The Vancouver Whitecaps took on LAFC in a crucial MLS matchup on Tuesday night. Here’s our match report from that one, a thrilling 1-1 draw, one that allows the ‘Caps to keep control of their own playoff hopes heading into Decision Day this upcoming weekend.
They just continue to plug away.
Once again, it wasn’t pretty, but the Vancouver Whitecaps continued to pick up points on Tuesday, as they took on LAFC in a massive game filled with all sorts of Western Conference playoff implications.
For both the ‘Caps, who entered this game in the 7th of 7 playoff spots in the West with 47 points, and LAFC, who entered this game in 9th with 44 points, this game had all sorts of implications for both teams, as the winner would finish the night in a playoff spot with 1 game to go.
Plus, with a victory, the ‘Caps could actually also clinch a playoff spot, returning them to the postseason for the first time since 2017 in the process, only adding incentive for them to come out strong in this game.
So while a 1-1 draw might not certainly have been exactly the result that the ‘Caps were seeking on the night, it’s still a big result, as it allowed them to finish the night in a playoff spot, and as it stands, it also means that they can clinch a spot in the postseason with a draw or win in their final game of the season, which comes this Sunday against the Seattle Sounders.
Thanks to a Herculean effort defensively, the ‘Caps were able to ride an early goal all the way to a key point, one that allows them to control their own destiny in the final match, something that losing certainly wouldn’t have allowed them to do.
“Yeah, it was a great defensive performance from everybody,” ‘Caps goalkeeper, Maxime Crepeau, said after the game. “And that’s really important, we go back to Vancouver (knowing) that with a tie or win against Seattle, and we’re in, it’s Decision Day for a reason, and it’s up to us now.”
But that’s these ‘Caps for you.
Having now picked up points in 21 of their last 24 MLS games, they’ve just kept on finding a way to make things interesting these past few months, and this game was the latest example of that, as they just continue to grab points out of games where they previously would’ve struggled to do so in.
This game was yet another example of that, as LAFC really laid the ‘Caps under siege as the night went along, so that the ‘Caps were able to weather the storm as they did was huge, and is a big reason why they were able to snatch the point.
“We knew that for them, it was a big game,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said after the game. “They had the chance to catch us, and to play here, it’s hard.”
He added: “We knew that this was the kind of game to suffer, to defend very well, and then to try and counter-attack to exploit them. We did it very well with the goal, and we had a couple of chances in the second half.”
Before things started to tilt in LA’s favour, however, to start, the game would actually be quite cagey, and understandably so, as both teams seemed to realize the grandeur of the occasion, making for some nervous soccer.
Because of that, other than a Brian Rodriguez half-chance for LAFC that barely tested Maxime Crepeau in the Whitecaps goal, there wouldn’t be much to talk about for the first 15 or so minutes, as both teams tried to search for an opening.
But then, things broke right open in the 15th minute, and fortunately for the ‘Caps, it would be in their favour. Having found a bit of space on the counter, Ryan Gauld did well to find Brian White in space, and from there, White then found Cristian Dajome in the box.
Then, despite having defenders closing him down from all angles, Dajome would be able to take the ball down, look up, and rip his shot home, giving his team a surprise lead, but one that they were full value for.
Thanks to that, it allowed them to dream of being able to snatch this victory, booking a playoff spot in the process, but it’d still be a long uphill road to climb with 75 minutes to go.
And they then got a warning sign of how long that road would be in the 20th minute, as Brian Rodriguez sent a volley over the goal from outside of the box, just mishitting his strike, before Diego Palacios had a good look inside of the box in the 22nd minute, only seeing his shot get deflected before getting saved by Crepeau.
Right after, LAFC continued to ramp up the pressure, as the Canadian, Raheem Edwards, found a bit of space inside of the box on his right foot, and he unleashed a vicious curling effort, one that seemed destined for the back of the net, only finding itself kept out by a wonderful save from Crepeau.
At the other end, the ‘Caps then had another good look, as White then found himself on a 2v1 with his right wing back, Bruno Gaspar, and he did well to find his teammate wide-open in the box, but Gaspar was just a second too late to the pass, shanking his shot just wide of the target.
Then, continuing that 10-minute flurry of chances, LAFC’s Mamadou Fall looked to get in the action in the 25th minute, as he did well to get up to a corner, but his effort would be sent right at Crepeau, giving the ‘Caps goalkeeper an easy save.
Afterwards, things settled down for a few minutes, but you just had a feeling that this game had one more chance in it before halftime, and LAFC would be the team to provide it in the 46th minute, as Sebastian Ibeagha did well to connect with a volley off of a corner, but he was denied by the post, keeping the ‘Caps ahead.
And then, not satisfied with that, LA would find their breakthrough right in the 47th minute. Off of yet another corner, the ball bounced around before finding a wide-open Fall, and this time he buried the chance with his right foot, tying the game back up.
It took a few minutes to actually confirm the goal, as Fall looked to be offside in the leadup, but it was eventually ruled to be a good goal as it bounced off of the ‘Caps Florian Jungwirth, nullifying the offside, giving LA a massive tally right before the break.
Because of that, it left both teams with all to play for in the second stanza. After trading blows in the first, they were still left standing, with not much decided, so they looked to use halftime as a chance to reset, allowing them to find that knockout blow in the last 45 minutes.
So to start the second half, it was almost not surprising to see LA nearly deliver that blow in the 50th minute, as they looked to build off of what they showed in the first half. After some nice work from Brian Rodriguez to run and then set-up Cristian Arango in the box, Arango then unleashed a vicious strike, one that seemed destined for the top corner, only if not for Crepeau, who somehow got across to the shot, palming it over the crossbar and out.
It was a massive save for the ‘Caps, who needed a boost like that as they started to chase more opportunities, of which they’d be able to do with a sense of calm thanks to that save from their goalkeeper.
And it wouldn’t stop there, either. Not long after, in the 58th minute, second-half sub, Jose Cifuentes, then found a bit of space in the ‘Caps box, and the LAFC midfielder unleashed a strong strike, but Crepeau once again managed to get his body in front of the effort, keeping his team in the game.
Right after in the 60th minute, Cifuentes then tried to set up Arango with a low cross, and he did well to find him, but Arango tried to be too fancy and went for a backheel flick, one that’d roll harmlessly into Crepeau’s arms.
Then, finally, the ‘Caps managed to muster up a chance of their own, as Gauld did well to find Javain Brown at the back post off of a corner, and Brown got good contact on his header, only finding himself denied by a solid stop from Blackman.
But as soon as they pushed up the field, LA went the other way, as Arango then had a good look at goal inside of the box after a wide ball into the box found his way to him, but he sent his left-footed shot just wide of the goal, much to the relief of the ‘Caps.
Continuing that push, things really opened up for a few minutes in the 80th minute, as at one end, LAFC second-half substitute, Carlos Vela, sent a dangerous free-kick just wide of the mark, before at the other end, ‘Caps second-half sub, Deiber Caicedo, came close on a breakaway, but just didn’t get all of his shot.
A few minutes later, continuing their late chase, Vela then found a bit of space at the edge of the ‘Caps box after a nice 1-2 with Arango, and he unleashed a strong strike, but much like most of the attempts sent towards the ‘Caps goal, it’d be easily saved by Crepeau.
Then, Arango had the chance to play the hero right in the 93rd minute, as he found himself set up for what seemed like a sure header, but he sent his attempt well wide, much to his visible frustration.
From there, though, that’d be all that this game would have to offer, as neither team would be able to carve out that last clearcut chance, leaving them to split the spoils on the night.
For LAFC, it’d be a big opportunity missed, as they certainly had chances to win this game, but were just far too wasteful with them, especially later on in the match. For the ‘Caps, though, this would be a massive result, one that allows them to keep control of their own destiny heading into their last game, which is all you can ask for from them at this stage.
