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Report Card: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Houston Dynamo

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Another frustrating match leads to a 2-2 draw, but was it a step in the right direction?

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps’ clash last night against the Houston Dynamo had a little bit of everything. Many of the same issues that have haunted the ‘Caps so far this season reared their ugly heads: poor marking at key moments, the complete inability to capitalize on scoring chances. Yet at the same time, there were some promising signs; both centre-backs created plenty of chances and Felipe’s superb delivery finally had VWFC looking like the set-piece specialists of last season. At the end of the day, a 2-2 draw was probably a deserving, albeit frustrating result.

Starting XI

Brain Rowe (5.0) It was a decent VWFC debut for Rowe, who hadn’t started a match since August 12th 2017. While the first Houston goal wasn’t exactly tucked into the bottom corner (Rowe had the positioning but just didn’t get down quick enough), there was certainly nothing he could have done about Mauro Manotas’ 90th minute blast.

Jose Aja (7.0) The just-turned 25 year old Uruguayan centre-back finally seems to be finding his footing in the heart of the Whitecaps backline. As a birthday bonus, his 44th minute set-piece equalizer was a superb bit of finishing that would make most strikers envious. While the Aja/DeJong side of the backline still drops off too easily for my liking at times, Aja’s increased confidence going forward is a good sign of his growing comfort level.

Kendall Waston (8.5) This was easily the best performance of the skipper’s season so far, and the type of performance that the Whitecaps will desperately need throughout the season if they’re looking to make a long run in the MLS Cup Playoffs. For what it’s worth, Waston more than doubled all other players on the pitch in Audi Index. He won 7 of his 8 aerial duels, assisted wonderfully on Aja’s first half tally and rescued a solitary point with his head in the dying minutes.

Marcel DeJong (4.0) Match after match the narrative remains largely the same for DeJong. While he always looks energetic and engaged going forward, DeJong’s defensive work leaves a lot to be desired. Specifically, his tendency to backpedal deep into his own box without stepping up to challenge is troubling, leading to the first goal last night.

Sean Franklin (4.5) While Franklin doesn’t appear to be glaring liability the way many other Whitecaps defenders have been this season, he also doesn’t provide much in the way of distribution or creativity (Franklin had 6 unsuccessful long passes and 4 unsuccessful passes in the opposing half). It would be nice to see Nerwinski reclaim his spot here midweek.

Alphonso Davies (6.5) While certainly not as notable a performance as others so far this season, Davies continues to contribute consistently. He took on a 7 defenders, made 3 interceptions and had 2 key passes.

Aly Ghazal (2.0) Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Ghazal’s distribution was woeful yet again, completing only 3 of his 8 passes (37%) in the opposing half. While this was certainly less than ideal, what was even more worrying were his lapses defensively.

If Ghazal offers nothing offensively (as we expected) but also fails to take care of business on the defensive end, what is he providing exactly?

Bernie Ibini (5.0) After being completely ineffective last week against Minnesota, this was a decent bounce-back match for Ibini. He whipped a terrific cross in to Kei Kamara in the opening minutes and looked much better than he has at times with the ball at his feet. While I don’t think he’s done enough to earn a starting role going forward, hopefully he can continue to improve as the season goes on.

Felipe (7.0) While personally I’ve been a bit disappointed with what Felipe has brought to the table so far as a “box to box” midfielder, there is no denying that his delivery on set pieces last night was terrific. He was clever in playing a quick ball to a charging Waston on the first Whitecaps goal, and placed a number of crosses directly on the heads of Kamara and Waston, including the set-up to the last minute equalizer.

Anthony Blondell (6.0) While Blondell hasn’t yet had a true breakout performance, it’s clear that he possesses the ability to be a versatile attacking option. While there were times that Blondell could have been more aggressive with the ball at his feet, it’s only a matter of time before Blondell properly introduces himself to MLS.

Kei Kamara (6.5) While Kei still showed some signs of rust, it was good to see him play a full 90 minutes in his second match back from injury. He was energetic as ever, winning an amazing 20 duels, although some of the clinical finishing we saw in the early stages of the season is still lacking. All three of his headed attempts failed to find the target.

Substitutes

Erfain Juarez (66th) (5.0) While not contributing much on the stat sheet, Juarez looked more engaged and energized than he has at most moments this season, which is something. He even took part in a rather menacing counter-attack.

Yordy Reyna (69th) (7.0) The Peruvian was very lively in his 30 minutes of action, noticeably altering the complexion of the match and looking much more like the Reyna of last season. If not for Brek Shea’s moment alone in front of goal, he may have also been responsible for the buildup to a match-winner.

Brek Shea (83rd) (3.0) If this had been a road match, I have little doubt that Brek would’ve smashed the ball through the back of the net. Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, “Home Brek” squandered an opportunity so simple I’m failing to find the right superlative to describe it. Outside of missing an absolute sitter, Shea had little impact in his 7+ minutes.

What did you think of the individual performances? Was this a step in the right direction or simply another good opportunity for 3 points squandered? Let us know!