It was a trip to the Deep South that Vancouver Whitecaps will want to forget, as a 10-man Caps side fell to Atlanta United 4-1 on Saturday. We dish out the report card for the rocky, controversial display—with not everyone getting a passing grade.
Stefan Marinovic: B
Can hardly be blamed for any of the goals, as he simply encountered one of the most clinical goalscorers in MLS (Josef Martinez) simply having a field day with a 10-man opponent. Stepped up to make a couple other smart decisions but it wasn’t as sharp a display as the one he put on in Houston.
Jose Aja: C
Looked steady, if not unspectacular in his first Whitecaps start, which may come out of his relative familiarity with Atlanta United stretching back to his stint with Orlando City. Seemed to be the opposite of Maund in that he at least tried to step up after Waston’s sending off. Had a couple instances where he cut out some dangerous Atlanta chances by giving up his body and blocking the shot. Like everyone else, could’ve done better on Atlanta’s third goal and was at fault for losing track of Josef Martinez on Atlanta’s final goal. But overall this was a decent enough debut from Aja.
Aaron Maund: D+
While his defensive duties were ramped up significantly after Kendall Waston was dismissed, there is no getting around the fact that Maund looked slow and was often caught out of position by the dynamic Atlanta attack. Not going to blame him too much for the own goal, as the ball first appeared to deflect off of Davies before catching Maund off guard. My real question is why he was trying to play Josef Martinez offsides on Atlanta’s third goal--a pretty mystifying bit of defending. Overall, one to forget for Aaron Maund.
Kendall Waston: Incomplete
Sorry folks, I just don’t get the decision to dismiss Waston for a high elbow to Leandro Gonzalez Pirez. This is pure and simple a case of the opposition understanding both Waston’s height and his dicey history to create an incident that looked far worse than it appears, with LGP initiating much of the contact. I simply don’t feel that Waston’s arms were in an unnatural position What the “clear and obvious error” was that existed to force VAR to take it up is beyond me.
That being said, Waston’s dismissal undoubtedly made three points a pipe dream and created the tough sledding that the Caps were forced to deal with the rest of the way. Normally a red card in that situation would be an “F” for me but the sketchy circumstances (and relative good behavior in the past year and a half) earn the Big Man a reprieve in my book.
Jake Nerwinski: B-
Didn’t always look imperious on defense but was also put in some tough defensive positions (like a 3-on-1 late in the first 45). In general, I thought he handled Chris McCann fairly well, mitigating at least one dangerous threat and he was the most effective defender at making life difficult for Atlanta’s offensive superstars. Had a couple nice deliveries, including one in the first half that Mezquida and Blondell should have done better with.
Alphonso Davies: B
Almost from the opening whistle, Davies was one of the only Caps players who looked dangerous, taking it to Julian Gressel and Felipe Escobar on that left hand side all game. While Davies needs to work on turning the ball over, that same confidence won him fouls on at least a couple occasions. His defensive duties at wingback were a mixed bag but often this was because he was forced to track back so far. Even though he was not particularly effective at containing Gressel’s dangerous crosses, however, but it was an overall promising showing from Davies at wingback.
Felipe just never looked fully comfortable out there, although his characteristically sharp passing seemed to return as the match wore on. Similarly I wasn’t particularly impressed with his set piece delivery. Did have one sterling effort to find Blondell, which created a somewhat promising chance for the Caps, and duplicated this feat a couple times in the second half.
Efrain Juarez: C
Was beaten by Chris McCann midway through the first half on what should’ve been a second goal for Atlanta United but overall I liked Juarez’s energy, even on a day when he was less successful impacting the match from an offensive perspective. Expended a lot of energy chasing after Hector Villalba and Miguel Almiron and was smartly replaced by Yordy Reyna in the 65th minute.
Jordon Mutch: B
Quiet for much of the first half, but I really like Mutch’s intelligence to track back on defense and intercept shots, which he did numerous times after Waston’s ejection. Also nicely muscled Darlington Nagbe off the ball late in the first half, showing strength that he flashed a couple of times in the second 45. His assist on Hurtado’s goal was sublime but he also linked up with Erik on a couple of other occasions and showed some really smart passing. With more performances like this, the Mutch transfer will quickly grow on me.
Anthony Blondell: C-
Tough circumstances in his first start for Vancouver and, while I was impressed with the Venezuelan’s dribbling and passing on several occasions, in general Blondell wasn’t quite the polished product I was expecting. To be fair, the Caps never created the sort of chances to help Blondell out much and I think a full strength side will be more effective in bombing the long balls forward that Blondell seemed to want. Was replaced by Erik Hurtado in the 54th minute.
Nico Mezquida: C-
Maybe it was that he palled in comparison to the splashier South American talent on the opposition but I don’t quite get the decision to start Nico in this match. He just never quite seemed comfortable on the pitch. Replaced by Brek Shea at halftime.
Brek Shea: B
Hooked up with Felipe on Vancouver’s first real chance of the match and did well to force Brad Guzan into a save. Pitched in defensively, which doesn’t always happen from the Texan, and showed some solid veteran leadership
Erik Hurtado: B+
A very effective sub for Vancouver, as he was quite smart in finding space and working with Brek Shea up top. Obviously netted the Caps’ lone goal, with a nice, cool finish past Guzan that was quintessentially Hurtado. A good stint for Hurtado and an effective case for more minutes as a sub as the season progresses.
Yordy Reyna: B-
Should have pulled one back from the Caps in the 71st minute, with his nicely struck effort just dinging off the post. Did pick up a silly yellow card for a foul on Josef Martinez a few minutes later. Overall, a decent showing from the Peruvian, however.