Mere days after losing to the Montreal Impact by a score of 4-2 on their home field, the Vancouver Whitecaps got revenge on their rivals on Wednesday, as they beat the Impact by a score of 3-1 on that same BC Place pitch. Here is our report from that one, as the ‘Caps found a way to beat an Impact side that seemed to have had their number this year up until this one.
It probably wasn’t the way he planned it, but what a way to make an entrance.
After coming off of the bench against the Montreal Impact on Sunday, Vancouver Whitecaps striker Fredy Montero made his first start of the season on Wednesday against that same Impact side, and what a difference did he make in that starting role, as he scored 2 goals in a huge 3-1 victory for Vancouver.
Mere days after the Impact seemed to run them off of the BC Place pitch, the ‘Caps looked a lot better on Wednesday, as they tightened up their defensive game, after looking way too open at the back in the 4-2 loss on Sunday.
For Montreal, it’s a tough defeat, as not only did they lose some ground in the MLS’s Eastern Conference playoff race, but they also found themselves eliminated from the Canadian Championship, as they were unable to best Toronto FC’s point tally from the 9 all-Canadian clashes we’ve seen in phase 1 of MLS’s return to play plan.
On the other side, it’s a big win for the ‘Caps, even if it meant nothing for their Canadian Championship hopes, which were dashed over a week ago, as they gained some valuable ground in a tight MLS Western Conference playoff race.
To start the game, the Whitecaps made 6 changes to their lineup that faced the Impact on Sunday, as Montero, Ranko Veselinovic, Cristian Gutierrez, Jake Nerwinski, Janio Bikel and Cristian Dajome slotted into the lineup in place of Lucas Cavallini, Andy Rose, Ali Adnan, Erik Godoy, Leonard Owusu and Michael Baldisimo.
But while the ‘Caps went for wholesale changes on their end, the Impact opted for continuity, as their only change was to bring in Shamit Shome for the suspended Emmanuel Maciel, who was serving the first of two games out after catching Dajome with a hard tackle on Sunday.
For all of the changes, however, the game would start out quietly, as both teams seemed to ease their feet into the game, with the short turnaround surely playing a role in the slow start.
Through the first 30 minutes, the ‘Caps looked like the better team, as they were a lot sharper than they on Sunday, with their midfield pairing of Bikel and Russell Teibert doing a better job at controlling the play, while the defence looked a lot more solid than it has in recent weeks.
While all they had to show for it was a Veselinovic volley from distance that sailed about 15 yards wide of the goal, and a David Milinkovic shot that seemed closer to the sails above the BC Place stands than it did to the net, they looked a lot better on a whole, and it felt like a breakthrough was imminent.
After that strong start from Vancouver, Montreal started to wake up, however, as they got a pair of really nice looks in the 32nd minute.
Romell Quioto forced a really nice save from Thomas Hasal from distance, before Luis Binks came really close off of a nice second ball from Saphir Taider on the ensuing corner, but his headed effort would sail just wide.
But then the Vancouver breakthrough came.
In a brain lapse that can only be described as beyond stupid, Rudy Camacho, who was on the deck in the box after he felt that he was fouled, took out his frustrations on Fredy Montero, who came by to try and help him up, as he punched the striker’s knee, sending him to the turf in pain.
It would be the easiest red card for the referee to give out in his career, as he was staring right at the incident from a bit further back, as he’d confidently pull out the red card and point to the penalty spot.
Montero would step up, and he’d make no mistake with the chance, doing what Lucas Cavallini failed to do in the only 2 previous ‘Caps spot-kick opportunities this year, slotting home with confidence and authority to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead.
With the extra man at their disposal, the Whitecaps would then add their second goal right before half time, as they took well advantage of the space afforded to them with the sending off of Camacho.
Montero did well to play in Milinkovic out wide through a nice pass between the legs of substitute Rod Fanni, who was brought in to fill the hole left behind at CB with Camacho’s absence, and in the space afforded to him, Milinkovic would find Dajome at the top of the box, with the Colombian then doing really well to take a touch and pick out the bottom corner of the net with his strike.
Heading into half time, it was the dream lead for the Whitecaps, who had looked a lot better than they did heading into the break on Sunday, as they’d done well to regroup themselves after a tough loss.
No doubt, the sending off did help, but as the saying goes, you create your luck sometimes in this game, and based on what we saw in the first 45 minutes, the ‘Caps certainly did well to create some good fortune for themselves.
To start the second half, the ‘Caps would continue to take advantage of the extra space, even as the Impact pushed.
Even though Montreal would hold more of the ball through the first 15 minutes of the half, the ‘Caps would have the better chances, as Jake Nerwinski sailed a shot just over the bar from outside of the box in the 55th minute, before Montero would slice one just wide from inside of the box in the 58th minute.
