The Vancouver Whitecaps pulled off an improbable win against Orlando with a nearly completely new line up from their last two games. It was their third game in eight days that demanded they travel across the continent on two days rest. All the odds were stacked against them before they even stepped on the pitch. And more, once the game began they were, once again, entirely outplayed by the other team. They only held 27% of the possession and completed just 194 passes compared to 489 completed passes by Orlando. How they managed to win by a score of 2-1 and having produced so little is an absolute marvel. In fact, by the end of the first half the ‘Caps only held the ball 23% of the time, couldn’t seem to make a pass and were outshot something like 14-0, and they still went into the break up a goal. Of course, they can also thank Carlos Rivas and his lead foot for the clean sheet to that point.
The second half was entirely different. Not because they held that much more possession, but as Orlando stretched for a goal the ‘Caps came to life on the counter. They were resolute in defense and the subs, particularly Davies, fuelled their offense. It is a remarkable win, and I think one that needs to be celebrated. It is almost a shame to look too closely at it. The game was both an exercise in futility and valiant victory. Grading individual performances requires a similar sifting through stretches of impotent play, resolute resistance and moments of brilliance.
So here goes.
Kendall Waston, Aaron Maund and Marcel De Jong: A+
These three are the real heroes of this game. Maund immediately shows what an actual CB replacement looks like. He and Waston seamlessly repelled wave after wave of attack and controlled everything in the air. I have seen people in these comment sections award an F- at times (as if such a thing existed) for particularly bad performances, well I would like to give Waston an A++ for bossing the central defense. His presence on the team is so tied with its success that if I needed to award an MVP for the season it couldn’t be anyone other than him.
The biggest surprise from this trio was De Jong lined up in Tchani and Laba’s DM position. De Jong was a powerful presence and was a big reason most of Orlando’s attack was forced out to the wings.
Brek Shea: A-
Part of me thinks Shea should receive at best a B+ as his was a tale of two halves. His first half was poor in that he repeatedly gave the ball away and contributed to the ‘Caps inability to maintain possession. But the second half was a different story and his game-winning goal was a piece of composed quality. In a game where the team would only get a couple chances, Shea met his moment with class. So in light of the accomplishment that winning this game is, I give Shea the A-.
Jake Nerwinski: B
Jake had his hands full. The rookie had to defend the legend, Kaká, repeatedly in the first half. He was often beaten, but wasn’t burned. And a few times won back the ball. I am often impressed with the maturity of his decisions in his first pro year.
Alphonso Davies: A
The insertion of Davies as a sub saved the win. Suddenly Orlando’s ability to control the ball and set up their attack was disrupted by Davies’ ability to break through their defense. The singular focus of going forward that Orlando enjoyed almost the entire game was interrupted, as they needed to suddenly pay attention to stopping an opponent. Davies skill and talent was undeniable in this game. All that is left for him in the MLS is to start putting the ball in the net. No doubt, we won’t need to wait long.
Stefan Marinovic: B+
Marinovich is a different kind of keeper than Ousted. Physically he is more muscular and powerful than Ousted, and that shows in the way he prowls around the box. There is a certain confidence he provides as he fights off shots, but many balls we are used to see sucked into the arms of Ousted are punched away and back out into play by Marinovic. He made some excellent saves, and was forced to scramble after spilling the ball in a dangerous ping pong sequence in his box. Over all, he had a good game. I don’t know how long he and Ousted will be on the same team, but if he can learn a thing or two about controlling the ball from him, Marinovic’s game will fill out nicely.
Bernie Ibini: B+
Ibini was dangerous moving the ball up his wing, as well as digging in to defend against the relentless Orlando attack. As the game progressed, and especially once Davies entered the game, Ibini introduced a series of seeing eye passes to his game.
I have skewed my grades upward because of the undeniable feat that earning 7 of 9 points in an eight day span with a brutal travel on two days rest is. Are you so generous?