The Vancouver Whitecaps clashed with the Tigres UANL on Tuesday night, falling 2-0 in Mexico in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Semi-final. The Whitecaps played a mostly defensive match, and while they were able to fend off their vaunted opponent for a while, an own goal from Kendall Waston and a nice strike from Eduardo Vargas proved to be the difference. The Whitecaps have met their opponent, and now they know just how difficult this second leg in Vancouver is going to be.
The Whitecaps trotted out a much different lineup than their youth-laden starting 11 in San Jose on the weekend. Sheanon Williams, Kendall Waston and Tim Parker figured in on the back-line, while Jordan Harvey drew in again in his left back spot. David Ousted returned to the net, Matias Laba and Andrew Jacobson started in the defensive midfield, and the attack saw Marcel De Jong, Alphonso Davies, Fredy Montero and Brek Shea.
Early on, it was easy to tell who was in control in this match. The Tigres dominated the first 45 minutes with a consistent and patient attack, while the Whitecaps spent the entire time defending. They managed maybe one or two sprints past midfield, but the Tigres were quick to snuff out any good chances with their suffocating defense, seemingly feeding off the energy of the over 40,000 fans in attendance. The fans in ‘The Volcano’ were as advertised, serenading the players all match long and roaring at every Tigre chance. According to stats on MLSSoccer.com, the Whitecaps finished with 20.6% of possession overall. Yikes.
While the chances for the Whitecaps offence were few and far between, the Whitecaps as a team did well to fend off the Tigre attack. The ‘Caps tried to impose their physicality, although they were quickly reminded of the difference between CONCACAF and MLS, with Marcel De Jong and Kendall Waston each getting yellow cards within the first 22 minutes of the contest. Despite the card, Waston was an absolute force in the Whitecaps end, and combined with some timely saves by David Ousted, the Whitecaps were able to make it to the half tied at 0-0.
Perhaps Ousted’s best was a back-door stop in the 32nd minute.
Carl Robinson did not make any changes to his lineup to start the second half, and the match continued pretty much the same as the first half. The Whitecaps were content to defend and absorb the Tigres attack without launching much of an attack of their own. Carl Robinson made his first change in the 55th minute, bringing Christian Bolanos into the match for Marcel De Jong. Bolanos, who’s been battling a knee injury as of late, joins Nicolas Mezquida as recent returns from the injured list.
In the 57th minute, the Whitecaps dodged two major bullets. First, a corner kick was played deep into the left side of the box, where it was then headed dangerously back into the middle. The Tigres looked to have a sure goal when Julian Quinones jumped uncovered towards the ball, but his powerful header was sent over the net. David Ousted tumbled to the pitch in a heap after colliding with Quinones during the chance, but thankfully the Great Dane was able to get to his feet and resume the match.
The Whitecaps had a rare chance in the 60th minute when Brek Shea took a Montero ball and was able to get behind the Tigres backline. Depending on who you ask, Shea either slipped and fell, or he dove, and the chance was snuffed out. Shea was given a yellow for simulation, and you can be the judge on whether that was the right call.
59' Shea with the best opportunity of the night but shown yellow for simulation. pic.twitter.com/vafpH0ASTY— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) March 15, 2017
66 minutes in, the Whitecaps suffered a heart-breaking own goal off the foot of Kendall Waston. With the Tigres pressing, Waston had a chance to clear the ball, but flubbed the opportunity. The Tigres came back, and their ensuing cross was knocked into the net by a sliding Waston. A tough moment for the Whitecaps Center Back, who was having a terrific match up to that point.
The Tigres sensed blood, and the Whitecaps tried their best to hold down the fort. In the 69th minute, Ousted made another great save to help that cause.
The final ‘Cap sub came in the 77th minute, when the Whitecaps took Davies out for Cristian Techera.
The Whitecaps were gifted an amazing chance just a minute later, when Nico Mezquida jumped on a Tigres turnover deep in their own end. However, he had a bad angle towards the net, and his attempt fluttered harmlessly away from danger.
The Tigres doubled the lead in the 87th minute, as the Whitecaps simply looked too tired from defending the Tigres unending attack. Vargas’ strike from just outside the box was all the Tigres needed to put the Whitecaps in a difficult spot heading back to Vancouver.
The match woud end at the 2-0 score, and that means the Whitecaps must score at least two goals when the Tigres come to Vancouver on April 5th, and they’ll have to keep their high-powered opponent off the scoreboard.
A very noble effort from the Whitecaps tonight, but the Tigres were simply too good, and they earned the victory.