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Match Report: Vancouver Whitecaps v. Sporting KC

In a do or die effort, the Whitecaps went out all guns blazing - at least with the piece meal squad that was available to Craig Dalrymple.

MLS: Sporting KC at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

I said it at the end of September, when the Vancouver Whitecaps lost at home to FC Dallas, that likely that was the end for the 2018 ‘Caps. While they were resilient through the dismissal of Carl Robinson, and then went out and picked up a win with their backs against the wall away to Toronto FC at BMO Field, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as the ‘Caps came out on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline at home this evening.

The scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story though to be honest, and for much of this game, the ‘Caps were not only in it, but holding a lead and threatening to add to it. There were quality performances across the park from a depleted squad thanks to the international break, but it just wasn’t enough to get over the line.

In his third match in charge, Craig Dalrymple went with pretty much, all that he could from the first team squad. The team sheet said 4-1-4-1 but this looked almost 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 at times this evening.

Stefan Marinovic held his place in goal, while Jose Aja and Aaron Maund formed the backline with mainstays Jake Nerwinski and Brett Levis. In the midfield, Dalrymple went with Jordon Mutch, Felipe Martins, Brek Shea, Nicolas Mezquida, and curiously, Erik Hurtado on the right flank, while Kei Kamara started as the ‘lone’ striker and captain for the evening.

In all fairness to the ‘Caps, they played well in the first half. You could probably say that they played well up until the hour mark. Considering that this was a team selection that was as pieced together as you could think, of spare parts, and fringe first teamers, they held their own against Sporting KC and you could actually see a real team desire and visible accountability from the players.

The early chances fell the way of Sporting to start the game. While the scoreline didn’t show it, the opposition were a bit wasteful with what were some glorious chances. The likes of Yohan Croizet, Diego Rubio, Daniel Salloi and Roger Espinoza all spurned really good chances at goal. Their build up play was slick at times, and you could see that the ‘Caps seemed to miss the cover brought to the base of midfield by the likes of Teibert and Aly Ghazal.

That being said, the backline did a really good job mopping up throughout the first half. Brett Levis certainly impressed in his time on the pitch recovering the ball at least 5 times through tackle or interception. Jose Aja long since forgotten in the first team selection also did really well to break up the SKC attack, and move the ball forward out of defence.

While some would say that Sporting were wasteful, I generally thought that the ‘Caps lead was fair play given the work put in before the goal.

Brett Levis found some space on the left flank and played a low cross into the box which was easily picked out by Ikenna Opara. However, Opara’s clearance was sloppy and reactionary, then for whatever reason, Daniel Salloi who was covering for Graham Zusi at right back, kicked the ball back out into the air at the top of the box - almost directly to Kei Kamara. Kamara easily won the header and knocked it down for Felipe who took his shot first time on the half volley.

It was well placed and flew into the corner of the net, giving the ‘Caps the lead at home they so desperately needed to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Coming into the second half, the ‘Caps held a delicate 1-0 lead, and came close to extending it. Kei Kamara spurned a glorious chance after he was played clean through on goal by Jordon Mutch early in the second half, but, the normally reliable forward blasted his shot well over the crossbar.

Shortly after that, a really good cross from Jake Nerwinski found Brek Shea at the back post. Shea took his eyes off the ball, spun around in mid-air, and tried to head the ball into the net with the back of his head. Not the formula you want for a headed goal, and the ball flew wide.

At that point, Peter Vermes decided to make his first change, bringing on Khiry Shelton for Diego Rubio in the 57th minute. From where I was sitting, the ‘Caps needed to follow suit at the same point. They were losing momentum, while Sporting were only gaining it. Fresh legs certainly could have helped maintain that lead.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for KC to find the equaliser after that.

There was a really poor turnover, by someone who you could probably guess, on the left hand flank (hint: long blond hair and not from Newmarket). Brett Levis then got beaten by a one-two between Salloi and Matt Besler who got forward in attack, and played a cross back to the edge of the box more in hope than in planning. Jordon Mutch lost his footing trying to get to the clearance, and the ball fell to Yohan Croizet who struck it beautifully first time and put it into the top corner of Marinovic’s net.

The scores stayed level for the next 20 minutes, with Craig Dalrymple opting to make a pair of changes not long after the goal went in. He brought on Russell Teibert and Cristian Techera in the 68th minute for Felipe and Brek Shea. The American got a rather tongue-in-cheek standing ovation as he left the pitch.

Laughs aside, it was Salloi who got the goal to break the deadlock in the 81st minute. A ball over the top from Seth Sinovic was put up for Shelton and Aja to battle for in the box, with the Uruguayan in an awkward position trying to win the header. Shelton managed to knock it down into the path of Shalloi who calmly placed it into the bottom right corner to give SKC the lead late.

It was close still, the ‘Caps weren’t completely dead. But in stoppage time, as late as you can imagine, Johnny Russell won a duel with Aaron Maund on the left hand flank, and had 16-year old Gianluca Busio wide open on the 6-yard line to square to. Busio got a tap-in for his first ever MLS goal, and the game, along with the fate of the 2018 Whitecaps was all but sealed.

To add insult to injury, Illie Sanchez had all the time he wanted in the 97th minute to play a ball through to the (in my thoughts offside, but still adjudged to be onside) streaking Khiry Shelton through the middle. Shelton made a sloppy first touch, but with no pressure on him and teammates flooding into the box he squared for Salloi to get his second of the match from point blank.

It was an unfortunate end for the Whitecaps despite a bright start to the match, but that looks like that’s all she wrote for 2018.

We’ll have a Report Card for you soon, grading each player’s performance. Until then, what were your thoughts of this Wednesday’s performance, and where do the Whitecaps go from here?