The Vancouver Whitecaps defeated the Houston Dynamo Saturday, earning the ‘Caps their first 2-0-0 start to an MLS season since 2013. While the ‘Caps held on for their first victory in franchise history at BBVA Compass Stadium 2-1, their grip on the game was shaky at the best of times. Unlike last Sunday, the Whitecaps were back to their old ways holding only a dismal 32.7% of the possession and surrendering 15 corner kicks. Furthermore, in stark contrast to last weekend’s match in which the ‘Caps were lauded for their buildup play, Saturday saw the ‘Caps defenders and midfielders struggle to maintain control of the ball and find each other open in space for much of the match. All that being said, a 2-1 win is without a doubt a terrific result against what was the best home team in the MLS last season (the Dynamo already have as many losses at home this season as they had all of last year).
Without further ado, let’s have a look at the individual player performances:
(For the sake of clarity, I’m going to operate on the same grading scale as Sean’s report card last week, with 6.0 being the standard grade.)
1 - Stefan Marinovic - 8.0 - The Kiwi found himself much busier than in his first outing, seeing 21 total shots and making 6 saves. He also made two terrific diving saves from efforts inside the box, helping the Whitecaps preserve their slim advantage. Additionally, I thought that Marinovic did a much better job commanding his area than he did last weekend, highlighted by an aggressive punch in the 83rd minute.
28 - Jake Nerwinski - 5.5 - As was pointed out in the comments last weekend, Nerwinski was beaten several times down his defensive wing and this trend continued in Houston with Nerwinski losing 4 challenges. Nerwinski was also guilty of poor spacing and communication with Aaron Maund on Alberth Elis’ goal in the 39th minute. That being said, his cross into the box did lead to the opening Whitecaps goal on a PK. It would be nice to see Nerwinski tighten up his defensive play as the season goes on.
4 - Kendall Waston - 7.5 - The Skipper was his usual disruptive self, registering 7 clearances and 3 interceptions. On a backline that often looked to be in frantic recovery mode, Waston was nothing other than calm, cool and collected.
22 - Aaron Maund - 6.0 - Another enigmatic performance from Maund. Maund was guilty of allowing Houston too much space on both the Elis goal and a 62nd minute shot from Andrew Wenger. Yet Maund also made a wonderful sliding clearance in the 54th minute, avoiding what would’ve been a quality chance for the Dynamo. Overall, this was another good building block for Maund. There’s no reason to think that he can’t tighten up his marking as he gains confidence in his new role.
17 - Marcel De Jong - 4.0 - After a sterling performance last weekend against the Impact, it was a tough, albeit short, afternoon for De Jong. The Canadian international was exposed consistently on the wing by Alberth Elis up until he had to be removed in the 35th minute with a rib contusion. Here’s to a speedy recovery Marcel!
31 - Russell Teibert - 6.0 - Rusty struggled to find the same success he had against the Impact a week ago, completing only 22 passes in comparison to an impressive 68 last weekend. It didn’t look as though Felipe, Teibert and Juarez worked very well together in central midfield. I would imagine that one of the three will have to come out of the lineup in advance of the next match.
29 - Yordy Reyna - 5.5 - For the second match in a row, Reyna struggled to recapture the creativity on the ball that he possessed for much of last season. He was even less impactful in the final third than last match, completing only 5 passes as opposed to 11. He also didn’t make Jake Nerwinski’s life any easier by failing to track back several times in the first half. Hopefully as Reyna’s hair grows back he will be able to find last season’s form as well.
6 - Efrain Juarez - 6.0 - Juarez looked the least effective of the Whitecaps midfielders moving the ball, although he did manage to win 3 tackles for the match and leads the team in that statistic. I’d like to see Juarez show some more energy on the ball and moving forward in attack. It remains to be seen if he can bring that element of his game to MLS.
67 - Alphonso Davies - 7.5 - Although Davies conceded 3 corners and was often unsuccessful on his long passes, the work-rate the 17-year-old put in at fullback for most of the match is unquestionable. This was highlighted by a sequence in the 73rd minute which saw Davies outrun his teammates to join the counter attack and then proceed to sprint back the entire length of the pitch and close out a Dynamo attacker. Obviously left back is not Davies’ preferred position, but he put in an admirable shift after the premature departure of Marcel De Jong.
8 - Felipe Martins - 6.0 - While this wasn’t a great match for Felipe, his industry on both sides of the ball was evident, especially in the second half. He was consistently looking to send players away with through balls and crosses into the box, while a large number were unsuccessful, this should only get better as he gets acclimated to his team-mates and his role within the team. The defensive side of Felipe’s play was highlighted by a crucial sliding clearance in the 80th minute.
23 - Kei Kamara - 8.0 - Another impactful performance from the Sierra Leonean striker in his 300th MLS match. Kei drew the penalty kick and proceeded to calmly slot it home past the outstretched arms of Chris Seitz (Kamara’s 100th MLS goal). Perhaps even more impressive was his continued defensive involvement and wonderful hold-up play setting up the counter-attack. This was highlighted by his deft lobbed through ball finding Brek Shea in full flight down the wing for the second ‘Caps goal. If Kamara can maintain this kind of form throughout the year, this could be a very good season for the Whitecaps.
20 - Brek Shea - 7.0 - Shea entered the match in the 35th minute replacing Marcel De Jong, although Shea moved to the the wing while Davies slotted in at fullback. This was a typical match from Shea - other than his goal he was largely uninvolved. Yet when Shea is able to find himself free with the ball in open field, his finishing is nothing short of clinical.
9 - Anthony Blondell - 6.0 - Blondell came on in the 58th minute for Kamara, who was only a challenge or two away from being sent off with a second yellow. Blondell was hardly involved in the match as the Whitecaps bunkered in defensively, registering only one pass and one successful dribble.
77 - Jordan Mutch - 6.0 - Mutch made his Whitecaps debut in the 70th minute coming on in place of Russell Teibert. He completed 5 of his 7 passes and registered 1 clearance. While not making much (pun intended) of a noticeable impact on the game, he certainly didn’t look out of place. Looking forward to seeing the full scope of what Jordan has to offer moving forward!
Hot off a 2-0-0 start, the Whitecaps will find themselves in tough on the road once again next weekend, matching up against Atlanta United on Saturday March 17th at 4:30 PM PT. What did you make of the individual performances from the match that was? What changes might you like to see made to the team sheet in advance of next match? Let us know in the comments.