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Vancouver Whitecaps Continue Tradition of Defying All Analytics, and Leave Houston with First Ever Victory

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The best road team, Vancouver Whitecaps, traveled to BBVA Compass Stadium to take on the best home team, Houston Dynamo. And the winner? The road team!

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps traveled to BBVA Compass Stadium to play their first away match of the 2018 season, against the Houston Dynamo.

With all the new faces in the midfield arriving just prior to last week’s home-opener against Montreal Impact, they featured very minimally in Vancouver 2-1 victory. With the travel, new faces, and Carl Robinson’s statement about rotating his squad, it was unclear who may be in the Starting XI Saturday afternoon.

Rewarding the strong first match of the season, Carl trotted out a very similar lineup to that against Montreal, with the only change being Felipe Martins coming in for Cristian Techera. This led to a, sort of, 4-1-4-1 formation to begin the match.

The Whitecaps came into Saturday’s match with an 0-4-1 record at BBVA Compass Stadium; not surprising given the Dynamo’s strong home record and the influence of temperature. However, the Whitecaps had a few weapons of their own, having the best away record in MLS over the past few seasons and a lower

The Whitecaps attempted to get out to a quick lead, with a strong press to open the match, however, the Dynamo were able to sustain the early pressure. The Dynamo followed the Caps’ pressure with a sustained run of their own that led to two great chances in the first ten minutes. In fact, the Caps were lucky not to be down at least one, especially after Mauro Manotas missed an open header right in front of Stefan Marinovic.

20 minutes into the match Houston Dynamo announcers said of the Whitecaps strategy “don’t know what they are doing…just hoofing long balls”. Joke is on you Houston, that is the Whitecaps bread and butter!

True to form, the Whitecaps bent but didn’t break, until they were given their opportunity. In the 25th minute, Jake Nerwinski crossed a ball into Kei Kamara, who was taken down in the box, giving the Whitecaps a penalty kick.

Calm and collected, Kamara shows how poised he is as a striker as he puts it into the left corner, behind the outstretched hands of Chris Seitz, giving the Caps a 1-0 lead and Kamara his 100th regular season goal in MLS.

Left back Marcel de Jong came off early, having trouble breathing (not sure exactly what), with Davies moving to left back, and Brek Shea coming in to take over the left wing from Davies (35th minute).

After controlling most of the play in the first half, Albert Ellis was able to finally convert in the 39th minute.

Despite a 75-yard run by Alphonso Davies, to setup two corner kick opportunities, the Whitecaps were unable to really threaten, and headed into the break with a satisfying, if undeserving, 1-1 draw.

Many have questioned Brek Shea’s placement on this team, especially as a designated player. However, the questioning is not because of a lack of talent, but rather a lack of consistency and desire. It seems that when he comes in as a sub though, he is motivated to make a difference, as he has done it several times during his time with the Caps. Saturday afternoon, we saw again the impact Shea can have. Shortly after the half, Shea made a superb run down the sideline, off a give-and-go with Kamara, to slot it past Seitz to give the Caps the important 2-1 lead in the 49th minute.

As the Dynamo continued to dominate the play and Marinovic was required to make great save after great save, Houston’s announcers asked the question that Whitecaps fans have been asking for the last two years “how can their manager be okay with conceding so much to their opponent?”. Yup, we wonder too!

At the 70th minute, we saw the debut of Jordon Mutch, coming in for Russell Teibert. While it was good to see the debut, it potentially left the Whitecaps with no true defensive midfielder; although Efrain Juarez moved into the position.

The clubs went back and forth for the remainder of the match, with Houston certainly having the run of the play. However, even with six additional minutes of additional time, the Whitecaps were able to waste enough time that Houston was unable to draw even, giving the Whitecaps their first victory at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Kei Kamara had another strong match, with a goal and an assist, while Alphonso Davies showed his flexibility, filling in for the injured Marcel de Jong at left back. Hopefully de Jong’s injury is not serious and/or Brett Levis is healthy and can fill in. As much as Davies was serviceable at left back, I think we all prefer him playing further up the field.

I would say that Carl Robinson’s club was fortunate to leave Houston with a result, however, at some point, we need to stop being surprised. It is never pretty, and you question how they do it, but the results do not lie. Badly out-possessed, out-shot, fewer corners, etc. And yet, they win. The Caps are the best road team in MLS and at the end of the day, they just beat the best home team in MLS, who demolished Atlanta United 4-0 last weekend. The Whitecaps are now 2-0 and will travel to Atlanta to play that very United team Houston defeated next Saturday.

Stay tuned tomorrow for Sam’s Report Card.