The Vancouver Whitecaps took on FC Dallas at BC Place in MLS action on Saturday night. Here’s our recap from this one, one that had all sorts of playoff implications for both teams involved.
Staring down a massive 3 points, they needed a hero to step up.
Up 1-0, in the 94th minute, the Vancouver Whitecaps desperately needed to hold onto all 3 points that were on the line in their match versus FC Dallas on Saturday, especially considering that they currently sit in the thick of an intense playoff push.
But with FC Dallas’s Franco Jara standing at the penalty spot, about to take a spot-kick, it felt like the ‘Caps were about to let those hard-earned points slip away, losing ground in that postseason race in the process.
And then up stepped Maxime Crepeau.
With a save that was heard all around British Columbia, Crepeau made a massive stop on the penalty to help his team preserve all 3 points, giving them a massive win.
Now sitting just 3 points behind the 7th and final playoff spot in MLS’s Western Conference, with a game in hand on Real Salt Lake, the team currently situated in that spot, the ‘Caps all of a sudden find themselves in a good position with 9 matches to go.
Obviously, if they stop winning, they can easily find themselves back at the bottom of a very tight Western Conference table, but seeing the form that they’re currently on, having picked up points in 14 of their last 16 MLS games, they certainly feel like they’re on the right track right now.
And that’d feel like it right from the get-go in their game versus Dallas on Saturday, as well.
The ‘Caps would nearly have a dream start right in the 3rd minute, as Ryan Gauld did well to find a wide-open Cristian Dajome at the back post on a corner, but the Colombians strong header would be saved nicely by Dallas’s Jimmy Maurer in goal, denying the hosts of an opener.
Not long after, Dajome, continuing his strong start to the game, found a way to cut inside and unleash a powerful shot, one that sizzled just wide of the post, almost catching Maurer out in his goal.
At the other end, not wanting to be outdone by his Colombian counterpart, FC Dallas winger, Jader Obrian, found a bit of space in the box after his team took a quick free-kick, but Crepeau would find a way to come up big in his 1v1 with the Colombian, making a nice save to keep the game tied.
And then, in the 20th minute, the ‘Caps would finally find a way to capitalize on their early moments of pressure, picking up a key opening goal.
Given a bit too much space to work with on the right flank, Russell Teibert looked up and whipped in a lovely ball, one that floated right onto the head of Brian White in the box, allowing the ‘Caps striker to nod home his 6th of the season.
For a team that hasn’t scored first all that often this season (in fact, this was just the 6th time that they did so all year), it would be a massive boost to the team, as it seemed to give them the confidence to go potentially chase down another goal or two to truly cement their lead.
Despite that, though, it wouldn’t stop Dallas from starting to push towards an equalizer. They’d come close to doing so in the 28th minute, as Ricardo Pepi found a bit of space in the box after a nice cross in from a teammate, but his floated header towards goal would be too central, making it way too easy for Crepeau to save.
Right after, Pepi’s strike partner then found a pocket of his, but he too would send his header right at Crepeau, who certainly didn’t look to want to complain about that stroke of luck.
Continuing the back and forth action, Gauld would then do a good job of setting up Teibert at the edge of the box in the 29th minute, and the Canadian would manage to get a strong shot off, sailing it just over the Dallas goal.
Then, at the other end, Dallas continued to throw bodies forward in possession, and that’d nearly pay off for them in the 35th minute, as Pepi found some space at the edge of the box, and unleashed a good shot, curling his effort just wide of the post.
Realizing that their lead might be in danger, the ‘Caps then had one of the best chances of the half in the 39th minute, as Andy Rose found a bit of space on a rare foray forward from centre back, and whipped in a great ball, one that Lucas Cavallini did well to get a head on towards goal, only finding himself denied by an acrobatic stop from Maurer.
Soon after, the ‘Caps then came close again in the 40th minute, as Dajome made a nice run down the flank before playing a 1-2 with Cavallini, and he’d do well to cut the ball back to a wide-open White, but the ‘Caps striker would be unable to direct his left-footed volley towards goal, sending it just past the post.
But then, finally, the halftime whistle would manage to come without any further action, giving the fans who were watching the game a bit of a breather after a spirited half from both sides.
For the ‘Caps, it was a dream first half, as they were probably the better team, and managed to get an early lead, bucking their usual trend of starting games slowly for a change. On the other side, while it was a tough half for Dallas, they could certainly not be too fussed with how things ended up, as they were very much in the game despite being mostly outplayed.
So heading into the 2nd half, the big question would be as follows – would we see the same frenetic action that we saw through the first 45?
And unsurprisingly, the answer would be yes, as the ‘Caps continued to push for a 2nd.
Cavallini first came close off of a Gauld corner in the 49th minute, before Bruno Gaspar almost caught Maurer out with a nice knuckleball from just outside of the box in the 50th, as the ‘Caps continued to show their intent to win this match.
Continuing to put on the pressure, the ‘Caps then had a good look in the 53rd minute, as Gauld did well to find White in a pocket of space at the edge of the box, but White’s shot would be too central, allowing Maurer to save, although his defender, Ema Twumasi, almost did bundle the rebound into his own goal before rescuing himself with a last-ditch clearance.
After that, though, the game would settle down a bit, which would be good for the ‘Caps, but not really for Dallas, who needed a goal.
