The Vancouver Whitecaps started out their second-half of the MLS season on a positive note, winning 1-0 away to the LA Galaxy.
Despite it being noted repeatedly that the 2017 incarnation of the Galaxy have performed poorly at home. Such a designation could have been a horrific misnomer for the Whitecaps, seeing as how Vancouver held an all-time record of 1-9-1 when visiting the Galaxy, going into Wednesday’s match.
Instead, the Whitecaps secured the victory behind the benefit of solid defending, timely saves, and a well-struck (and a well-headed) free kick.
David Ousted - A
Ousted ultimately made four saves on the night, but a couple of them were simply incredible in their own right:
FINGERTIPS from @David_Ousted! #VWFC #LAvVAN pic.twitter.com/ABp7510WZF— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 20, 2017
Let's see that one again! pic.twitter.com/Qwrs6sK5B6— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 20, 2017
In the 24th minute, he did well to close down Emmanuel Boateng on the end line, forcing him to play the ball across the box to nobody. And it’s never a bad thing whenever Ousted is able to come out of the penalty area to neutralize attacks (without drawing a red, of course):
Heads up! #VWFC #LAvVAN pic.twitter.com/StKy35DvmV— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 20, 2017
Jake Nerwinski/Jordan Harvey - A/C+
Nerwinski was solid all night, up and down the right flank, particularly whenever he was able to overlap Cristian Techera on the attack.
Defensively, he was tucking in at just the right moments:
.@jake_nerwinski says NO! #VWFC #LAvVAN pic.twitter.com/8w9DTYXLCe— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 20, 2017
And was snuffing out attacks like a proper MLS veteran:
.@jake_nerwinski has been solid tonight. #VWFC #LAvVAN pic.twitter.com/hR2FRdELy4— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 20, 2017
In that sequence alone, he hustles back to strip Gio dos Santos from behind without fouling him, then shields the ball from Romain Alessandrini, juking the French DP until there an open clearance lane became available.
By comparison, Harvey’s night was far more quieter. Alessandrini seemed to push towards the middle rather than down the wing, leaving focus for the left back to remain solely on attacks from Bradley Diallo. He mistimed this step forward early on, but wasn’t significantly troubled for the remainder of the match.
Tim Parker/Andrew Jacobson - C+/C
Parker was fully deserving of the captain’s armband for the match (was it the first time he’s donned it in an MLS match?). He nearly turned home a header very early on. Though his deep passes weren’t quite transcendent, he turned in a solid defensive performance, characterized by his block on Alessandrini in the 32nd minute: smartly moving to cover the hole left by an advancing Jacobson, and getting in the way of anything that comes at him.
As for Jacobson, he was as reliable as ever as a stand-in center back, though his long balls were somewhat reminiscent of the absent Kendall Waston’s (read: overly ambitious). Nevertheless, the team will definitely benefit far more when he’s once again making those passes from the center of the park rather than the back.
Matias Laba/Tony Tchani - C+/B+
Laba was largely quiet on the night, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He wasn’t forced into making any heroic stops, nor were there any slip-ups or unnecessary cards.
As for Tchani, he nearly gets full marks, which I’m sure will be met with contention, but bear with me. Beyond scoring the winning goal, he made 84% of his passes (based off the Audi Index stats) compared to the team’s 72%, and had the most defensive recoveries (16) of any player on the pitch.
But what I found most impressive with Tchani, compared to previous games, was how he often carried the ball with intention, smartly turning away from defenders and out of trouble, touching the ball ahead to himself in open space, rather than letting it get stuck in his feet.
His only knock? That yellow card seemed completely unnecessary. Technical schmechnical, it just didn’t need to happen.
Nicolas Mezquida - B
Mezquida in the #10 spot may lessen the team’s ball possession, he immensely makes up for it by fueling the discord along an opponent’s backline, which is exactly what he achieved against the Galaxy. His press helped disrupt most of LA’s attempts to work the ball through their center, and often initiated the Whitecaps’ counterattacks in the first half. He’s the fuel injection to the team’s motor.
Christian Bolanos/Cristian Techera - C+/C+
Bolanos’ free kicks (for example, this one to Parker, and the assist on Tchani’s goal) were pitch perfect, and was never panicky in clearing the ball defensively while doing well to trade-off marking assignments with Harvey whenever the Galaxy pressed. And for good measure, Bola also drew the foul that led to his free kick & assist on the goal.
Perhaps he could have done more on this Montero cross, but volleys aren’t necessarily easy, right?
Well, maybe they are for Techera:
➡️⚽— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 20, 2017
0-0 | #VWFC #LAvVAN pic.twitter.com/LJFhU6uxKv
This one had echoes of his strike against Sporting Kansas City, though unfortunately Brian Rowe was able to parry the ball away.
For Techera, the concentration of his play focused on advancing up the field, whether it was with the ball, moving it to the corners, or as a secondary press with Bolanos, behind Mezquida and Montero. However, once he had the ball in the corner, the play from that point usually resulted in a cross into the penalty area that would be less threatening than desired.
And between the two of them, their corner kicks were not favorable either, with a number of them floating far too closely to Brian Rowe (who had 8 Recoveries within the six-yard box alone). However, I will give Techera props if his corner in the 17th minute was a genuine attempt at an olímpico.
But corner kicks aside, the play from the corners needs to be more than hammered crosses. They either need to improve or focus needs to shift to possession around the penalty area. Bolanos and Techera have no problem in gaining the zone; they just need to do more with it once its earned.
Fredy Montero - C
Montero had his shots, pressed well in tandem with Mezquida, and made some decent crosses when stuck in the corner. But he should be receiving those crosses or back-passes more often than he’s being forced to make them, which, to me, means that he was stuck doing his usual thing (as a Whitecap): tracking down balls sent to him far away from the goal mouth.
Should he be making deeper runs? Angled runs? Splitting through defenders? Or just demanding passes closer to the net? He never plays poorly, and yet isn’t scoring at a desirable rate (though in fairness, we’ll always want more goals). If that’s the case, maybe the team should start leveraging him as a “False 9” instead.