But as the Impact would desperately chase the goals they needed to stay alive in the Canadian Championship race, they’d find a bit of an opening, as they’d open their score in the 70th minute via Romell Quioto, not long after Dajome came close for the ‘Caps at the other end.
With his back to goal, and Veselinovic draped all over him, Quioto would do an excellent shoulder fake to open up the space required to shoot, then putting the ball into the near post top corner with an well-taken left-footed strike, halving the Impact’s deficit with 20 minutes to go.
Unfortunately, that goal from Quioto would only prove to be a spark, as the ‘Caps made sure it didn’t turn into a fire, as they’d add their 3rd in the 78th minute.
Not long after Montero had found himself denied by Diop from in tight, second-half substitute, Leonard Owusu, did well to maraud in the box, before dropping the ball back for an onrushing Montero, who’d tuck the ball into the far corner with a deft first-time finish to get his brace for the night.
Montero was clearly feeling it, as he was doing flicks and tricks all over the park, and he’d nearly add his hat trick 2 minutes later, as he’d find himself all alone with Diop in front after a nice ball from out wide, but his chipped attempt would sail just wide of the goal.
And aside from a late push from Montreal, that would be all the game would have to offer for either side, as the ‘Caps would etch out the result, giving them their second win in 3 games on the BC Place turf.
While it wasn’t exactly how they planned it, and they maybe came a little closer to throwing it away in the second half than they would’ve hoped, they were clinical when they needed to be, kept their ship tidy at the back and took advantage of the extra man, helping them pick up all 3 points.
Heading into an extended US road trip, to get these points on the board is huge for them, as well, especially with the playoff race being as tight as it is, and with a long couple of months away from home now awaiting them.
After a tough loss to the Impact on Sunday, it was a perfect way to redeem themselves, as they showed that they weren’t going to get walked over in their own stadium two matches in a row.
Man of the Match: Fredy Montero
Without a doubt, Montero is our man of the match, as he brought a spark to the ‘Caps with his play up front.
Among Whitecaps striking options, he might not be the tallest, fastest or the most athletic, but he may be the smartest and the most experienced, and he showed that on Wednesday, as he was dangerous offensively throughout the game for Vancouver.
For a Whitecaps team flush with attacking depth, his positive play is a good boost for the ‘Caps, as they now face the sort of lineup selection headache that they won’t complain about having to deal with.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Theo Bair
After looking really good on Sunday, it was a quiet performance from Bair on Wednesday, as he struggled to make the same impact at right mid as he did up front.
But despite that, he had some good touches, made things happen when he did get the ball, and was overall still a threat for the Impact defenders to deal with, as he showed that even on night’s where he’s quiet, he can still impact the game.
Heatmap of the match:
It wasn’t a Mona Lisa as far as heat maps go, but it was a lot better for the ‘Caps after a tough game on Sunday.
The amount of ground covered by the Impact is concerning, especially considering that the Impact played a good chunk of the game with 10 men, but Vancouver made sure that they didn’t concede too many high-quality chances, making it less of a worry.
Still, a lot to improve, no doubt, but it’s progress, which considering what they’ve been through all year, isn’t the worst thing to see right now.
Question of the match?
Obviously Lucas Cavallini is still a top goalscorer, and it’s tantalizing to imagine what he can do when he’s in-form, but boy did Montero ever make a statement tonight.
At the very least, there could be a really good partnership there, and if not, it could also be the start of a pretty good striking platoon.
Left back controversy of the match:
With Adnan starting on the bench in this one, Cristian Gutierrez picked up a start, and he was excellent, as he had a huge defensive impact for the ‘Caps in this one.
While it’s hard to imagine Adnan making way for Gutierrez in the lineup on a consistent basis, seeing what he did defensively tonight, might his future be as a winger?
Given Adnan’s offensive prowess, and how solid Gutierrez has been whenever he’s played as a left back, it could be in the best interests for Vancouver to try it out going forward.
Now, the ‘Caps get set for a lengthy road trip in the US, starting this weekend, as they take on Real Salt Lake in Utah on Saturday.
With everyone appearing to be on hand for these sets of games, as confirmed by Marc Dos Santos post-game, this could be a good chance for the ‘Caps to string some results together, putting them back right into the thick of the MLS playoff race.
It won’t be easy, especially considering their struggles to string together back-to-back wins, but if they can find some consistency here, picking up points whenever possible, with how the playoff race is this year, they can make some noise this season.
In a weird year, it would be a big surprise after their struggles that they’ve had to face in the summer, but alas, that’s 2020, so they’ve got to take advantage of their chances, starting with the match on Saturday.
Much like their other victories, if they don’t build off of this, it’ll mean nothing, so at the very least, it’s paramount that they continue to show growth, and if they can grab a result on top of that, it’ll be the icing on the cake.
Up next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake, Saturday, September 19th, 2020, 18:30 PST (Rio Tinto Stadium, Salt Lake City)