The Vancouver Whitecaps snapped an 8-game winless run on Saturday, as they beat the LA Galaxy 2-1. Here is our match report from that one.
Facing down the barrel of a 9th straight game without a win, they found a bit of life right at the perfect time.
Down 1-0 at halftime to the 3rd place team in all of MLS, the LA Galaxy, riding an 8-game winless streak, no one would’ve faulted the Vancouver Whitecaps for folding on Saturday night..
But instead, they continued to do what they’ve made a habit of doing as of late – claw their way back into the game, scoring 2 goals to go up 2-1.
Having dropped points from winning or tying positions in 4 of their last 5 games, however, one had to wonder – could they this time hold on to their lead, though, giving them a much-needed 3 points?
And fortunately for the ‘Caps, that answer would be yes, as they held on for the 2-1 victory, winning their first game since May 8th of 2021, snapping a lengthy run on which they’ve only picked up 2 out of a possible 24 points over that time span.
“I’ve been very impressed with the environment in the locker room in a very difficult moment,” Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said after the win. “It’s hard to be in our situation, being 8 games without winning, it’s difficult and very easy for stories to come out, for guys to be crying, so I’ve been impressed with the mindset”
It wasn’t pretty, as it took some late nervy defending to get the victory over the line, but by the end, they did what they needed to do to win, picking up their 3rd victory of the season.
They’ve still got a lot of work to do now, as they still sit 4 points out of a playoff spot in MLS’s Western Conference postseason race, but for the first time in a while, they’re not in last place anymore, having leapfrogged Dallas with the win, showing that if they can find a way to build off this victory, some good times are finally in sight.
“You win 2 or 3 games in a row and so many things can change,” Dos Santos said. “Even with the run that we had right now, we’re 4 points behind the (playoff) line, so things can change very quickly.”
But to start the game, it’d be another nightmare first 5 minutes from the ‘Caps, as they’d give up the opening goal in just the 5th minute. After Victor Vazquez found some space at the edge of the box, he took his time before delivering a peach of a cross to the penalty spot, where Rayan Raveloson was left wide open, allowing the new Galaxy signing to score his 2nd goal in just 3 games for his club.
For the ‘Caps, it was another frustrating start, as for the 2nd game in a row, they gave up a goal inside the first 5 minutes, and for the 11th time this season, they gave up the first goal, period, forcing them to chase the game yet again.
But not long after, the ‘Caps came close at the other end, as Cristian Gutierrez did well to find striker Brian White with a little dinked ball over the top, but White just couldn’t find a way to sort his feet out in time, slicing his left-footed volley just wide.
From there, though, it’d be a lot of one-way traffic from the Galaxy towards the ‘Caps goal, as they ramped up the pressure in chase of a second.
They came close in the 18th minute, as Samuel Grandsir did well to slalom through a few defenders before setting up Ethan Zubak for a breakaway, but the Galaxy striker sent his shot just wide, much to the relief of the Whitecaps.
Then, that Grandsir-Zubak partnership would continue to wreak havoc on the ‘Caps defence into the 28th minute, as Grandsir did well to slide a low ball across the ‘Caps box, finding a wide-open Zubak for what appeared to be the Galaxy’s 2nd goal.
Luckily for the Whitecaps, VAR would intervene to rule out the goal, as Zubak was found to be offside on his run, but despite that blip of fortune, that still left the Whitecaps to chase a result, although the mountain just instead remained slightly smaller to climb.
That would manifest itself in the 35th minute, as Cristian Dajome then found some space at the edge of the box, but he sent his low shot just wide of the post, skimming the side netting with a seeing eye shot, keeping the Galaxy ahead.
Inspired by that close call, however, the Galaxy would spring right back to life, nearly doubling their lead in the 37th minute. As he did all half, Grandsir was in the middle of it once again, doing well to get in behind after a nice Raveloson through ball, before cutting inside and unleashing a strong shot.
Unfortunately for him, though, that ball would rattle the crossbar and fly out, and Vazquez was just unable to find a way to steer home the subsequent rebound, keeping their lead at just 1.
The Whitecaps then almost made them pay for their missed opportunities in the 44th minute, as Russell Teibert would manage to win the ball right at the edge of the Galaxy box thanks to the high press, and he’d quickly tee up Deiber Caicedo inside the box, but the Colombian striker sent his strike just wide.
Despite that late push, though, that couldn’t disguise the fact that it was just not a good half from the ‘Caps, who continued their first-half struggles in 2021.
Through 13 games, they’ve been outscored 10-2, and are yet to score the opening goal of a game in the first half, showing how much of a problem their slow starts have proved to be.
“We’re trying to figure it out,” Dos Santos said of his team’s first-half struggles.
“We have to find solutions.”
But while the ‘Caps have a habit of starting slow, they certainly know how to finish strong, and they showed that once again on Saturday.
Out of nothing, they’d find their equalizer in the 48th minute, as Javain Brown did well to find some space down the right-hand side, before whipping in a tasty ball for White. While that ball wouldn’t be turned in by the actual target, White did well to then flick the ball on towards the back post, where Caicedo would lie waiting, and he’d make no mistake with the opportunity, slamming home a volley for his 2nd MLS goal.
“All I want to do is to help the team,” Caicedo said after the game of his equalizer, via an interpreter. “Whether it be a goal or an assist. Today I was fortunate enough to be able to do that. Today we won, I didn’t win, the team won, and that’s important for us going forward if we are to achieve the objectives that we want to achieve as a team.”
For the ‘Caps, it was just the momentum booster that they needed, too, as they started to find some life in the second half. After Sacha Klejstan sent a shot just wide in the 55th minute for the Galaxy, the ‘Caps would get the better of the chances for the next 10 minutes, capped by a flurry of corners around the 63rd minute that nearly saw Caicedo grab the lead with an Olimpico set-piece, but Jonathan Bond stood tall to his effort in the LA goal.
Afterwards, the ‘Caps would continue to press, chasing a winner. They’d come close in the 75th minute, as second-half substitute Caio Alexandre had a shot blocked from inside the box, before Janio Bikel managed to sting Bond’s hands with a decent effort on the subsequent rebound, showing that his team still had life left in them.
And that’d effort would eventually pay off in the 77th minute, as the ‘Caps would then find a go-ahead goal. After some nice interplay between Cristian Dajome and White, White would then find Dajome near the penalty spot with a nice cut back, and the ‘Caps leading scorer would make no mistake with his chance, dinking the ball over Bond into the net to give his team the lead.
“Every time you score a goal, it’s beautiful,” Dajome said of the goal after the game via an interpreter. “In terms of the play, I originally thought about shooting, but then I gave it to Brian, and I didn’t really expect him to give it back, but he did so very nicely, and we were able to get the goal.”
Soon after, the ‘Caps nearly added to their lead, too, as White found some space at the edge of the box before firing a shot, but Bond did well to get his fingers to the chance, keeping his team alive.
They’d keep pushing right to the end of the game, as well, as Cristian Dajome managed to sneak behind the LA defence right in the 95th minute after a nice Tosaint Ricketts through ball, but he sent his shot just wide.
Despite that late let-off, though, the ‘Caps would hold onto the lead, snapping their lengthy winless run.
It wasn’t pretty, especially in the first half, but they did what they needed to do in order to win in the second half, right to the final whistle.
After having thrown away points in the late stages of games as of late, doing so in 4 of their last 5 games, it was nice to see them finally hold onto a lead, showing some good resolve.
“If you had many car accidents, you’d probably be afraid of being in a car,” Dos Santos said. “We’ve had moments where we conceded late, so of course we’re trying to manage this (trend of going through) injury-time not conceding.”
Especially after having gone down early in the game, they had every reason to sit down and fold, especially considering their recent record, so full credit to them for staying on their feet, and making something of this game.