Plus, once the action started to liven up again, it’d be in favour of the ‘Caps, as second-half substitute, Deiber Caicedo, managed to get the next chance of the game in the 72nd minute, as he did well to cut inside from the right and unleash a strike with his left foot, just missing the target by a few feet.
Continuing that, Leonard Owusu then did well to find Gauld in the box in the 77th minute, and Gauld decided to go for the spectacular, attempting a bicycle kick, but he just sent his attempt just wide of the goal.
Finally realizing that they were down in the match, and probably needed to start chasing an equalizer, Dallas then had one of their best chances of the game to that point a minute later, as Pepi found a bit of space at the edge of the box, and he did well to get his shot off, only finding himself denied by the calm hands of Crepeau in goal.
A few minutes later, Pepi’s teammate, Ferreira, then tried to get in on the action, as he found a bit of space to unleash a dangerous strike, but once again, as he’d been all night up to that point, the steady hands of Crepeau would come to the rescue in the ‘Caps goal.
Then, in the 87th minute, still chasing that equalizer, Pepi once again found a sliver of space in the box, and he unleashed a cannon of a shot, but this time Rose would come up with the stop, as the ‘Caps defender managed to get a leg out to the young strikers’ powerful effort.
And as they continued to push, Dallas then had their moment, right in the 93rd minute. After a wide ball into the box, the ‘Caps Patrick Metcalfe got a little too handsy with Dallas’s Obrian, taking him down in what at first seemed like an innocent challenge.
Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, though, VAR didn’t think so, and they flagged it down to be reviewed, and after a short look at the review board by referee Kevin Stott, he agreed with them too, ruling Metcalfe’s challenge to be a penalty, pointing to the spot emphatically.
From there, Dallas’s Franco Jara stepped up to take the spot-kick, with a chance to steal a point for his team.
But then, Maxime Crepeau had his moment.
Sensing where Jara was looking to shoot, Crepeau moved quickly, sticking out his hands to Jara’s low shot to his right, palming it out of harm’s way, sending BC Place into a joyous roar in the process.
Thanks to that, the ‘Caps would manage to hold on and pick up all 3 points, giving them a massive boost to their playoff hopes.
Had they given up the goal, it’d have been a devastating 2 points to drop for them, as they’d been the better team throughout the game, and needed the points to keep themselves in a good position in the playoff race, so although it wasn’t the way that they’d wanted to do it, the ‘Caps were happy to etch out the result.
With that, though, the hard work is just getting started for them, as they now must navigate a massive game in midweek at Houston, but without their win in this one, that game wouldn’t even be that important, highlighting truly how big Crepeau’s save was.
Player of the Match: Andy Rose
Moving on, this was a hard award to pick, as there were plenty of standout performers in this game for the ‘Caps, but none shone brighter than Rose’s, as he put up a phenomenal overall performance at the back on Saturday.
With 4 interceptions, 3 clearances and 3 blocks, most of them massive ones, he had a big game at a night where his team needed one from him, especially with 2 of their regular centre-backs, Florian Jungwirth and Erik Godoy, both out injured for this one.
After having a bit of tough game in his last outing against Colorado, Rose bounced back in a big way on Saturday, allowing his team to grab all 3 points.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Ranko Veselinovic
Otherwise, we picked Veselinovic as our player to watch in this game, and seeing that the ‘Caps managed to keep a clean sheet, he did his job and then some on Saturday.
Playing as the central defender in a back 3, he commanded his line nicely on Saturday, making some nice defensive interventions at key moments.
Continuing what has been a strong season for him so far, he’s arguably been the ‘Caps best defender across the balance of 2021, and he showed that again on Saturday night.
Saviour of the Match: Maxime Crepeau
Elsewhere, we don’t usually have a section like this, but seeing how big Crepeau’s late heroics were to helping his team secure the win in this game, it’s only fair that he gets his deserved shout-out here.
Before the penalty save, he certainly played a big role in his team’s ability to keep a clean sheet, making a few solid stops, but the penalty heroics were something else, as it rescued his team at a key moment.
But that’s what Crepeau does.
Over the last 3 years, he’s probably been the ‘Caps MVP and best player for a reason, and that penalty is just the latest example of that.
Heatmap of the Match:
And rolling through here, it was another good performance from the ‘Caps in this section, as they’ve continued to put up good performances as of late, with this one being one of their best.
Should they have scored a goal more than they did? Probably, but as seen here, they managed to threaten the edge of the Dallas box quite nicely, and that helped them grab the win.
xG plot of the Match:
Lastly, as seen above, the ‘Caps good play is also reflected in the xG chart, which was mostly dominated by the hosts, other than the late penalty.
After a bit of a slip-up in the xG department last week, they recovered quite nicely in this game, showing why they’ve been one of the better defensive teams in MLS as of late.
Now, the ‘Caps will have a bit of time to recover before getting right back into it on Wednesday, when they’ll take on Houston in a must-win game for Vancouver.
It won’t be easy, especially considering that the game is in Houston, but with Houston sitting 7 points behind Vancouver, the ‘Caps cannot afford to give up points to their foes.
Seeing that they finally got a bit of help on the out-of-town scoreboard this weekend, they won’t want to throw that away by dropping points in the midweek, so they’ll be aware of that threat.
But after the good feeling of this game, they’ll want to ride that high a bit more while they can, because while they’ll need to get right back to work to start the week, it was a memorable night of soccer at BC Place on Saturday, helping them keep their dream of returning to the postseason alive.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Houston Dynamo, Wednesday, September 29th, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston)