Tough Grind: Vancouver Whitecaps overcome slow start to etch out key point vs Colorado Rapids

The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Colorado Rapids in MLS action on Sunday night, combining for an entertaining 1-1 road draw. Here’s our match report from that one. 

It might not have been the result that they were looking for, but they’ll absolutely take it. 

In the midst of a ruthless battle for a playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference, the Vancouver Whitecaps were looking to pick up a key 3 points on Sunday, when they travelled to Commerce City to take on the Colorado Rapids in MLS action. 

Facing off against a Rapids team in the midst of one of the hottest runs in MLS, undefeated in 10 games, a stiff test awaited the ‘Caps, with the Rapids sitting 4th in the league heading into this one, but despite that, they felt that they had what it took to snatch all 3 points off their hosts. 

But instead, Colorado showed why they’re on the run that they are, as they peppered the ‘Caps early and often en route to a 1-1 draw, one that they’ll probably feel that they could’ve even got all 3 points out of. 

Credit to the ‘Caps, though, as they too had a few chances of their own to win the game, and considering that they started slow and conceded the first goal, they most definitely won’t complain with the result, which was probably a just one for both teams, all things considered.

And for the ‘Caps, it’s one that they’ll absolutely take without any questions asked, because while they need points at the moment, sitting 4 points off the playoff line with 10 games to go, if there was a game that they could afford to not get any points out of, it was this one, so that they even got a point out of it is a plus of its own. 

“I feel very good,” ‘Caps interim head coach, Vanni Sartini, said after the game. “Because, yeah, they’re (Colorado) number three in the West, but maybe they’re number two because there’ve some games less than Kansas City, so they’re a very good team, and here it’s hard to make points (for a reason), so I think the reaction was very good.”

With 7 of their last 10 games coming against teams that they’re within 7 points of in the standings, on either side, the ‘Caps have some big 6-point matches ahead, so with Colorado sitting so far in front of them in the table, it made it less of a must-win compared to some that await this Vancouver side. 

So all things considered, it was a well-earned point, one that they’ll take into their next game, a massive clash at home against a Dallas side that sits just 3 points behind them in the standings. 

As the results elsewhere continue to go against the ‘Caps favour, they’ll need a win there, allowing them to stay in the race, keeping them within 1 to 4 points of the line, while creating a bit of space between them and Dallas. 

If they can do that, it’ll make this result in Colorado a pretty important one in their quest to make the playoffs, but if not, this game might be rendered obsolte, even though the game itself was anything but forgettable. 

A slow start:

But before the ‘Caps even managed to rescue anything out of this game, they were left to take on a burgundy wave, as Colorado got off to a rocking start. 

Sending shot after shot towards the ‘Caps goal, it felt like when Colorado grabbed a goal, they’d find a flood of them, as they were by far the better team to begin the match. 

After some attempts from distance from Nico Galvan and Kellyn Acosta came close to threatening the ‘Caps early on, Colorado sent their first true warning shot in the 15th minute, as Michael Barrios would be played in behind the ‘Caps defence by Mark Anthony Kaye, but Barrios’s hard shot would rocket off the crossbar and out. 

Continuing on that road, the Rapids continued to push, as Jonathan Lewis had a good strike at goal not long after, before Galvan continued his strong start to the game by almost scoring a left-footed worldie from well outside the box less than 2 minutes later. 

So seeing all those chances, it was no surprise to see Colorado finally get their lead in the 28th minute, as their waves of pressure finally broke down the ‘Caps defensive wall. 

Off of a corner, Jack Price whipped in a lovely ball, one that Danny Wilson would be first to get to, catching the ‘Caps asleep, nodding home for an emphatic and deserved opener. 

And while their lead was slim, with how they were playing, it felt like more were on the cards, too, giving the hosts the chance to dream of grabbing more. 

For the ‘Caps, it was embarrassing, as they continued their trend of starting slow in games, having scored the first goal just 5 times in 24 games this year, leaving them to wonder where it went wrong this time around. 

“(In the) first 30 minutes they overplayed us,” Sartini admitted. “And we weren’t able to understand how to win the ball, we were too wide and not too compact, it was too easy for them to enter into our defensive third.”

Be it the altitude, the travel, or Colorado’s dominance, the ‘Caps were just unable to come out of the gates strong enough to get off on the right foot, continuing a worrying trend that just won’t go away for this team. 

“I’m still a little pissed to be honest,” Sartini added. “Because we need to start the games better. Now it’s my fourth game in charge, and we always end the game much better than we started, but I’d like to see a game that we start on the front foot from minute one.

A good response: 

But at the same time, the good news was that this ‘Caps team has made a habit of being the comeback kids, as they’d picked up points in 10 out of the 18 games where they conceded first heading into this one, which isn’t bad at all considering how good teams tend to be when scoring first.

So although Colorado kept pushing after their goal, as Galvan once again came close to scoring in the 33rd minute, before Acosta gave the ‘Caps a fright with an attempt from distance in the 38th minute, you just wondered when the road side would wake up and find an equalizer. 

Because of that, it’d be no surprise to then see the ‘Caps emerge from their slumber and come alive in the 41st minute, allowing them to grab a massive goal. 

After a sloppy turnover from the Rapids, the ‘Caps pushed forward in transition, where Deiber Caicedo, making his first start in a couple of weeks, drove the ball towards the Colorado defenders without much hesitation. 

From there, he found a streaking Brian White in behind the Rapids defence with a lovely slip pass, and White made no mistake with his chance, slamming it off the underside of the crossbar and in for the goal. 

It might not have been the prettiest team goal, or a well-worked set piece, but for the ‘Caps, it didn’t matter, as they had their tally. 

Plus, considering that the goal actually came from hard work, starting with the press that forced and capitalized on their opponents error, they’d almost take that over a fantastic team goal, as it showed that they were still battling despite being down a goal. 

So although on the balance of the game up to that point, they might not have necessarily deserved a goal, they had it, and it gave them a bit of belief heading into the 2nd half. 

“We had some problems but then we changed something on the fly and it went better,” Sartini said. 

“I think from minute 30 to 75 we were the best team on the field”

Hanging on right to the end: 

And with that goal in their pockets, as mentioned by Sartini, the ‘Caps came out flying to begin the second half. 

Other than a few Rapids half-chances right after half time, the ‘Caps managed to control proceedings for the next little bit, especially after they brought on DP #9, Lucas Cavallini, as a super sub. 

Cavallini would have some excellent chances to put his team in the lead, including a 3v1 where he got caught in between 2 minds by both wanting to shoot and square a teammate, and a 1v1 where Colorado’s William Yarbrough had to make a fantastic save to deny the ‘Caps striker, but alas, his breakthrough wouldn’t come. 

But after Cavallini then was denied by Yarbrough on a nice header in the 80th minute, the ‘Caps were left to hang on and try and claw out a point, as they adopted a very defensive posture. 

It was a worrying sight, because as many might remember, the ‘Caps have a history of giving up back-breaking goals late in games, and it felt like they were destined to do that again, especially against this good Colorado side, who really started to push at the end. 

Despite that, though, the ‘Caps held strong right to the end, allowing them to grab a point. 

Andre Shinyashiki did give them a scare in the 84th minute with a nice attempt just inside the box, and Acosta then had a chance right in the 95th minute that forced a fantastic save out of the ‘Caps Maxime Crepeau, but the ‘Caps managed to keep all those attempts at bay, keeping the draw safe. 

So even though it might not have been the smoothest end to the game, and the ‘Caps will be left wanting after some of the Cavallini chances, it was nice to see them adopt a professional mentality when the going got tough, giving them what they needed to grab a result. 

A few months ago, they don’t hold on in a game like this, dropping a key point, but instead, they did what they needed to do in order to keep the draw intact, highlighting their growth as a side as of late.

And it’s because of things like that why it’s going to be so hard to count this ‘Caps team out of the playoff race right to the very end, as you know that they’ll give a good battle. 

Having been through so much together, you can tell that this group is one that can stick together in these tough moments, and they showed that in this game, and they’ll look to bring that togetherness into their next match against Dallas. 

“Yes we could’ve scored, they could’ve scored,” Sartini said. “(But) they put all the offensive players in, we tried to resist, resist, resist, not forgetting that in altitude it’s really hard to play 90 minutes at high level here and they’re a really good team, so I’m really happy with the result and the performance.”

Player of the Match: Florian Jungwirth

Florian Jungwirth in action for the ‘Caps earlier this season (Keveren Guillou)

And a big part of the ‘Caps togetherness that they’ve shown as of late? The acquisition of Florian Jungwirth from the San Jose Earthquakes, as he’s quickly grown into a very important player on this roster, putting up another big performance in this game. 

Initially acquired to shore up the ‘Caps depth at the back, he’s proven to be a lot more than just a depth piece for this team, as his experience and quality at the back has been a key part of the ‘Caps push for the playoffs as of late. 

Along with his willingness to stick up for teammates, and never give up on plays, he’s helped the defensive unit find a bit of confidence in these last few games, and that was the case again in this game, only conceding 1 goal despite all the pressure they faced across the game as a whole. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Deiber Caicedo

Caicedo in action for the ‘Caps earlier this month (Keveren Guillou)

Otherwise, we picked Caicedo as our player to watch in this game, as he was expected to start this game after carving out a nice role as a supersub in recent matches, and he lived up to the distinction, playing an excellent match. 

Obviously, his assist was the main highlight of his performance, as he showed plenty of quality when setting up White, but that was just a small part of what he did in this game, as he threatened the Rapids defence every time that he was on the ball, doing a good job of showcasing his talents. 

Because of that, expect him to start more often going forward, because while it’s nice to have someone of his quality on the bench, Caicedo is good enough to do it from the beginning of games, and he showed that in this one. 

Heatmap of the Match: 

Moving on, it was a subpar showing from the ‘Caps in this section, but that’s not surprising considering that Colorado did have that strong start and finish, while the ‘Caps best moments came in small spurts. 

Although you would like to see the ‘Caps control more of this game than they did, especially seeing how well they’ve played as of late, considering their opponent, and where this game was played, you can almost excuse the slight drop-off here. 

xG Plot of the Match: 

Lastly, looking at the Expected Goals (xG) plot, you can see why you’d excuse the heatmap for being lackluster, because despite being heavily outshout by the Rapids, to the tune of 23 to 9, the shots on target were just 5 to 4 for the Rapids, and the xG was surprisingly close. 

So although the ‘Caps lost the xG battle for the first time in a while, as seen on the plot, the Rapids built up their xG numbers with a bunch of little chances, while the ‘Caps went for quality, which shows that if they had their shooting boots on, they definitely could’ve snatched something out of this one. 

Looking Forward:

Now, the ‘Caps will return to Vancouver and look to have a good week of training before their next match, which will come at BC Place against Dallas. 

As mentioned earlier, it’s a massive one for the ‘Caps, who will want to avoid losing too much ground in the playoff race after doing so well to crawl back into it with a 4-game winning streak and 10-game unbeaten run, but after this point, they’ll feel that they have what it takes. 

Against a Dallas team that just fired their coach, as they announced Sunday that they’d be relieving Luchi Gonzalez of his duties, the ‘Caps will have to fight through a young and talented Dallas side possibly feeling the effects of a new coach bounce, so it won’t be easy. 

But at the same time, these ‘Caps have been tough to crack as of late, especially at home, so because of that, they’ll certainly fancy their chances of coming away with a needed 3 points, allowing them to continue their push towards the postseason, especially after what they showed in this one.

“I think it was a really good game (for us),” Caps full back, Javain Brown, said. “We didn’t start off so well, you know, but we grabbed the stage of the game and we talked to each other, we worked for each other and we scored before the half ended and from there, it was an intense game.”

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs FC Dallas, Saturday, September 25th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (BC Place, Vancouver)

One thought on “Tough Grind: Vancouver Whitecaps overcome slow start to etch out key point vs Colorado Rapids

  1. They are getting shots off. That means they have time and space to make the shots. Good defensive performances take away any opportunity for a shot, period. You just force the opponent to switch and recycle possession or make crosses. Lewis was in a great spot and sky-ed his over the bar. Galvan and Namli both cut into dangerous more central positions using their strong left strike capability and missed around the post or just a yard over. Those 23 shots on goal are nothing to dismiss as “little chances.” It was an off night with their shooting boots as opposed to anything the Whitecaps did (though the blocks by the back line guys were very good).

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