The Vancouver Whitecaps took on FC Dallas in MLS action on Wednesday night. Here is our match report from that one.
It was a great way to end off the homestand for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Having so far gotten four out of a possible six MLS points through the first two league games of what was overall a four-match homestand (the fourth match was a Canadian Championship tie against Valour FC), the ‘Caps had a chance to make it seven from nine as they got set for the last match on Wednesday, a game against FC Dallas.
There, a stiff task awaited them, as they got set to take on a Dallas side who entered the game sitting second in MLS, having arguably been one of the hottest teams in MLS as of late.
Because of that, it was seen as a big game for the Whitecaps. Having struggled against any sort of top opposition this year, it was hard to imagine them getting anything out of this game, even though they were at home, where they’ve lost just twice since the start of 2021.
But despite that feeling heading into this game, the ‘Caps did well to put it behind them on the pitch, coming out and nabbing a massive 2-1 result right at the death. They had to fight for it, as they first went down 1-0 before scoring two second-half goals, including one right in the 90th minute, just to leave with all three points, but at the end of the day, they won’t complain about how it happened.
So now, they’ve all of a sudden put some life back into what was a quickly dying season for them, sitting just on the cusp of the playoff spot, and in the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship, two things that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago.
Of course, the work is now just getting started for them to properly get their season back on track, as a few losses could undo the work that they’ve done, but things are looking up for them, which is something.
“Every team is hard to beat,” Whitecaps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said of this game. “And the fact that we did three wins and one tie in this home stretch, and we almost won against San Jose and we could have done four out of four, it shows how the team reacted very well after a very poor moment and so I’m very proud of the guys.”
As for this Dallas game, however, things didn’t always look up for them, especially in the first start.
They would start brightly, as Lucas Cavallini would nearly get the game off to a great start for the home side in the 4th minute, doing well to craft space for himself at the edge of the box before unleashing a strike, but he’d send his shot just wide of the mark on the attempt.
At the other end, however, things then started to get dark.
First, Dallas’s Brandon Servania managed to create a similar chance for himself in the 7th minute, getting a good look from distance after being teed up by teammate Jesus Ferreira, and he’d unleash a good strike, one that would sail just over the goal, however. Then, a few minutes later, Ferreira would nearly create something of his own in the 12th minute, as he broke free for a 1v1 with the Whitecaps Ranko Veselinovic, and he’d do well to create a shot for himself on the play, only narrowly missing the goal.
Continuing their strong start, Dallas then had their best chance in the 15th minute. After winning a free kick in a great position, Paul Arriola stepped up to take it, and he’d unleash a great strike, curling it just inches wide of the mark on his attempt.
After that, however, things would quiet down for a period, as both teams continued to feel each other out.
But having successfully navigated that awkward phase of the game, Dallas nearly burst out of it with intent in the 31st minute. Having received the ball out wide, Servania decided to look up and curl one towards the back post, where he’d do well to find a wide-open Jader Obrian for what seemed like a sure goal.
Luckily for the ‘Caps, however, their goalkeeper, Cody Cropper, would be alert to his surroundings, finding a way to quickly slide over to get himself in front of the shot, denying Obrian from what would’ve been a massive tally.
Unfortunately for them, they wouldn’t be so lucky on the next Dallas chance, which would come all the way in the 45th minute. After a nice bit of transitional play, Ferreira would do well to find a wide-open Arriola running into the box, and from there, Arriola would do well to unleash a cheeky strike first time with his left foot, sending the ball through Cropper’s legs to grab the lead for his team.
Thanks to that, it’d give his team a dream result heading into half time, as not only had they grabbed the lead, but had done so without getting out of first gear, which was exactly everything that they would’ve wanted from a midweek road match.
So for the ‘Caps, it left them with a lot to do in the second half. To be fair, they’d done well to respond immediately after the goal, nearly grabbing one of their own before the half time whistle via an audacious volley from Ryan Raposo, but there was no doubt that they needed to do a lot more than that to turn things around.
Because of that, it made for a vital half time talk for them, as they tried to find the exact best way for them to do just that, instead of letting a potentially positive home result slip away.
And to kick off the second half, they’d show some good fight, as Raposo, much like he ended the half, did well to unleash a good strike from outside the box, but much like that original strike, he’d skim the top of the goal with his attempt.
Continuing their strong game, however, Dallas would nearly respond immediately with their second, as Marco Farfan lined up a dangerous attempt from outside of the box on his left, and he’d catch all of it, forcing a decent save out of Cropper.
But at the other end, after another long lull, the ‘Caps would finally find their breakthrough in the 71st minute. After a tidy spell of possession, they managed to filter the ball out wide to Cristian Gutierrez, and from there, he’d manage to look up and find the run of second-half sub, Brian White, with a great cross, one that White would manage to nod home easily for the equalizer.
