The Vancouver Whitecaps broke a lengthy goalless drought and losing streak on Saturday, as they defeated Toronto FC in a big 3-2 win at home. Here is our match report from that one, as the ‘Caps picked up a massive 3 points at BC Place.
If you’re a Vancouver Whitecaps player right now, 3 is the number of choice for the day.
In their 3rd game against Toronto FC in a month, they avoided their 3rd defeat, as they scored 3 goals, allowing them to take home 3 points in their 3rd victory of the MLS regular season.
Don’t blame you.
But aside from all of the 3s, the victory was huge for the ‘Caps for a multitude of reasons, as they stood up to one of the MLS’s big sides and gave them a surprising blow, allowing them to snatch a huge win.
After a couple of weeks of misery, it finally felt like Vancouver were able to exorcise some demons with this performance, giving them something to build off of for the rest of the season.
It might not have been exactly how they drew it up, as despite generating more chances today than they did in all 3 of their phase 1 games before this one, they still relied on clinical finishing, some timely defending and a bit of luck, but considering the state of their slump, they really needed this one.
And if they can turn this into a run, then they certainly won’t look back on this one as an anomaly, but instead as a launching pad, so how they build off of this one is key, but no doubt, just getting it was a big start.
To start the game, Vancouver came out in a 4-3-1-2 that was expected to look a lot more like a 4-3-3 in-game, as Marc Dos Santos made 3 changes to his lineup from their last game out, a 2-0 loss to Montreal Impact on August 25th.
Erik Godoy made his long-awaited return to the lineup in place of Ranko Veselinovic, allowing him to pick up his first start of 2020, while Leonard Owusu slotted in for Patrick Metcalfe in midfield, with the last change seeing Theo Bair take the spot of Cristian Dajome on the wing.
On the other side, Toronto also made 3 changes to their lineup from their last match, which also came against Montreal Impact, on September 1st, as Liam Fraser slotted in for Michael Bradley, Laurent Ciman came in for Chris Mavinga in the heart of defence, while the highly touted youngster, Ayo Akinola, replaced Jozy Altidore up top.
Toronto came out strong to open the game, as they picked up where they left off last time out against Vancouver, leaving the ‘Caps to chase them around for the first part of the game.
Their first good chance came all the way in the 6th minute, as a nice bit of play between Auro Jr, Alejandro Pozuelo and Ayo Akinola on the right-hand side unlocked the ‘Caps defence, but Akinola’s shot went just wide.
Not long after, TFC came close again, as Pozuelo this time played finisher in the 11th minute, but his snapped shot was saved nicely by Hasal, forcing him to try something different a few minutes later in the 13th minute, but that would prove to be even worse for him, as he sent the ball well over.
Surprisingly, not long after, the ‘Caps would come alive, as they found an opening goal in the 18th minute.
Starting with Hasal at the back, the ‘Caps put together a 20+ pass move, before eventually finding Michael Baldisimo in the middle, and Baldisimo did well with the ball, as he picked out Adnan on the run on the left side.
From there, Adnan took a few strides, put his head up, and whipped in a ball to the back post, right onto the head of an onrushing Lucas Cavallini, who nodded home past Quintin Westberg, giving him his first-ever MLS goal, and a feeling of relief, all in one quick swoop.
For a ‘Caps team that had been held scoreless for over 400 minutes, it was a huge goal for them, as they seemed rejuvenated by the prospect of actually having breached their opponent’s lines for the first time in a long time.
Unfortunately for them, however, TFC also found another gear after the goal, as they turned up the pressure another notch.
Jonathan Osorio came close with a strike in the 20th, before Piatti was denied by Thoams Hasal after a great cross from Marky Delgado in the 24th minute, who found the Argentine in acres of space at the back post, with the ‘Caps unable to track his run.
That chance would prove to be prophetic for Toronto, who found their breakthrough in the 26th minute, as Pozuelo was given way too much time at the top of the box, and he made the ‘Caps pay, as his lofted little chip to the back post found an onrushing Osorio, who volleyed home with conviction to tie things up.
But despite losing their rare lead, the ‘Caps pushed back right after, as Theo Bair made a nice run in the 28th minute, doing well to make Laurent Ciman look like a Honda Civic trying to race against a Ferrari in a footrace down the sideline, before sending in a dangerous low ball, one that forced Omar Gonzalez to nearly score on his own net with a clearance.
Things would slow down for a bit after that chance, but then Toronto would have the next best opportunity, as Delgado had a nice shot in the 38th minute, which Hasal stood tall to, before Adnan came close at the other end in the 40th, but his curled free-kick sailed just over the bar.
And while half time would come with things still all level, TFC had a huge chance right at the 45th minute, as Piatti found a half-yard of space at the top of the ‘Caps box, and he sent a dangerous curled strike towards goal, but he would be denied by Hasal, who extend to his full length to keep the ball out of his net.
For the ‘Caps, they were very happy to reach half time still very much in the game, especially on the backs of an impressive goal.
Their defending had left a bit to be desired at moments, but against a team like TFC, that can be expected, so to be very much in the game after 45 was a positive, but they just needed to show that they could build off of it and make some more magic happen in the second 45.
Much like they did to start the game, Toronto would start the second half strongly, as they’d find a great chance via Piatti in the 52nd minute, as he found himself in a similar position to the one that he found himself to end the half.
Luckily for Vancouver, even though he beat Hasal, the post came up big, sending his shot out of play, much to the relief of the ‘Caps, who were definitely let off the hook after leaving Piatti in such a dangerous position.
And that near-miss would prove to pave the way for a ‘Caps lead, as they’d soon double their score in the 56th minute, all through a free-kick in a dangerous area drawn by Lucas Cavallini.
After the original strike from David Milinkovic was blocked by the wall, the ball fell to Michael Baldisimo, who with the poise and presence of someone 10 years his senior, looked up and absolutely unleashed a rocket from 20+ yards out, rippling the twine behind Westberg for a memorable first MLS goal.
10 days after making an impressive debut against the Montreal Impact, Baldisimo was huge once again for the ‘Caps in the midfield in this one, so for him to pick up a secondary assist on the first goal, along with this screamer of a debut goal, certainly felt like a just reward for the youngster.
But as memorable as the goal was, the game was far from over for Vancouver, and they got a reminder of that in the 64th minute, as Pozuelo found space in the box, giving him time to curl a shot towards the back post, forcing Hasal to make a really nice save.
Soon after, Toronto would claw their way back in and draw things level, as Piatti was once again given way too much space outside the box, and this time he’d play provider, as he swung in a nice cross to Pozuelo at the back post, giving him a chance he’d nod home quite easily.
After seeing the ‘Caps fold in some games in moments like that this season, you’d be excused for thinking they’d possibly thrown away some points, but then, they found some magic in the 77th.
Once again, it was via a set-piece, as Cavallini won yet another free-kick in a dangerous area, and Adnan whipped in a nice ball to the back post, which found Andy Rose in some space.
From there, the veteran defender looked up, and played a nice low ball across the box, right to defender Jake Nerwinski, who much like he did in the only other game at BC Place in 2020, slotted home with conviction, giving him 2 home goals for the season, while also giving the ‘Caps a 3-2 lead.
Even though the ‘Caps had found a lead, it would be far from over, however, as TFC ramped up the pressure once again. Second-half substitute, Jozy Altidore, came really close in the 82nd minute, as he sent a dangerous low strike towards goal, but Hasal stood strong, keeping the ‘Caps in front.
Soon after, a fellow second-half substitute, Nick De Leon, came quite close as well, as his low left-footed strike from outside of the box sailed just wide of the post, much to the relief of Hasal in the Vancouver goal.
Not long after, the referee would put his whistle to lips and would close out the match, giving the ‘Caps their first victory in over a month, to the very evident joy of their players and coaching staff.
After suffering through 3 tough losses on the road to open up phase 1 of the MLS return, to see them come home and find some offensive magic was certainly a big boost for them, giving them some hope heading into two pivotal matches with the Montreal Impact next week.
It wasn’t pretty, but they did what they had to, as they were clinical in their final third and got some big defensive blocks and saves when they needed, both things they hadn’t done consistently in their recent losses.
So while they’re surely happy to have won, they’ll definitely want to build off of it, starting with these Montreal games, as they look to re-find their mojo ahead of the stretch run of this 2020 season.
Man of the Match: Ali Adnan
With 2 assists, and an overall solid performance, Adnan picks up our man of the match trophy for the night, as he was a two-way force for the ‘Caps in this one.
It might not have been his best performance, but he did what he needed to in order to make an impact, and as a result, the ‘Caps were able to snatch a victory.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Michael Baldisimo
But while Adnan was the man of the match, that was because Baldisimo was already our player to watch, removing him from MOTM contention.
And he rewarded our faith in him, as he put up a performance for the ages, including a spectacular goal, a nice assist, all part of what was an overall complete game from the youngster, who played with the poise of someone 5 years older than him.
If he keeps doing this, he’ll continue to get minutes on these ‘Caps, who could certainly use more of what he brought to the lineup in this game.
Heatmap of the game:
It’s no Mona Lisa of a heat map, but give the ‘Caps some credit: they got some possession in midfield.
Against a Toronto FC side known for controlling the middle of the pitch, Vancouver offered some resistance, and it helped them get a result.
Home Cooking of the Match:
Someone get whatever Jake Nerwinski’s been eating at home and share it with the ‘Caps, because that’s now 2 goals in 2 home games for the right back, who has been among the team’s underrated standouts this year defensively.
He’s not going to be your team’s offensive heartbeat, but he’s shown capable of jumping up and chipping in where needed, which for a team that has had all sorts of offensive struggles as of late, is a huge plus to have.
Swagger of the Match:
But while Nerwinski is more of a complementary offensive piece, there’s no doubt that the centrepiece is DP Lucas Cavallini, who finally opened his ‘Caps account in this one after a rough start to his MLS career.
And after the game, he drops a confident quote that if you’re the Montreal Impact, may sort of worry you a bit.
Watch out opposing defences, confident Cavallini seems to be back in town.
Feel-good moment of the game:
There’s no doubt that on its own, Baldisimo’s goal was a feel-good moment.
(Here, watch it again, don’t feel guilty)
But what was even more awesome was to see someone tweet out a video of Baldisimo doing the celebration that he did, all the way back when he was 8-years-old.
Just a hometown kid living his home town dream…
Now, the ‘Caps get a week off, before getting a chance to take on the Montreal Impact at home on Sunday, September the 13th.
It’s a huge game for a multitude of reasons, as the ‘Caps are looking to claw back into the MLS playoff race, while also trying to stay alive in the Canadian Championship race.
Obviously, if TFC picks up a point in the 3rd match between Montreal and Toronto this week, Vancouver is out of that tournament, but either way, picking up another 3 points against Montreal will be huge.
This victory might not have been exactly how they drew it up, but it was something they desperately needed, so hopefully they can build off of it and launch forward.
With a lot of football still to be played this season, this could be a good moment for them to go on a run, using this big victory as a catalyst.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs Montreal Impact, Sunday, September 13th, 18h30 PST/21H30 EST (BC Place, Vancouver)