On a long, rain delayed night in Kansas City, the Vancouver Whitecaps were able to pull out a 2-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City to guarantee their spot in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League with one game remaining in group play.
Both teams were mostly comprised of USL call-ups and MLS bench players among some usual starters, but that didn't mean we (and by "we", I mean those of us who were able to get a decent livestream going on Facebook) weren't in for a match worth watching.
Let's break down the ol' "Who Did What??!" on the night:
Spencer Richey - B-
Richey had a fairly decent debut for the first team Whitecaps. Signed to a short-term contract from Whitecaps 2 in the USL (along with Sem de Wit and Kyle Greig, who was an extra time sub for Alphonso Davies), Richey looked a little nervy at first (though that had more to do with some early SKC pressure), but found his groove and made some big stops as the match neared its conclusion.
He couldn't do too much on the goal however, a tight angle, post-and-in shot that only happened because of some, um, "suspect defending", to put it nicely. Nevertheless, he was quality overall.
Cole Seiler/Marcel de Jong - C+
As its been for most of this season, the primary mode of attack for any Whitecaps opponent has been, "Attack the Right Back," whether its Fraser Aird, Jordan Smith, or in this case, Cole Seiler. Like Richey, Seiler's start was a shaky one, but he too found himself as the match progressed, particularly when Davies and Aird initially flipped wings. This allowed Seiler to get up the pitch more often and get involved on the offense.
De Jong benefited similarly throughout thanks to the flip-flopping wingers, though his defensive game overall was better than Seiler's, with some clutch blocks and crunching tackles. He would have rated higher than a 'C+', but he was part of the aforementioned "suspect defending" that led to SKC's goal.
Kendall Waston/Tim Parker - C+/C
Neither really looked all that troubled on the night. Waston had a number of good blocks and his positioning was bueno. He may have been a little too pushy from behind on balls in the air, but gets props for showing how to defend Diego Rubio 1 v 1 shortly after the tying goal.
Parker also never showed any level of defensive discomfort throughout, though most long balls he played up field went right to the SKC backline with nary a Whitecap to be found. These weren't clearances either, but ambitious offensive passes to no one. Maybe a little less of those next time.
Andrew Jacobson/Pedro Morales - D/D-
I completely forgot Jacobson was on the pitch until I saw the "defending" on Rubio's goal. Rubio may have had a lucky bounce to control the ball, but Jacobson's feet were stuck in cement throughout the entire encounter. I proceeded to once again forget he was in the match until his goofy yellow card.
And I have a feeling some will be calling for Morales to get a straight 'F' on the night, not just because of all the drama surrounding him lately, on and off the pitch, but because he was nearly invisible in the middle. However, he wasn't entirely detrimental on the night; he simply looked like a ghost of the player we've seen in the past few years.
Nevertheless, he ranks lower than Jacobson because HOW DO YOU TAKE TWO TOUCHES IN THE CENTER OF THE BOX WITH NO DEFENDERS AND SHOOT WIDE!!! It was essentially from the penalty spot and all he's done this year is bury PKs. Yeesh.
Fraser Aird - C+
A number of Aird's passes on the night felt forced, particularly on short balls where he was looking for the high risk/high reward play. What started working for him were the simple passes & runs based out of build-ups rather than anything rushed. Off the ball, he made a number of great runs and had a terrific pace that weighed on the SKC defense for most of the night.
However, he too should have buried, particularly on a chance that would have proved to be a fantastic counterpunch right after Rubio's goal, though at least his miss wasn't nearly as egregious as Morales' slop.
Alphonso Davies - A
Arguably, the best player on the pitch all night. It's as though Dr. Frankenstein is working in the Whitecaps training room and took the tenacity of Russell Teibert, the speed of Kekuta Manneh, and the drive of Jay Demerit to create this kid (and considering how all three are off the pitch in one way or another, maybe some Frankenstein-ing is in fact what's been going on).
He made a number of fantastic runs on the night, one of which led to the assist on Erik Hurtado's opener, and it was near impossible to get the ball away from him... unless he decided to pass it himself, because his short passes did not look great.
Those passes, and the shot he skied in the second half, were the only criticisms of a player who was absolutely deserving of a goal (albeit off a deflection) for his play on the night. Thankfully, his was the winning goal and guaranteed Vancouver's move onto the quarterfinals.
Nicolás Mezquida - A
When I say Davies was "arguably" the best player on the pitch, it's because of Mezquida, who quietly had a fantastic match. He was causing problems all night with constant pressure applied to the SKC backline, provided a number of fantastic diagonal balls to streaking players down the flank, and if I remember correctly he was able to poach the pass that led to Davies' break down field to set up the opening goal. His football IQ was off the charts on the night, and I continue to be flummoxed as to why he does not start on a regular basis.
Erik Hurtado - B
Had one of those doggedly determine Hurtado kind of nights, except this time... he buried the no-brainer! He, along with Mezquida and Davies, made life difficult for the SKC defense, any time he was near the ball.
To be fair, the Whitecaps were almost playing the Swope Park Rangers rather than Sporting Kansas City, but Hurtado has impressed in small increments over the past couple of weeks, and tonight was no different. He certainly should have buried some of the chances he had in SKC's penalty area, but he continues to make runs that rely on both strength and speed, not just one or the other. He may not yet be the everyday striker for the Whitecaps in the MLS, but he's definitely continuing to improve.