With that, not only did he put his team back in the game, but seemed to give them new life, too, as well, giving them the belief that they could indeed claw something back from this game, something that seemed unlikely just minutes ago.
Which they nearly did just minutes later, as a nice transition moment saw the ball bounce to Cristian Dajome inside of the box, and the ‘Caps winger came agonizingly close to burying home, just skimming the side of the net with his attempt.
At the other end, however, Dallas nearly spoiled their party in the 85th minute, as Ferreira managed to fashion space for a shot, and he got all of it, although he lacked the accuracy to even threaten Cropper’s goal.
But from there, the ‘Caps would find a way to get the party going in earnest, all through a couple of moments of magic.
First, they’d get the first moment off of a corner, as the ball fell right to Ranko Veselinovic, the ‘Caps centre back, in the box. There, despite his position as a defender, he did well to show some deft feet, dancing around the Dallas defender to win the penalty.
And there, that paved the way for the second moment of magic, as Cavallini stepped up to take the penalty. There, despite never scoring a penalty for Vancouver, he showed great composure with the attempt, finding the side netting to give his team the lead.
With that, they then did something not many expected them to do before the game – cruise to victory, one that just minutes before, seemed very unlikely.
Yet, that is the best way to sum up the night for Vancouver. They might not have played their most exciting game, but other than one moment, they defended well, and then when it came time to it, they converted their chances.
And that’s exactly what they needed right now. Sitting at the bottom of the MLS standings heading into this game, any result was going to be a good one, especially against a team as good as Dallas.
Especially considering that previous Whitecaps victories this season had come over fellow bottom-feeders, Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC, this was the sort of statement result that they had desperately lacked, allowing them to further prove their credentials as a dangerous team at home.
So while now an even bigger test awaits them, as they need to both keep up this momentum and start winning on the road, two things that they’ve mostly struggled to do this season, they’ll have the belief that they can now go and do that after this game.
All of a sudden just four points back of a playoff spot, and with at least a game in hand on most around them, the picture back to the promised land just got a lot more accessible, something that felt hard to imagine happening just weeks ago.
“We needed to jump back on track in the fight to the playoffs, especially playing at home,” Cavallini said. “(We need to ) take advantage of these home games, with no travel. So this is nice, back-to-back games, we need to rest the legs and recover nicely here at home. So we took advantage of that, today we needed a win, and we needed those three points (that we got).”
Player of the Match: Cristian Gutierrez
In a surprising and rare start out at left wing back in a back three, given that he’s also dabbled at centre back and right wing back, Gutierrez made the most of this opportunity to play in more of a free role on his strong side, putting together a solid performance.
From his work defensively, which helped the ‘Caps keep Dallas to just 0.9 Expected Goals (xG) on the night, to his offence, best summarized by his crucial assist on the game-tying goal, it was just an overall solid night at the office for him.
Because of that, it made him a deserved man of the match, showing why he remains a key part of this ‘Caps team when healthy, as has become clear over the last year-and-a-half.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Lucas Cavallini
Gutierrez was not the only Canadian ‘Caps player who decided to show up big-time in this game, as Cavallini continued a hot run of form on Wednesday, bagging the winner to give himself goals in back-to-back games for just the fourth time in a Whitecaps shirt, and first since summer of last season.
But that was just the latest example of how good Cavallini has been as of late for the Whitecaps. Right from the get-go this season, he’s looked very good in most matches, and has seemingly grown in every game, too.
As a result, he has arguably been one of the most in-form strikers in MLS, goals aside, as his play has been far better than what his goal record suggests, which just gives an idea of how good he’s been.
That was on full display in this game, much as it has been all season, showing why the ‘Caps have been very pleased with their club-record signing so far this year.
The Big Question:
Did the recent home schedule create a mirage?
While the answer still remains unclear, it’s certainly trending a lot more towards no after this game, one where despite taking on the second-best team in MLS right now, the ‘Caps more than held their own before grabbing the late win.
To be fair, that’s also just what they’ve tended to do in games where they’re at home, so that’s not as if it’s anything new, but given their recent run of opponents, it is a good sign to see them play as they did against an opponent of this calibre.
Now, of course, the big thing is to build off this run of games, picking up some momentum for what lies ahead, but there’s no doubt that this game was a good starting point for them, hopefully giving them plenty to build off of.
Stat to Watch:
Lucas Cavallini has just scored in back-to-back games three times for the Whitecaps.
As seen earlier, Cavallini made sure to change this stat on Wednesday, bagging goals in back-to-back games for just the fourth time in a Whitecaps shirt, continuing his great form.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Charlotte FC, Sunday, May 22nd, 14:00 PDT, 17:00 EDT (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte).