff out his chest and stop a powerful effort from in tight. 

But as soon as the ‘Caps seemed to come alive, TFC provided an answer, as they added their second of the game in the 55th minute, after a nice run from Jozy Altidore down the left flank. 

He then got the ball to Jonathan Osorio, who sent the ball to the back post, where Pablo Piatti once again played protagonist for TFC, as he plucked down the ball and finished into the low corner beyond Hasal, doubling Toronto’s lead with an emphatic effort.

Soon after, Osorio nearly played finisher, as he found himself in a bit of space in the ‘Caps box at the 62nd minute, but his powerful shot would hit the wrong side of the post and go out of play, allowing Vancouver to breathe a sigh of relief. 

The pressure would continue to come from Toronto, who weren’t content with sitting back and holding onto their 2-0 lead, as they came close again in the 66th minute, this time through Alejandro Pozuelo, who forced a nice low save from Hasal with a quick left-footed shot inside the box. 

Vancouver wouldn’t take it all sitting down, however, as they found some life in the 71st minute, after some nice dribbling from Ali Adnan allowed him to find some space at the edge of the Toronto box, but his right-footed shot sailed just over, as he failed to trouble Westberg with his attempt.

Not long after, though, in the 83rd minute, Toronto FC would add a third, as Nick DeLeon found himself all alone behind the defence after a nice Pozuelo backheel off of a Theo Bair turnover, and he made no mistake with the finish, slotting home past Hasal without much thought to extend the lead.

And that would be all the game would have to offer in terms of goals, as TFC would win by a score of 3-0, which considering how much that Vancouver sat back throughout the game, is a scoreline that probably flattered the Whitecaps. 

Luckily for Vancouver, they don’t have to sit back and lick their wounds too much, as Toronto awaits them again this Friday, but after getting outclassed for much of 90 minutes in this one, there’s a lot for them to go over ahead of that rematch. 

In this 6 game sprint for MLS Points, without mentioning a spot in the Canadian Championship final, they’ll have to be a lot better in the next 5 games, starting on Friday, because if not, it’ll be a long 5 games for them against their Canadian rivals. 

They were outclassed without the ball, didn’t do anything with it, and just overall struggled to disrupt a TFC team who settled into a very nice rhythm as the game went along. 

Man of the Match: Jake Nerwinski

Nerwinski in action at MLS is Back in Orlando (Jared Martinez and Devin L’Amoreaux/MLS)

Always hard to pick a man of the match in a loss like that, but Nerwinski was solid at right back for the ‘Caps, as he found a way to make some impressive tackles in both halves at the back for Vancouver. 

After a strong outing at MLS is Back defensively for him, he continued where he left off in this one, which wasn’t the case for many of his teammates. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lucas Cavallini

Cavallini looks on during training back in January of 2020 (Keveren Guillou)

While he didn’t find his first MLS goal quite yet, it was a lively start for Cavallini, who looked energetic up front for Vancouver. His touch deceived him at times, and his tackling was a bit off, but you could tell those were down to rust, which you’d expect to go away as time goes along. 

On a night where most of his teammates struggled to impose themselves on the game, he definitely wasn’t the problem, as he made his presence known on the pitch despite not seeing much service over the course of the match. 

Stat of the Night: 

Maybe the less said about the ‘Caps offensive game in this one, the better…

Losing In Beom Hwang certainly hasn’t helped, but you expected a lot more from them offensively than this, so it’ll be interesting to see what they pull off on Friday. 

Heatmap of the Night:

And almost mercifully for the ‘Caps, WhoScored, the provider of the famous heatmaps that have graced Whitecaps twitter for the past year and a half, didn’t have this game in their database tonight. 

As we saw before, however, maybe that’s for the best…

Best Betrayal of the Night:

After all of the chatter about Cavallini and Osorio being best friends in the run-up before the match, there was something poetic about Cavallini nearly tearing off his best friend’s leg with a tackle within 4 minutes. 

Not often you see that from a striker, so good on Cavallini for getting stuck in, even against someone he knows so well. 

Mood of the Night: 

After that one, we don’t blame Whitecaps fans for breathing a sigh of relief and going out to get some sun once the game wrapped up at 19:00 PST…

Looking Forward:

But all-in-all, it was far from a banner-raising performance from Vancouver, but luckily, they get a chance to redeem themselves in 3 days against Toronto on the same pitch, an opportunity not often afforded to teams in their position. 

So in that one, it’ll be interesting to see how they respond. After coming out flat in this first match, they’ll want to show that they won’t be rolled on twice against their rivals, especially considering how important these games are in both MLS and Canadian Championship play. 

After building up some positive momentum at MLS is Back, the pendulum will quickly swing back to the negative side of the ledger with another bad performance, so Vancouver will want to show that their play against Chicago and Kansas City in Orlando was no fluke. 

This wasn’t the way they wanted to start their return to MLS play, especially with everyone back in the lineup, but at least they still control their destiny as it pertains to the Canadian Championship, and they’re still very much alive in the MLS playoff race, with it being so early. 

It’s too early to push the panic button, but there is certainly some cause for concern, so we’ll keeping an eye on things as these games move along, starting with the match this Friday. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto FC, Friday August 21st, 2020, 17:00 PST/20:00 EST (BMO Field, Toronto)

Cover Photo via: Jared Martinez and Devin L’Amoreaux/MLS

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