Underdog Upset: Vancouver Whitecaps ride Lucas Cavallini brace to surprise 2-1 victory over LAFC

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on LAFC on Wednesday, looking to avenge a 6-0 beating from 3 weeks ago. And they’d do just that, beating LA 2-1, giving them a big win in their quest to make the MLS playoffs. Here is our report from that one, as the ‘Caps rode a strong start to a solid victory. 

After taking a big 6-0 knockout punch a few weeks ago, they gave a few shots of their own in the rematch.

Playing an LAFC side that beat them heavily the last 2 times these teams met, the Vancouver Whitecaps had every reason to feel like the underdog heading into this game, yet despite that, they picked up a big 2-1 win in Portland on Wednesday. 

Thanks to a Lucas Cavallini brace, as the big Canadian striker scored a goal in either half before LA added a late goal to close out the game, the ‘Caps picked up a big win on their quest towards making the playoffs in this one.

It wasn’t pretty, but they did exactly what they need to, as the ‘Caps rode one of their best first halves of the season to get all 3 points, giving them back-to-back wins for only the second time this year.

Heading into the last 5 games of the season, things are all of a sudden looking a lot better for the ‘Caps, who seemed all but dead in the water 2 games ago, having lost 4 games in a row. 

Now, they can dream again, especially after a victory over an LAFC team that has haunted them these past 2 years. 

To start the game, the Whitecaps made zero changes to the lineup that took on Real Salt Lake this past weekend, sticking with the 4-4-2 formation, hoping that with some continuity, they could find some magic against LAFC. 

On the other side, LAFC made 2 changes to their lineup, as 16-year-old winger, Christian Torres, and veteran, Mohamed El Munir, slotted in for Adrien Perez and Mark Anthony Kaye, with the latter coming out due to concerns stemming from an ankle injury. 

The Whitecaps got the first good chance of the game in the 5th minute, as they built the play up nicely through the middle. Jake Nerwinski would find some space on the right flank, and he whipped in a peach of a ball, one that would find Fredy Montero at the back post for the volley, but the Colombian striker hit his shot just wide. 

Soon after, LA would nearly find an opener, as Christian Torres found some space at the back post, but his volleyed effort just hit the outside of the netting to keep things level.

But after that, it would be all Whitecaps for a good period of the first half, as they started to rain the chances on LA. First, Cristian Dajome would play finisher, as he sent a shot well over in the 13th minute, before playing provider in the 19th minute, finding Russell Teibert in the box with a low cross, but LAFC goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega did well to close down the Canadian before he could get a shot off. 

Dajome would continue his strong start to the game in the 20th minute, as he would try an audacious bicycle kick from outside of the box, but he sent his effort well wide. 

The ‘Caps push for an opener continued into the 28th minute, as a scramble in the box would see the ball bounce right to Lucas Cavallini, who sent a low shot towards Sisniega, for what seemed like a sure opener. Despite that, Sisniega would get down to the shot and just get a finger on it, keeping the ball out. 

Seeing that the ‘Caps hadn’t scored a first-half goal in 7 games, you did worry that their missed chances would come back to bite them. 

Despite those concerns, however, the ‘Caps would open the score in the 30th minute, as they finally took advantage of LAFC’s loose defending. Fredy Montero would play a good ball in behind for Dajome, putting him 1v1 with Sisniega, from where he’d smartly cut the ball across goal to Cavallini, who would make no mistake with his finish this time to open the score. 

For the Whitecaps, it was a huge goal, as it was the first time in 6 games that they’d scored first, which considering that their record when scoring first was 5W-2L-0D, compared to 1W-9L-0D when conceding first, the goal certainly had to have them feeling better about their chances. 

And fortunately for them, they’d make it to half time unscathed, as LAFC would be unable to pressure the ‘Caps defence much aside from a few toothless forrays forward. 

Having reached half time up 1-0, the Whitecaps had to feel good about how they’d played, as they’d not only done well to lead against LA, but they were full value for their lead, and probably should’ve been 2 or 3 up, if anything. 

Heading into the second half, it was hoped that they could continue building off of what they showed in the first half, using it to push towards a big victory. 

And they’d do just that in the second half, as they’d weather a slow start before finding their second goal in the 59th minute. 

Once again, the goal would come via some great build-up between Dajome, Montero and Cavallini, who continued their strong performance together up front. 

Dajome would play in Montero behind the LAFC defence, and he’d flick a great lofted ball across the box, one that Cavallini would do well to meet with a flying right-footed volley, finding the bottom corner to double the ‘Caps lead. 

But despite seeming in the clear with the 2-goal lead, the game would get interesting in the 81st minute, as Jake Nerwinski would give away a penalty by committing a sloppy handball in the ‘Caps box. 

Eduard Atuesta would step up to take it for LA, and while his first attempt was saved by Bush, the referee would call it back for a retake due to encroachment from the ‘Caps goalkeeper, leaving Atuesta to score the retake. 

That would be all LAFC had to offer, however, as the ‘Caps would narrowly grind out the rest of the game, giving them a huge victory. 

All of a sudden, after looking dead in the water ahead of their game versus RSL on Saturday, with this win, they finished Wednesday night in a playoff spot, in 8th thanks to their 21 points. 

It wasn’t the ending they were looking for, but they did well to start the game strong, scoring the first goal, before doing what they needed to from there to lock things down. 

In a season where they’ve struggled to do those things on a consistent basis, it was good to see them take control of the game, especially against an LA team that they certainly owed this sort of result after the 6-0 drubbing they were handed 3 weeks ago. 

Heading into a big matchup with the struggling LA Galaxy on Sunday, the ‘Caps will feel very confident they can grab another victory in that one, propelling them further up the Western Conference playoff picture. 

Man of the Match: Lucas Cavallini 

Cavallini celebrates a goal versus RSL last weekend (Craig Mitchelldyer/Vancouver Whitecaps)

It feels like a Cavallini breakout has been inevitable for weeks now, and that finally came on Wednesday, as the ‘Caps record-signing scored his first brace in MLS. 

He was clinical when he needed to be, but he was also very involved defensively, helping the ‘Caps keep their lead as the game edged on. 

Considering that he probably should’ve had a hat-trick, it’s a game that he’ll be very happy about, and he’ll hope that he can build off of it heading into Sunday’s match with the Galaxy. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Janio Bikel

Bikel gets stuck in a few weeks back against the Timbers (Craig Mitchelldyer/Vancouver Whitecaps)

We pegged Bikel as one to watch before the game, and he lived up to that distinction on Wednesday, as he was all over the park for the Whitecaps in this one. 

He had an impressive 4 tackles and 4 interceptions, as he broke up attacks all night, helping Vancouver regain possession whenever they lost it. When they did have it, he played some good balls forward, helping them find some good chances against the vulnerable LA backline. 

Unfortunately, he’s now suspended for the next game due to yellow card accumulation, as he picked up a questionable yellow card at the end of the game, but heading into the last 5 games of the season, seeing him step up his game these last 2 games has been a good sign.

Heatmap of the Game: 

It maybe wasn’t as good as the game suggested that it would’ve been, as the ‘Caps probably played better than the heat map shows, but it does show how LAFC’s late push possibly made this look a little more lopsided than expected. 

But if you’re the ‘Caps, that’s okay, as they came out strong, and held the lead, doing exactly what they needed to do to win. 

Looking Forward:

Now, the ‘Caps take on the other Los Angeles team in their next game, as they travel down to California to take on the Galaxy on Sunday. 

Surprisingly, they actually head into that one as favourites, as the Galaxy have struggled this year, toiling at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, but a trip to LA is never an easy prospect, and the ‘Caps will know that. 

Having won 2 games in a row for only the 2nd time this season, they’ll want to build off of that and do something they haven’t done yet under Marc Dos Santos – win 3 games in a row. 

If they keep playing as they have in the last 2 games, you’d imagine they do just that, so it’ll be interesting to see how they build off of this memorable victory heading into that game on Sunday. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LA Galaxy, Sunday, October 18th, 2020, 19:30 PST (Dignity Health Park, Los Angeles) 

Cover Photo via: Craig Mitchelldyer/Vancouver Whitecaps

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