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Report Card: Whitecaps vs. D.C. United

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Vancouver did everything except score in a strong, yet disappointing, loss at home to D.C. Let’s dole out the bittersweet grades for the Saturday night performance.

MLS: D.C. United at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Hot on the heels of a significant victory against Western Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City, and a mid-week defeat of the Montreal Impact in the first leg of the Amway Canadian Championship semi-final, the Vancouver Whitecaps were on the precipice of climbing the conference table and continue to cement themselves.

What better time to do so than at home, against a D.C. United side that had not scored in the last 305 minutes of open play? You’d think this would be as opportune a time as any, but after ringing balls (and players) off the D.C. net time and again the Whitecaps could not buy a goal, while the visitors were seemingly gifted a penalty shot in an incident sure to be reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee in the coming week.

However, as cathartic it is to blame some one or thing for the loss, the game was ultimately there for the taking for Vancouver against a bottom-dwelling side, despite being the stronger team throughout. If the Whitecaps happen to miss the playoffs by a scant number of points, this may be the match we’ll all recall when asking, “What if?”

David Ousted - B

Quickly faced two potentially troubling shots, but handled each with ease, particularly if you consider how both shots buzzed by an inadvertently screening defender. Ousted even guessed correctly on the PK, but Lamar Neagle did what he had to do by burying his shot, leaving the Whitecaps with an undeserving deficit for the last thirty minutes.

Kendall Waston/Tim Parker - C+/B-

Neither Waston nor Parker ever truly looked pressured, and usually did a decent job of retaining possession after dispossessing the milquetoast D.C. attack. But once they had that possession, and didn’t see any short passing lanes, what happened? Usually this:

Those are all of Waston’s unsuccessful passes on the day, and that is way too many balls played down field, just to lose possession. To be fair, some of those may have been clearances, and he was successful on a couple of these attempts. However, the point being is that this cannot be the crux of the team’s attack. It worked last week on Techera’s wonder goal, but to me that feels like the exception, not the rule.

Meanwhile, Sorin Stoica, really? REALLY? I’ll give the benefit of the doubt here and say that maybe his line of sight was obscured, but I can’t help but think that this was a call made off reputation, because of Waston’s proximity to “The Jose Ortiz Exhibition on How Gravity Works”. At least Mauro Manotas drew contact...

Now that we’re done with the airing of grievances, again, both Waston and Parker played well defensively, and each had their chances on net. Parker maybe should have been able to bury his header, while this effort was ambitious as heck and I loved it. If Waston somehow found a way to bury that bicycle kick, everything else that followed in this match wouldn’t have tasted so bitter.

Sheanon Williams/Jordan Harvey - C+/B-

For much of the night, Williams looked confident on the ball and often threatening LB Taylor Kemp with runs into the corner, just as he had against Sporting Kansas City. The one time it didn’t work? During the D.C. counterattack that led to the 61st minute “penalty kick”. This isn’t to say that he should live in fear of the counter and never advance up-field; rather, just noting the cause-and-effect that played out.

Harvey had an equally hard-working night, one we’ve grown accustomed to from him over the past few years, but have seen a little less of this season, so hopefully this is a sign he’s rounding into his usual form. Plus, he gets nothing but plaudits from me for throwing his entire body (except the arms, natch) into blocks like this:

Andrew Jacobson - B

The notes on Jacobson I wrote down during the match: “Smart with the ball. Efficient.” That sums up his play, doesn’t it?

He didn’t have that defensive abrasiveness and the lust for tackles often possessing the man he replaced on the night, Matias Laba, but Jacobson didn’t need it. He was solid in filling the defensive CM role.

Tony Tchani/Christian Bolanos - C/B-

Tchani was strong on the ball overall, was decent defensively, and his one true chance on net was unofficially the fifth time a Whitecap hit the wordwork on the day. And yet, that effort is exemplary of his offensive chances from the past few games: the ball gets stuck in his feet, leaving him unable to make a clean effort on goal.

And for what it’s worth, the yellow card that Luciano Acosta drew out of Tchani reminded me of this Bryan Carrasco silliness from roughly six years ago. I suppose you open yourself to having opponents clothesline themselves when you run with your arms out from your body, right?

Bolanos looked far more confident on the night than he has during the past few games. This outside-of-the-foot through ball for Davies that he played around Steve Birnbaum was fantastic, as was a number of the dead balls he struck, setting up Parker early and Brek Shea late (which earned the PK), as well as the Tchani effort mentioned above.

Also: if Bola is taking a majority of dead balls for the Whitecaps, shouldn’t he also be taking the PKs? Just a thought.

Cristian Techera/Alphonso Davies - C/C+

Techera’s performance is a weird one to rate. Off the ball, he did well in pressing the D.C. defenders, making runs into corners, and getting himself back defensively, while is spot kicks throughout the match were dangerous (though I would have preferred an in-swinging corner kick late in the match). However, he never seemed to connect on any passes in the final third. And to hit the woodwork twice in a match, once on an open header, and later off a PK? He’s been in form as of late, so here’s to hoping this was just a one-off, snakebit performance rather than the start of a trend.

It’s almost getting too mundane to say, but it bears repeating: Davies can RUN:

He was a threat down the left flank for most of his sixty minutes on the pitch. If there’s open space in front of him, he’s going to take it.

But if Davies is facing the center of the park with the ball, and knows he won’t be able to turn outside, or if he’s having to come inside to receive a pass, it felt like his reaction time/decision-making process slows quite a lot. It didn’t happen terribly often, mind you, but once Davies is familiar with moving more dynamically in any direction (particularly with his back to the net), he’ll be an even bigger threat to opposing sides.

Fredy Montero - C

Like Techera, you could argue for Montero’s grade to be higher or lower. It feels like he can float in and out of games, but it’s arguable this is due to how his style of play isn’t conducive to pumping balls forward from the back once the defenders are sick of cycling. Nevertheless, he did well to bring down the balls when there was a chance to do so. Best example I saw: in the 15th, he beautifully chested down a pass of Harvey’s that covered nearly a third of the pitch. I believe only a blocked shot came of it, but it shows that he’s absolutely capable of controlling a ball in a tight area with a defender on his back. The passing just needs to be somewhat serviceable.

But for every time he did something like that perfectly feathered pass to Techera in the 19th, he blasts a gifted opportunity straight at the keeper. That said, would he have scored the Whitecaps PK? Just another example of the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” the team is most likely feeling after the loss.