The Vancouver Whitecaps were in action in cup play this Wednesday. Here is our recap from what proved to be a very entertaining Canadian Championship quarter-final for them against Cavalry.
They left it late, but they eventually got the job done, finding a way to clutch up at just the right moment.
As they got set for their Canadian Championship quarter-final matchup with Cavalry on Wednesday, it was hard to tell which version of the Vancouver Whitecaps would show up.
Would it be the ‘Caps side who struggled in the tournament in the 2019 and 2021 editions of the competition, losing to that same Cavalry side in 2019 and losing to provincial rivals Pacific in 2021? Or would it be this new-look ‘Caps side that came out for the preliminary round of this year’s tournament, where they beat Valour 2-0?
And the answer would prove to be the latter, although they flirted with disaster along the way, as the ‘Caps found a way to edge Cavalry 5-3 on penalty kicks after the game finished 1-1 in regular time.
“I’m very pleased with the performance,” Vancouver Whitecaps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said after the game.
So although they might’ve been at one point minutes away from elimination, and had to emerge from the chaotic nature of a penalty shootout just to get things over the line, for the first time since 2018, the ‘Caps are into the semi-final of the Canadian Championship.
It wasn’t easy, especially at the end, but when they needed to clutch up, they did, showing great fight back at key moments of the game.
At the same time, while the ‘Caps will be happy with how things ended, they could’ve avoided disaster had they capitalized on how they started. Having come out the gates strong, they really put Cavalry to the sword early on, yet couldn’t find the goal.
To start, Deiber Caicedo hit the crossbar on a header in the fifth minute, before Lucas Cavallini came close in both the sixth and 10th minute, first forcing a save out of Cavalry’s Marco Carducci, and then just sending the other shot wide. A few minutes later, Ryan Raposo then had a nice shot in the 20th minute, before Cavallini was robbed just before half time, leaving the ‘Caps with upwards of 1.21 Expected Goals (xG) as they reached the break, but nothing to show for it.
And that’d nearly cost them, as Cavalry, who did well to hold the ‘Caps to a 0-0 draw the last time these two teams met in Calgary back in 2019, and started to show similar resilience in this match.
Through that, they were able to grab control of the game in the second half. After a handful of missed half-chances, they then broke things wide-open in the 72nd minute, as former Whitecap, Myer Bevan, scored an absolute stunner of a strike from 25 yards, ripping a shot off the underside of the crossbar and in from distance.
There, that left the ‘Caps on the ropes. Having paid dearly for missing those chances early on, the ‘Caps were not only behind on the score, but had no momentum in their favour, either, having watched their hosts grow right into the game.
So at that moment, not only did they have to find a way to turn the score around, but do so while fighting that tide of momentum, which was far easier said than done.
But there, that’s where the new-look Whitecaps came into play, as while past editions of the ‘Caps might’ve folded, this version got right back into it.
Knowing that they were short on time, they got right back off the floor and started making things happen, leading to a bevy of late chances, and through one of them, an Erik Godoy header in the 85th minute, they found a way to tie things up.
Yet, that’d just be the start of their challenge, as while they came close to winning late on a good Cristian Dajome chance, they then had to navigate something that hasn’t always treated them kindly in the past – the penalty shootout. Considering that their last one ended in heartbreak back at MLS is Back in 2020, they wanted to avoid a similar feat this time around.
And continuing their theme of changing the narrative, they did just that, confidently knocking in all five of their spot-kicks, while goalkeeper Cody Cropper saved one, allowing them to get the job done in crunch time.
“This it’s proof that things are going in the right direction,” Sartini said. “And it’s a boost of confidence, not only for us in the cup, as we are a game away from the final, but also for the league.”
Thanks to that, things have really set themselves up nicely for them here. With a home date in the semi-finals against York United now awaiting them, they’ll be happy to be at home for that match, given that they have had their fair share of struggles on the road these past few years.
Not only that, but if they win, they’d also get to host a potential final at home, too, meaning that things have really stacked up to give them about as good of a chance at winning a second Voyageurs Cup title as they’ve had in years, which considering the ‘Caps history in this competition, is exciting.
So while they have to be more than ready for what lies ahead, as York has proven to be a very formidable foe through the first two rounds of this competition, meaning that it’s far from guaranteed that the ‘Caps make the final, let alone win it, things are looking exciting for them.
Right now, the ball remains in their court, so seeing that, all that’s left is for them to go out and dribble with it and make something happen with that.
“I’m really happy other than us winning and getting to the semifinals, (although) that is the most important thing,” Sartini said. “We showed again the resilience of our team, and that even when things aren’t going in the right direction, we really want to get on together, and we took ourselves out of the quicksand (because of that).”
Player of the Match: Erik Godoy
For the second time this season, Erik Godoy scored a late equalizer for the ‘Caps, which considering that he’s played just three games for the first team this season, is pretty impressive.
You factor in the calming defensive influence that he also provides when fit and playing, and that just shows why the ‘Caps are happy to have him, as his return has already proven to be a big boost for the team’s 2022 hopes.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Sporting KC, Saturday, May 28th, 2022, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas).
Cover Photo via: Cavalry FC Media/Mike Sturk & Tony Lewis