The Vancouver Whitecaps picked up a big 2-0 win over CF Montreal on Saturday, thanks to a Cristian Dajome brace. Here’s our match report from that one.
It might not have been a piece of art, but it certainly did the job.
If anything, the result was probably more akin to a couple of loose scribbles in crayon on a ripped piece of paper, but for the Vancouver Whitecaps, they won’t care, as they picked up a huge 3 points in a big 2-0 win over their Canadian rivals, CF Montreal.
Thanks to a second-half brace from Cristian Dajome, along with some stout defending, the ‘Caps did everything they needed to do in order to win on Saturday, giving them 7 points out of 12 now to start the year.
Was it ugly? Yup. Should they have won? Probably not. Does that matter? In the long run, yes, but as the ship starts to steady itself, it’s important not to balk at the offering of any points at this stage of proceedings.
“It wasn’t a perfect game,” Whitecaps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, said after the game. “Far from that. But it was a game where guys fought, kept good energy, kept a good mentality and a great answer after our game against Colorado where we felt we could have got points from it.”
So now, they have to be pretty happy with where things stand after 4 games.
With 3 of those games being at ‘home’, limiting travel, to pick up 6 out of 9 possible points at ‘home’ is solid, and has set them up well to head on the road, where they’ll be for 6 of their next 7 games.
With the MLS season being as long as it is, picking up points early can be extremely valuable in the long run, so even though the ‘Caps will need to head back to the drawing board tactically after this game, they fully know how important their strong start will be going forward.
“We enjoyed this moment, for sure,” Dos Santos said. “To get 7 points, and we feel maybe that we could have had 9, based on the game we played in Orlando against Toronto. But it’s positive how the guys are going about things, but it’s a long season, there are 30 games left, we won’t allow ourselves to get too low or too high.”
As for the game itself, things started out very slowly, with both sides seeming content to let the other make the first move, making the game seem more like chess than soccer.
Through 25 minutes, the lone good chance between both teams came in the 22nd minute, as Montreal’s Romell Quioto found some space down the left-hand side, but his shot from a tight angle was easily kept out by Max Crepeau in the Whitecaps goal.
But after that slow start, Montreal started to heat up, and it was Quioto who was doing a lot of the heavy lifting, as he started to cause some problems for the Whitecaps defence.
First, he got a good shot off from distance in the 27th minute, but he sent it just over the goal.
After, though, he got the best chance of the first half, as he pounced on a poor Jake Nerwinski giveaway, before setting up Bjørn Johnsen with what seemed like a sure goal, but thankfully for the Whitecaps, Crepeau came up big in goal, denying the tall Norweigan forward of what seemed to be a sure opener.
That wouldn’t be all that Quioto had to offer in the half, though, as he then came close in the 32nd minute, but he once again just sent his shot over the goal, before Johnsen continued his busy first stanza, as he missed back-to-back opportunities in the 38th and 40th minutes, respectively.
Lastly, Quioto would complete his strong first period of play by creating yet another chance, this time right at the death, as he pounced on yet another Whitecaps giveaway before unleashing a low curled shot, but his shot was just unable to tuck itself inside the far post to give Montreal the lead.
Overall, it was a pretty poor half from the ‘Caps, who probably deserved to be trailing on the balance of the game, but instead remained alive thanks to some heroics in goal from Crepeau.
“It’s something that we have to work on and be better at,” Dos Santos said. “You don’t design getting in flat, and I don’t tell the guys ‘let’s be flat in the first half and react in the second’”.
After a poor performance last week out against Colorado, it was a bit worrying to see them struggle with most of the same lineup, as well, especially against a Montreal team that looked up for the occasion.
To start the second half, Montreal would keep the foot on the gas pedal, as well, doing a good job of keeping the Whitecaps on the back foot defensively.
And interestingly, that push came from an unlikely source, as CF Montreal left back, Mustafa Kizza, found some life down that left flank to start the second half, and he nearly found an early goal, as he was twice denied by Crepeau from a tight angle inside a two-minute span.
But as soon as Montreal started brightly, the ‘Caps began their smash and grab operation, as Cristian Dajome did well to sneak behind the Montreal defence, getting Kamal Miller to foul him just inside the area to win a penalty.
From there, Dajome stepped up to the spot, and cooly slotted the ball into the top corner, giving the ‘Caps a surprise 1-0 lead after 60 minutes, as he made no mistake with his second spot-kick of the year.
“I was just thinking about being calm,” Dajome said of his penalty in Spanish after the game. “Sometimes, you’re thinking about a million things in your head about the game, but you just have to be calm, focused on the task at hand and put the ball away calmly.”
Motivated by that goal, however, Montreal desperately pushed for an equalizer, and they nearly got it right after the opener, as substitute Lassi Lappalainen did well to cut inside and deliver a hard shot, but Crepeau stood tall to the task once again in goal.
Then, at the other end, the ‘Caps then completed their smash and grab operation, as they found a second goal from a corner this time, and it would be Dajome once again who’d find the back of the net.
This time, he used his head instead of his feet, though, rising to meet a fantastic cross from his Colombian counterpart, Deiber Caicedo, giving Dajome his 3rd goal of the season, and Caicedo his first assist in MLS.
And with the 2 goal-lead in their pocket, the ‘Caps did what they had to do in order to conserve all 3 points from there. There were a few close calls at both ends, as Crepeau made a big save off of a scramble in the 76th minute, before Lucas Cavallini came close in the 82nd minute, but the score stayed as it was right to the end of the game.
Aside from a late 90th-minute goal from Montreal’s Lappalainen that would be later overturned by VAR due to a handball in the build-up, that allowed the ‘Caps to cruise to the win, their second on the season.
Ultimately, it probably wasn’t the prettiest win the Whitecaps have ever gotten, as they were definitely fortunate on the balance to pick up all 3 points, but the beauty of this sport is that all points count the same, so that won’t matter for the ‘Caps.
There are things to clean up, no doubt, but for them to have 7 points out of a possible 12 to start the year cannot be considered anything but a good thing, so it’s now just up to them to build on that going forward.
“I think that the important thing is that we, at the end of the day, I think we deserve the three points,” Dos Santos said. “We were the team that deserved it. It was a perfect first half, again offensively, we have to grow in our ideas, when we’re set in possession, but the second half was a good reaction from our guys, a good attitude.”
“We deserve the three points.”
Player of the Game: Cristian Dajome
And if they’re to keep snatching points, Dajome is going to play a key role in their ability to do that, as he continued a quietly good start to the season in this game.
Obviously, his two goals will stand out, and they were very well taken, but he was lively throughout the match, with the goals ultimately proving to be fair rewards for his strong play.
Now, he’s all of a sudden got 3 goals in 4 games to start the year, as he’s gotten off to a good start to 2021, building off of a strong end to 2020.
For a ‘Caps team that has struggled to create much offence, Dajome has quietly become a very important piece for them to rely on these past 12 months, and that was evident in this game.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Maxime Crepeau
Elsewhere, Crepeau was our player to watch heading into this one, and he lived up to that moniker on Saturday, making 4 saves en route to the clean sheet, his second of the season.
After falling just short of a victory despite a man-of-the-match performance from Crepeau last weekend, the ‘Caps stepped up for their goalkeeper big time in this game, making sure his efforts didn’t go unrewarded for a second week in a row.
Plus, against his old team, who he was only playing against for the second time as a Whitecap, you just know that picking up a clean sheet and victory would mean so much for him, making his performance all the more special looking back.
Heatmap of the game:
But while the ‘Caps did well to snatch all 3 points, it’s hard to ignore how woeful their heat map was against Montreal on Saturday.
For whatever reason, things are looking worse and worse each and every week in this section, and although it’s good that they won in spite of this, one has to wonder about the sustainability of winning games despite barely stepping a foot inside the opponent’s box all game.
As certain players continue to return to the fold, things can only get better, but until then, it’s a big worry, one that Dos Santos has to fix, one way or another.
Random stat of the game:
Lastly, we’ll finish with a very random stat that indicates that the Whitecaps may have actually gotten quite comfortable with their new surroundings in Utah.
Dating back to last year, they’ve now picked up 9 out of a possible 12 points in games at Rio Tinto Stadium now, showing that they’ve adjusted rather well to being away from home.
That doesn’t mean that it won’t be nice to see Vancouver back at BC Place, far from it, but it’s been interesting to see that they’ve done well in their new ‘home’, no matter how far away from home it might be.
Now, the ‘Caps get a few days to rest before a quick turnaround awaits them, as they’ll take on Minnesota United away on Wednesday.
After this big victory, they’ll certainly be up for that game, but it’ll be interesting to see how they respond after this result, especially seeing how tired a few players looked.
Against a Minnesota United side that has struggled mightily to start the season, they’ll feel confident in their chances of being able to snatch all 3 points, but at the same time, it’s very possible that Minnesota comes out firing as they look to avoid falling into an early-season hole that may prove to be too large to dig out of.
So for Vancouver, it’s important that they don’t get too complacent ahead of that one, as they could be in for a long night if they come with the wrong mentality.
But with a boatload of changes possibly available to Dos Santos, they have the tools to avoid burning out and coming up flat against the Loons, but they just need to take full advantage of what they have at their disposal.
“Yeah I think now is the time where everyone has to be ready, be prepared to get on the pitch whenever they’re called upon,” Dajome said. “We’re already thinking about the Minnesota game. The game today, it’s already passed us. It’s in the past now. Now, we’re just focused on going to Minnesota and getting 3 points.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Minnesota United, Wednesday, May 12th, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Allianz Field, Minnesota)
Cover Photo via: CF Montreal/Twitter