“We need to be a 90-minute team”: Minnesota loss a key learning lesson for Vancouver Whitecaps

The Vancouver Whitecaps fell 3-1 to Minnesota United in MLS action on Friday. Here’s a look back at what went wrong for them at BC Place.

The injuries and woes continued to pile up for the Vancouver Whitecaps on Friday. 

As a result, they suffered only their third loss in their last 11 games, falling 3-1 to a visiting Minnesota United side. 

Not only that, but they lost in pretty uncharacteristic fashion, too, conceding three late goals after going up 1-0 in the second half, as a late Minnesota surge swept them off their feet right at the end.  

Yet, after a positive run of form, it was that kind of night for Vancouver on Friday, as they just lacked that edge that had seen them become the hottest team in MLS over the last two months, surging up the standings as a result of that. 

Entering this game short seven regulars, things went from bad to worse for the ‘Caps, as star midfielder Andrés Cubas left the game with groin discomfort, while full back Marcus Godinho left with knee pain. For what it’s worth, Cubas’s knock was described as more of a precautionary measure post-game, as he was already managing the injury, while Godinho is yet to be evaluated, meaning they could both be fine for the ‘Caps midweek clash versus FC Cincinnati, but it’s still something to monitor. 

But that just sums up this Minnesota game for the ‘Caps. Things weren’t necessarily bad for them, but they weren’t great, especially not in critical moments, such as that period where they grabbed the lead in the second half. 

Because of that, it was a key learning lesson for Vancouver. Statistically, it was a good game for them, as shots were relatively even, and the Expected Goals (xG) finished just 0.9 to 0.7 for Minnesota, yet when it came to the key moments, the Loons soared. 

“Unfortunately, we made a big mistake on the second goal,” Whitecaps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said afterwards. “We gave them the second goal; the third goal was a big mistake.”

“It’s a teaching lesson that if we are not at one hundred percent for 90 minutes, that’s the only way for us to win.”

And that’s where the ‘Caps will want to be careful going forward. Of course, during this streak, they’ve done well to manage the moments, but there were still concerns emerging, such as their lack of first-half goals, especially at home (of which they have just one in 10 home games), as well as their defensive play. So in a sense, it wasn’t all that surprising to see those two areas really haunt them in this game, especially in the second half. 

Plus, as was shown in the 45 minutes in which Cubas was off the pitch, they need to ensure not to be over-reliant on the midfielder, who has been excellent to start his MLS career, but can’t do it all for Vancouver.

He can, as he showed the week prior, when he held down the midfield and scored a late winner against league leaders, LAFC, but he can only do so much. 

Yet, for all of the negatives, there were also a lot of positives for the ‘Caps. They didn’t have a first-half goal (or shot on target), for example, but did a much better job of controlling play than they did a week prior, where the first half was one to forget against LA. 

In fact, in this game, the ‘Caps did a lot right up until that 66th-minute Lucas Cavallini goal, at that moment looking like a team that deserved to win, especially once that goal breached the target. 

But after that, a switch got hit, Minnesota woke up, and things went south, quickly, leaving the ‘Caps to wonder what went wrong. 

“I think actually we played well until we scored the goal,” Sartini said. “Then, we didn’t press and when we were not pressing, we were dropping too much in our box and leaving them again wide open.”

“You do that against a good team and you’ll be punished.”

So now, as the ‘Caps get set for a spell of tough games, it’ll be important for them to draw on this match as a learning lesson, one that can set them back onto the path that they had previously cut out for themselves. 

It won’t be easy, as the rash of aforementioned injuries will leave a dent, especially if some of them end up being more long-term, but this is a good chance for the ‘Caps to show off that depth they are quite proud of building up. 

As the summer sprint really starts to kick in, it’s going to be crucial, with the ‘Caps looking eager to chase a Canadian Championship crown and qualification to the MLS playoffs. 

If they’re to succeed in those quests, they’ll need to be able to roll through games and take care of business from minute one to minute ninety, especially in games like this where they put in a solid effort from the get-go. 

“We need to be a 90-minute team,” ‘Caps goalkeeper, Cody Cropper, said. “The last seven or eight games at home, when we played very well, we played well until the 95th minute. We scored goals in the 89th, the 90th, whatever it may be.”

“Tonight, we were not a 90-minute team. I think the big takeaway from this is that we have to continue to play our game, whether on the road or at home, for 90 minutes because what we do is very effective when we do it.”

Cover Photo via: Beau Chevalier (IG: @shotby.beau Twitter: @beauchevalier_)

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