It might not have been pretty, but they did what they needed to do, grinding their way from start to finish, and that allowed them to pick up this point, one that could be crucial in their quest to make the postseason.
Obviously, now that means they must go follow up this game with a strong performance on Sunday, but that they kept control of their own destiny between their hands is key, so they’ll now look to go and make the most of that in a few days time.
“The next thing now for us is to regroup, recover and then prepare for Seattle,” Crepeau said. “Obviously, they’re a good team, there’s no doubt about that, we know that they have good players, quality players, and depth around their squad, so it’s up to us, and it’s a perfect way to end the season on a good note.”
Player of the Match: Maxime Crepeau
And if there is one player that the ‘Caps will want to thank for that after this game, it’s Crepeau, who stood on his head in goal this game, allowing his team to earn this point.
From the routine saves, which he made with ease, to the hard saves, which he also seemed to make without much worry, he was everywhere in the ‘Caps goal in this game, much to the frustration of the LAFC attackers, who will probably be thinking about him for the next couple of nights.
But that’s just another night at the office for Crepeau, who has been one of the ‘Caps best performers all year for a reason, and he showed why once again in this one, which couldn’t have come at a better time for his team.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Cristian Dajome
Otherwise, we picked Dajome as someone to keep an eye out on in this one, so it only feels fitting that he then went out and scored the opening goal of this game just 15 minutes into it, helping give his team a fighting chance.
And not only was it a nice goal, one that certainly might be among the best that’s he’s scored this year, but just came at a great time, which was right when his team was starting to feel the LA pressure, giving them a bit of breathing room to try and tackle the onslaught that awaited them.
Much like his 9 other goals that he’s scored this season, though, it was a clutch tally, but that’s been Dajome for the ‘Caps this year, as he just seems to find a way to come up big in the moments where his team needs him to, and this game was no exception of that.
Heatmap of the Match:
Elsewhere, it was an underwhelming performance from the ‘Caps in the heatmap section, but that’s not all that surprising, because as mentioned earlier, it felt like they were under siege for most of the night.
So while it isn’t something you like to see after all the progress the ‘Caps have made in that department, it’s worth noting that A) this is an LAFC side that’s really good at generating chances and holding onto the ball and B) the ‘Caps aren’t always going to do well in this section, and both of those factors came into play in this game.
xG Plot of the Match:
So lastly, it’s not that much of a surprise to see that the ‘Caps also struggled in the Expected Goals (xG) department, as LAFC certainly laid the hammer down on them in this game, and that was reflected in the numbers.
Again, that’s not that surprising, especially when you consider that LAFC had the 2nd-best xG differential in MLS heading into this game, but it really shows how much the ‘Caps had to defend, absorbing all sorts of chances right to the very end.
So overall, while the ‘Caps will have a lot to look back at in terms of their performance, there’s a lot to like in terms of the result and how they fought for it, and they’ll look to take that into Sunday.
Faced off against a Seattle side that has been one of the best teams in the league all year, they’re going to have to fight just to earn the point that they need to make the playoffs, and they’re well aware of that.
Having fought so hard to get to this point, the last thing that they’ll want to do is to throw it all away in the last game, so they’ll look to bring out this same effort, but combined with a little more structure, allowing them to pick up a result.
Based on what they showed in this game, they’ll certainly have the belief that they can make the draw (or win) happen, and now they just have to prove it, something that they’ll get 90 minutes to do come 15:00 Pacific time on Sunday at BC Place.
“I’m looking forward to the game,” Sartini said. “I’m looking forward to have BC Place full of our fans pushing us, doing the job vs Seattle, as we try to win, of course, we know that a tie is enough, but we can put ourselves in a better position (with a win), so we’ll try to beat Seattle and celebrate with our fans at the end of the day on Sunday.”
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Sunday, November 7th, 2021, 15:00 PST, 18:00 EST (BC Place, Vancouver)