The Vancouver Whitecaps returned home on Friday night, after their very disappointing 6-0 defeat in Kansas City last Friday. Looking to bounce back, Carl Robinson made several changes for this return leg against Real Salt Lake. Of course, the red cards last match meant that Yordy Reyna and Efrain Juarez were not available, however, for the second match in a row, Jake Nerwinski did not start, while Brett Levis received his long-awaited first start as a Whitecaps. Jordon Mutch also made his return from injury, while Felipe Martins was kept out of the lineup.
The match started well for the Whitecaps, having several opportunities in a very open match, with RSL seeming to have troubles with direct over-the-top balls; a Whitecaps specialty!
Despite the early opportunities for Anthony Blondell, RSL almost opened the scoring when Corey Baird curled a beautiful ball into the top corner, only to have it bounce of the woodwork.
In his first start, where a Whitecaps player was not sent off early, Blondell was already being anointed as the Whitecaps needed second striker. Of course, it is one thing to have a bunch of opportunities, but it is another to actually bury them (see Octavio Rivero and Hurtado circa 2015).
He has to be able to score to be a striker :P. Hurtado was (and is) a great cog, but not your main/second striker. Not saying Blondell is not, as I am a fan. Just that he needs to finish a few of his chances before I (AtlantisB) anoint him.— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) April 28, 2018
While both teams had their opportunities in the first half, we went into the break with a familiar 0-0 score line. We have often seen the Caps have multiple opportunities to score a goal or two in the first half, only to lose it in the second half when their opponent is able to adjust and bury their opportunities. Would we see the same thing this evening?
The Whitecaps continued to press early in the second half, but were dealt a disappointing blow when it appeared that Mutch reinjured himself, and was replaced by Nicolas Mezquida in the 56th minute. Certainly a shame as while not a traditional #10, Mutch was having some success putting Blondell through.
As the match progressed, it certainly looked like it would be one of those nights, as Shea’s (awkward) opportunity bounced off both posts.
Looking to add a spark to the offense, Carl Robinson made his typical Alphonso Davies to left back move in the 62nd minute, when the teenager came on for Levis…but wait, that wasn’t what happened. In a surprising move, Carl Robinson played the MLS leader in dribbles on the left wing, pushing Brek Shea to left back!
The move paid off as Davies was his dynamic self, giving the Caps their best opportunity of the match in the 69th minute. Unfortunately, his pass to Mezquida and Blondell was bungled and the Caps remained without a goal in almost three full matches.
‘Fun’ fact, 70 minutes into this one and Alphonso Davies was the last Whitecaps player to score….sadly, it was on opening night. YIKES!
However, the Whitecaps continued to press in the 71st minute with a flurry. After some fancy footwork from Franklin, Aly Ghazal’s shot was slapped away by Nick Rimando, continuing to keep the Caps without a goal
The Whitecaps were FINALLY rewarded in the 74th minute, and given an opportunity to end their scoring drought, when Mezquida sought contact from Besler in the box and was rewarded with a penalty kick.
Christian Techera converted the penalty kick, opening his 2018 scoring account, and making it five straight games against RSL at BC Place in which he has scored. Then followed it up with an absolutely stupid and selfish move, taking off his jersey and earning his second yellow card of the match, and the subsequent sending off.
Despite that sending off, having the young Davies on the field means that you are NEVER a man down!
Adding to his league-leading dribbles total, Davies made a fantastic run down the wing, driving at the defense, and sliding it across to an open Blondell, who is able to finally convert and tap in the club’s second goal, and hopefully sealing the win.
The goal from Blondell also came with a sigh of relief from Marc Weber, as he made good on his prediction and didn’t owe everyone a haircut! Shame too, as I was desperately in need of one.
Blondell scores tonight for sure. Or free hair cuts on me.— Marc Weber (@marcdweber) April 28, 2018
However, the Whitecaps could not go out into the sunset with the victory. Apparently, Kendall Waston did not learn his lesson last match about escalating a situation on the field and instead of getting on with the match, decided to continually chirp at Joao Plata until he received ANOTHER yellow card. For a man that is supposed to be the captain of the club and trying to get rid of his reputation, his actions in the past two matches have not helped.
As 90 minutes came around, the only remaining question was whether the Whitecaps were going to keep the clean sheet or whether they were going to make several participants in our Guess the Starting XI and Final Score happy. Turns out, the Whitecaps preferred the clean sheet; which I am okay with, as I predicted 3-1!
The Whitecaps snapped their three-game losing streak, their nearly three matches at home without a goal, and scored multiple times while being entertaining; at least for a Whitecaps team. All-in-all, a positive match from the team. Hopefully they can build on it.
What were your thoughts on the match? Certainly some important talking points. While a positive for them to win, it wasn’t against a strong club and there were still some major issues (e.g., Techera and Waston). Mezquida continued his uneven play. He was positive in this match, after several disappointing outings. Is the glass half full from this one or half empty?