The Vancouver Whitecaps began their four-game homestand on Saturday night against the recently streaking Real Salt Lake. In our weekly Guess the Starting XI and Final Score contest, I predicted that Ghazal was probably a few matches away from starting and that “maybe he sees 15 minutes at the end of the match”. True to my follow-up comment that “I will probably come to eat my words”, Carl Robinson chose to give the Egyptian his first appearance (and start) in front of an excited, albeit nervous, home crowd. Additionally, Jake Nerwinski started over Sheanon Williams at right back, while Christian Bolanos was kept out of the 18, after picking up a knock while away with Costa Rica. Bernie Ibini took Bolanos place in the starting lineup, instead of Brek Shea.
Fans who came into this match a bit nervous that the Whitecaps would play down to their opponent were pleasantly surprised when the Caps came out strong over the first 15 minutes. While RSL fought back, it was Vancouver who struck first, thanks to a 29th minute goal from Cristian Techera.
With their season very much on the line, RSL pressed after the opening goal and were rewarded with a strange goal in the 37th minute from Chris Wingert. David Ousted was able to get a hand on the ball, but the spin carried it over the line.
Despite going into the half at 1-1, there had to be optimism from Whitecaps fans. The team looked better than we have seen of late and I felt they were going to have their opportunities in the second half to regain the lead.
Sure enough, thanks to captain Kendall Waston in the 52nd minute, the lead was restored. Once again, it was a set piece goal from the Whitecaps. It was also the second goal where RSL keeper Nick Rimando did not look up-to-speed.
Although not directly involved in the second goal, Jake Nerwinski, who assisted on Techera’s goal, was instrumental in the play that led to the free kick. Reflecting on the play of Nerwinski in this match, and of recent, I posed the question whether he was in the running for Rookie of the Year. Major League Soccer analyst Matthew Doyle seemed to think so.
Elliott, Danladi, Gressel & Nerwinski are probably the top 4. My guess is Gressel wins b/c of his counting stats— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) September 10, 2017
Yordy Reyna seemed to seal the victory for the Whitecaps in the 64th minute, with a fantastic header goal. While the ball was delivered by Ibini, who I felt had a poor match up to that point, it was Nerwinski once again who got the play started, and received a secondary assist.
Real Salt Lake made the end of the match interesting with an 83rd minute goal from Tony Beltran, pushing the score to 3-2.
If not for a few fantastic saves from Ousted earlier in the match, the Caps could have been leaving this match with a 3-3 draw. However, the Whitecaps were able to hold on and get a much needed three points.
This was Reyna’s third game-winning goal of the season, while Nerwinski left the match with two much deserved assists. It seems like the right back position is now his to lose. Agree? It was a fantastic debut for Ali G, and a solid effort from many of the Caps tonight. I will leave any additional comments about players for the Report Card tomorrow, from Caleb.
The Caps have a quick turnaround, with Minnesota United coming in to BC Place on Wednesday night. It was an important three points and Wednesday will be just as important. It is a Cascadia top 3 in the West, with Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver leading the pack, and the Caps first in points per game. What were your thoughts?
All your stats from tonight’s win!— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) September 10, 2017
Next home match tix: https://t.co/aCW0iloo6B pic.twitter.com/itJGsUzmxn