The Vancouver Whitecaps made their way to Minnesota with a lot of noise being made about their goal scoring record against the Loons. Considering there isn’t exactly much history after 1-season it seemed kind of odd to typify any sort of traditional run of form or results, but none the less the club’s media team felt a need to compile all the goals from all two previous fixtures this week.
That said, maybe that’s what it takes to become another club’s “Bogey Team,” where it just seems like coming up against that team and those jerseys means that something seems to always go against you, especially the result.
That at the least is what I was hoping for going into this week.
On the back of a decent, if not stylistically beautiful, team performance and 3 points at home, the hope was always that the ‘Caps would be able to take some momentum from that performance and carry it into Minnesota.
The line-up saw Carl Robinson make 4 changes to the starting XI, all coming in the middle of the park. Jordon Mutch missed out with a hamstring problem, Cristian Techera was missing because of his amazingly foolish double-booking, and both Russel Teibert and Brek Shea were dropped in favour of… balance?
Coming in were Bernie Ibini, Phonzie, Nico Mezquida and Felipe, with Aly Ghazal holding his place in the centre of the park. Rather interestingly, Robbo did something he might, and stuck with the backline that held Real Salt Lake in check the week before. It seems a pretty common thing of Robbo ball, that if you kept a clean sheet the week before, he’ll stick with that form until another goal goes in. As such, Sean Franklin and Brett Levis kept their respective places.
The first half saw the Whitecaps actually generate a lot of really impressive scoring chances. Anthony Blondell seemingly buoyed by his first MLS goal last week was creating problems for the Minnesota defence and particularly, asking questions of Bobby Shuttleworth who made a string of great saves throughout the first half.
'Caps and Blondell buzzing in the first 45'— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) May 5, 2018
Highlight ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/7sYeA5XOip
You really have to say that the energy, power and the potential for Blondell to start burying some of those chances is there. He worked space for himself, beat defenders to create chances in the box, and took on long shots. It was an all-action first half from the Venezuelan.
What was impressive beyond Blondell, was that the rest of the team actually had some attacking verve. Brett Levis (!) and Aly Ghazal (!!) both managed to hit the woodwork even if it was by accident, Nico Mezquida’s delivery from the corners kept getting more dangerous, and it nearly lead to the first set piece goal of the season for Vancouver except for the remarkable goal-saving ability of Bobby Shuttleworth’s groin. From 3 yards it looked like the breakthrough, but unfortunately it was not to be for Tico.
As you’ll notice I’ve done all of this without bringing up Alphonso Davies. He managed to nutmeg one Minnesota defender before promptly slaloming past the remaining 3 men on their right flank like it was Lake Louise for an FIS event.
All the chances aside though, it was all for nought at halftime as the teams went in level at the break.
The second half started with a sloppy 5 minutes from the ‘Caps. It looked like the whole team had decided to hit the closest ramen shop for a hearty noodle bowl during half-time until Mason Toye lost his mind and assaulted Kendall Waston in the Whitecaps box. Referee Nima Saghafi managed to spot a strong elbow to the sternum of Waston by Toye and rightly showed a straight red to the allegedly promising 19-year old American talent.
That put Vancouver into a position they’re not very familiar with, begin asked to take possession and push through a team sitting deep in their own third. Down to 10 men, the Loons took on the proverbial ‘Come At Me Bro!’ To see if the ‘Caps could find a way through. It took 5 minutes for Brett Levis to play in a beautiful ball to the back post, but Nico Mezquida could get on top of it sending it well over the bar.
Fair play to Minnesota though, their strategy worked as the ‘Caps went to sleep in their own half and allowed Ibarra to latch essentially cleanly run to the back post and create a tap-in for himself. Brett Levis completely lost his man on what was a really simple cross along the ground to the back post. Levis though can’t be completely blamed, the whole back 5 (I’m including Marinovic) went to sleep on the play almost thinking there was no way they could be beaten behind by a team that had failed to generate any threatening play with XI.
Just after that Yordy Reyna and Kei Kamara came in for Blondell and Mezquida, and the ‘Caps looked to have more life through Reyna immediately. While a lot has been said about his form, I think it’s because the numbers and the results obviously haven’t been there. Reyna has hit the post at least 4 or 5 times off the top of my head (yes, one of those was in Atlanta during that fiasco), and he absolutely hammered one off the corner of the goal from just outside the box on the 69’ minute. It’s not so much form as luck when that keeps happening.
Just after that off a set piece, Waston headed the ball back towards the penalty spot. Instinctively Kei Kamara got himself on the end of it, but unfortunately Kamara leaned back and lifted his shot over the crossbar.
It kept coming and a minute later, Brett Levis played another great ball into the box for Kei Kamara. It looked like a taylormade cross for Kamara to hammer the header into the back of the net. But again – fine lines.
There were flurries, and attempts after Brek Shea came into the game for Bernie Ibini. Shea looked likely several times to continue his ‘super sub’ form, whether it was going to be with an assist or a goal. He took on his man own the right channel and just after the 80’ minute mark took a first time, curling shot off the layoff from Alphoso Davies which again – Bobby Shuttleworth did really well to get to with his left hand. Honestly, 5cm higher or wider and that’s in the net.
In the end though, the Whitecaps didn’t manage to take their chances. That includes the 5 times that Kei Kamara popped up in areas of the Minnesota penalty box that he normally puts in the back of the net. On another day, this could have been a different score line, but as always – the finest of lines.
What did you think about the match? How much shade can you throw at that goal? Did you take as many positives out of it as I did? Let us know because you never know who could be reading.