Player of the Game: Deiber Caicedo
And a big part of that was a big performance from Deiber Caicedo, as he’s been one of the ‘Caps best players as of late, so it was nice to see him get rewarded for his play with a well-deserved goal.
Having generated a boatload of chances in recent matches, you just felt that he was due for a goal sooner rather than later, and he found that right at the perfect time in this game, giving his ‘Caps team a bit of life.
In just his first year in MLS, at only 21 years of age, there’s a lot more to come from him, which based on what we’ve seen out of him these past few games, is a tantalizing prospect to imagine.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Caio Alexandre
Otherwise, we picked Alexandre as our player to watch on Saturday, and that would unfortunately become true to start the game, for the wrong reasons, as he started on the bench due to a knock.
He wouldn’t stay there all game, though, coming into the match in the 71st minute, and he had a sizeable impact when he did come on, helping the ‘Caps first chase a winning goal, and when they had that, helped them chase another.
Along with some good defensive moments, it was overall a solid cameo from the Brazilian, who has continued to be a great signing for the ‘Caps, as he’s quickly become one of their best and more important players at the moment.
Heatmap of the game:
And moving on, it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps actually did pretty well in this section on Saturday, as their strong second-half performance helped stabilize what was a pretty poor first-half heat map.
They still have work to do offensively if they’re to become a playoff team, as they could still probably generate even more in the final third than they did in this game, but it was a nice step to see them take.
Now, they’ve got to build off of that, which has always been the hard part for them these past few years, but it was nice to see them take that step regardless.
xG plot of the game:
Elsewhere, it was a decent performance once again for the ‘Caps in this section, as the plot here truly shows how good they were in the second half.
Without a doubt, they have to solve their first-half woes if they’re to even dream of being a playoff team, but this sort of response out of a beaten-down group is always nice to see, especially considering the run they were on.
If they can find a way to keep that up over the course of a full game, good things will come for them, but they’ve just got to find a way to make that happen, some way or another.
Feel-good moment of the game:
Lastly, it’s interesting to point out a nice moment from after the game, as Dos Santos shared that he and his staff showed pictures and videos of the fans at Whitecaps games in Vancouver from past years to help motivate the players at training this week.
“You have guys that have never seen Vancouver,” Dos Santos said. “Who (also) don’t have a clue what it is to play in a packed BC Place, so we shared with the group what awaits us (when we go back).”
And one might wonder – why would one need to motivate the players? They’re professional athletes, no?
While that certainly might be true in most cases, it’s worth noting that a lot of this ‘Caps team hasn’t played in front of BC Place, period, let alone with fans, so it was a good reminder of what awaits them when they do return.
With that return seeming more and more likely to come before the month now, especially with Toronto FC and CF Montreal playing their home games this weekend back in Canada, it’s a good way to remind the players of what’s to come for them soon, especially after the tough 2 seasons they’ve gone through.
But now, the ‘Caps must turn their attention to their next game, a clash with the Houston Dynamo midweek, in what might end up being their last ‘home-away-from-home’ game of the season in Utah.
Having already committed to selling tickets for this Galaxy game, along with that Dynamo one, the ‘Caps will be free to at least return to Vancouver to live and train again, and depending on how fast BC Place can get ready, even start playing there again, with July 28th against Austin FC looking like their likely return date.
Until then, though, they’ve got to find a way to bottle this positive momentum and carry it forward, starting with this Dynamo game, finding a way to put this slump behind them.
Having seen a bit of light after this dark stretch, the last thing they’d need is to turn the lights back off again, so this game will be a huge opportunity for them in their quest towards gradually getting their season back on track.
“We’re happy for the three points,” Dajome said. “It’s important to get another win under our belts, and it’s a credit to all of the team’s effort. We talked about trying to lift ourselves up, and I thought we did that tonight.”
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Houston Dynamo, Tuesday, July 20th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)
Cover Photo via: LA Galaxy/Twitter