Spoils Split: Vancouver Whitecaps share the points in entertaining 2-2 draw with Toronto FC

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on Toronto FC in Orlando on Saturday afternoon, drawing 2-2 with their Canadian rivals in an entertaining game. Here’s our match report after that one, as the ‘Caps picked up their first draw since September of 2019 against Toronto.

It certainly wasn’t how they would’ve ‘drawn’ it up beforehand. 

For the Vancouver Whitecaps, had you asked them before the game if they’d be satisfied with a draw against Toronto away in Florida, the answer probably would’ve been a resounding, yes. 

On the other hand, that doesn’t make the pain of dropping a late 2-1 lead any less painful for their team, as they split the points in an entertaining 2-2 draw against their Canadian counterparts, Toronto FC, on Saturday. 

In their first draw since September of 2019, as they went all of 2020 without tying any games, it overall was a solid performance for the ‘Caps, who will be happy that they picked up a valuable point on the road in this match.

“This is a good point,” Whitecaps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, said after the game. “But then, with the last chance that we had, the positive thing is that when I spoke with the players in the middle of the field, they were upset. They were upset about not getting the three points, so that’s a very good sign.”

And while they’ll feel like they missed out on the opportunity to grab all 3 points, especially after conceding an 85th-minute equalizer, that they even fought back into the game to go up 2-1 after going down 1-0 in the 7th minute was good to see, if one is to extract positives from this game. 

With the conditions in Orlando being very hot and muggy, as the forecast for kick-off was a nice 30 degrees celsius with a 45% humidity factor, the ‘Caps fought through some brutal conditions on Saturday, so to get anything from this game is a plus in the big picture. 

“The humidity made it hard, very hard,” Dos Santos pointed out. “It’s the type of day where just walking outside, you’re sweating a lot. So it could give you a picture of how it is, so that affects the moments of pressure. If you even look at Toronto, Toronto normally is a very high press type of team, and those moments didn’t happen as much, and that’s due also to the type of weather.”

Now, this draw gives them 4 points out of 6 to start the season, adding one point to their total after they beat Cascadian rivals Portland Timbers 1-0 last week in their opening game. 

Considering where most experts had them pegged heading into this year, it has overall been a pretty positive start for the ‘Caps, so they’ll be happy with where they stand heading into week 3, where a stiff test against the Colorado Rapids now awaits them. 

As for the game itself, Toronto would get off to a flying start versus their rivals, paced by an unlikely hero, as the young 19-year-old centre back Luke Singh would open the scoring in the 7th minute. After a nice flick from fellow centre back Omar Gonzalez at the back post, Singh was quickest to react inside of the box, and he punished the ‘Caps with a tidy finish just at the edge of the six-yard box. 

Seemingly woken up after that goal, the Whitecaps seemed to find a bit of life as the half went along, as Lucas Cavallini first came close with a half-chance that was just deflected over the crossbar in the 17th minute, before Cristian Dajome tested Toronto’s Alex Bono in goal with a nice low shot from a tight angle in the 17th minute. 

After that, Toronto started to find the better of the chances once again, as Nick DeLeon did well to slam a long-distance shot towards the Vancouver goal in the 26th minute, but Maxime Crepeau was more than up to the task in net. A few minutes later, Michael Bradley tried to get in on the action, but his shot would hit Crepeau right on the Bell logo on his kit, giving the ‘Caps goalkeeper another easy save. 

To finish off the half, the ‘Caps almost tied the game up on two occasions, as new signing Deiber Caicedo flashed to life, showing a bit of what he’s capable of. 

First, the young Colombian nearly scored a spectacular free kick in the 37th minute, doing well to step up and curl a lovely shot towards the top left corner after his Colombian counterpart, Dajome, won a foul in a key area. 

Then, he found himself in space on the counter-attack after a great pass from Dajome, but the Colombian connection just couldn’t turn their magic into a goal, with Bono standing tall to Caicedo’s low shot attempt in the TFC goal. 

Heading into halftime, it was overall a solid half for the Whitecaps, goal aside, as they’d mostly done well to handle the tough conditions in which they were playing in. They just needed to create a bit more offence, but they’d done a solid job of managing the first half, avoiding digging too big of a hole early on in the game.

“It was a hard game against a tough opponent with a lot of quality, but we put up a strong performance,” Dajome said after the game in Spanish. “I thought during the game, we talked about going through the middle, and we just had to create more through the middle, I thought we could’ve done that a little better, penetrating through the middle.”

On the other hand, they had a lot more to give, as Toronto didn’t really get out of first or second gear for much of that half, leaving the game wide open heading into the second stanza. 

But while both teams sort of coasted through the first half, they definitely found a higher gear to start the second half, as both coaches seemed to get through to their players with their half-time talks. 

At one end, Patrick Mullins nearly scored an audacious goal off of a volley, doing well to pivot his body after a fantastic Marky Delgado cross, before the ‘Caps found some magic at the other end, as Cavallini reacted well after a quick Dajome free-kick, weaving through a few defenders before getting fouled in the box for a penalty. 

From there, Dajome stood up confidently to the spot and delivered the ‘Caps equalizer, doing a nice stutter step before putting the ball off of the post and in to tie the game up at 1. After missing two penalties last year, Cavallini passed off the chance to Dajome, who has now appeared to have stepped up as the team’s main spot-kick taker with the departure of the usually reliable Fredy Montero in the offseason, who held those duties last year. 

“Just being calm in the moment,” Dajome said of his penalty goal. “From there, just focusing on putting the ball in the back of the net.”

That goal gave the ‘Caps a shot of life, and it’d lead them to find an unlikely lead in the 70th minute, as Cristian Gutierrez, who was once again a standout player for the ‘Caps, stepped up to take a wide free-kick in a dangerous area. Much like last week, where he delivered a peach of an assist off of a corner, he put in a similar calibre of ball into the box, one that found Andy Rose right in front of Bono, and he nodded home to give the ‘Caps a lead. 

But as soon as they found themselves in front, their lead evaporated in the most spectacular fashion in the 85th minute, as Toronto scored one of the most unique goals they’ll ever score, stemming from a comedy of Whitecaps errors. 

With Toronto pressing high, the ‘Caps missed two glorious chances to clear the ball, but recovered nicely both times. That led to Rose trying to clear for the third time, but he shanked his effort right off of Michael Baldisimo’s face and right to Jonathan Osorio, who was all alone behind the ‘Caps defence. 

1 on 1 with Crepeau, he somehow failed to score, however, as Crepeau made a fantastic save to deny him. 

Or so he thought. 

The ball then bounced up and towards the ‘Caps goal after the save, and Crepeau desperately lunged at it, getting fingertips on it before it reached the line. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough off of a hand on it, clawing the ball off of the post and in for a pretty spectacular goal against. 

While the goal itself was a pretty bad sequence of events that can mostly be chalked up to bad luck, it certainly still hurt from the ‘Caps perspective, as they thought that they had all 3 points in the bag heading into the end of the game. 

And to give credit to Vancouver, they then fought to the bitter end, despite the late heartbreak.

Having come on in the 94th minute, substitute Ryan Raposo nearly restored all 3 points for the ‘Caps, as he was played in behind by Cavallini right at the death. Facing Bono 1v1, Raposo managed to get a great shot off, as well, his first-ever in MLS, but Bono got down well, denying the ‘Caps what would’ve been a spectacular winner. 

Then, Ranko Veselinovic nodded just over on yet another great Gutierrez cross on the subsequent corner, tickling the top of the goal with his attempt, as the ‘Caps just narrowly missed out on picking up all 3 points with the final whistle signalling the end of the match not long after.

Despite that, it was a pretty good performance from the ‘Caps, however, as they did well to battle back from down 1 goal in tough weather conditions. 

Naturally, they’ll feel like it was 2 points dropped instead of 1 point gained, but as Dos Santos noted after the game, picking up 3 points at home and 1 on the road from their first two games is pretty darn good in the big picture. 

“If we win every game at home, and we tie every game away, I think we can even win the Supporter’s Shield,” Dos Santos joked after the game. “But it’s very hard, the games away, guys, I can’t stress that enough.”

As mentioned earlier, considering the pessimism that most people had of the ‘Caps heading into the start of the season, that they picked up 4 out of 6 points against early-season favourites Portland and Toronto can only be seen as a positive heading into week 3. 

Man of the Match: Cristian Gutierrez

Gutierrez on the ball in the ‘Caps opening game against Portland (Vancouver Whitecaps/Twitter)

We’re going to have to rename this the Gutierrez award if this continues, but Gutierrez was once again a deserved man of the match-winner in this one, as he was excellent for the ‘Caps against Toronto. 

Filling in for Ali Adnan, he’s making Adnan’s absence loom less and less large with each game that he plays, showing that he can indeed make an impact at the MLS level. 

Obviously, his big highlight was his assist at the offensive end, which along with his late cross for Veselinovic, will be what stood out most about his play, but he also chipped in with 4 tackles, 1 interception and 3 clearances defensively, showing off what he can do there, as well.

Plus, what was great to see was how he bounced back from a tough start to the game, one where he was really starting to get frustrated with himself in the first half. He regrouped nicely in the second half, stepping up his game when his team needed it, and they profited as a result of that, clawing back into the game after trailing early on. 

As he continues to get a run of minutes for the ‘Caps here, they’re going to hope this is just a growing sign of what’s to come from him, as he’s arguably been the surprise standout of these first two games of the season.

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lucas Cavallini

Cavallini in action for the ‘Caps in 2020 (Keveren Guillou)

Elsewhere, Cavallini did a pretty good job at living up to his billing as our player to watch, chipping in offensively with the 1 penalty won, while also adding 2 key passes and a shot. 

He might not have been as involved as he would’ve hoped, especially in the shot department, but it was good to see him be involved creatively, setting up fellow forward Dajome and Caicedo with a few good passes. 

Either way, Cavallini looks very confident at the moment, and seems to enjoy playing with Caicedo and Dajome, so hopefully he can continue to step up and lead the way for Vancouver offensively, as they’ll want him to continue this form and even step it up a level as they grow into this season here. 

Heatmap of the Match:

Moving onto the heatmaps, the ‘Caps actually didn’t do all that bad in this department once again this week, showing tangible proof of their continued improvement on the field. 

Defensively, they mostly kept Toronto out of the dangerous areas at the edge of their box, and offensively, they got into the box a little more than usual. 

There is still a glaring hole in attacking midfield, but considering that the ‘Caps have been linked with seemingly half of the #10s that play in Brazil over the last few days, they certainly seem to be close to fixing that problem. 

Until that player comes, however, there appears to be a framework to grind out results without him in place at the moment, as the heat map shows. 

xG plot of the Match:

And when looking at the advanced statistics, it was a pretty solid game from Vancouver in that department, as they were a lot closer in the Expected Goals (xG) battle than they were against Portland. They did allow 1.7 xG, which wasn’t great, but considering a good chunk of that came on that disaster of a second goal, it wasn’t as bad as the numbers may suggest. 

Plus, that they had over 1.6 xG of their own is pretty good, as well, showing that they got into some good areas. Obviously, it helps that they had a penalty, but even despite that, they had a few good chances of their own. 

As reinforcements continue to come into the fold, both in terms of players that have recently arrived and are just getting up to speed, along with that #10, things appear to be on a good path. 

Debuts of the Game:

Lastly, speaking of new guys, it’s important to highlight the debuts of Caio Alexandre and Bruno Gaspar off of the bench in this one, as they finally got onto the field for Vancouver after dealing with visa issues and quarantines throughout preseason. 

They didn’t get to show much, but Alexandre looked tidy on the ball, while Gaspar had a few good flashes, so hopefully we can see more of them next week against Colorado. 

Based on what we saw in this one, their skillsets could be very useful in that game and going forward, as they both showed a bit of why the ‘Caps brought them into the fold this offseason. 

Looking Forward:

So now, the ‘Caps will get back to training this week before getting set to take on Colorado next Sunday, giving them an extra day of rest and recovery ahead of then. 

That’ll give more time for the likes of Gaspar and Alexandre to continue to integrate, while also giving the likes of Erik Godoy and Leonard Owusu to work back from injuries, giving the ‘Caps a boost ahead of that Rapids clash. 

But before they look ahead to then, they’ll have to overall be pleased with this draw against Toronto, all things considered. 

It wasn’t a perfect game, far from it, but they once again showed why there is plenty to be excited about this team this season, so now they’ll just want to build off of that next week against Colorado. 

“There’s a lot of work (to come),” Dos Santos said. “The game against Colorado is going to be a challenge, so we have to be ready for that.”

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Colorado Rapids, Sunday, May 2nd, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)

Cover Photo via: Vancouver Whitecaps/Twitter

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