First and foremost, Happy Canada day to everyone out there!
Unfortunately, that was pretty much the end of the good news today (well other than TFC losing yet again). The start of NHL free agency was a disaster if you’re a Canucks fan, LeBron James is taking his talents to the LA Lakers (ugh) and the Vancouver Whitecaps fell at home 1-0 to a brutal Colorado Rapids side. This tweet pretty much sums it up:
Well....Whitecaps lose at home, on Canada Day, to a team that was last in the West, who had only 1 point on the road this season, and has not scored a goal of their on on the road in almost 500 minutes. I will leave it at that...— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) July 2, 2018
Even though today’s match was painful to watch, there were still plenty of talking points, so let’s dive right in.
Despite recent comments out of the Rapids organization indicating a desire to change their footballing philosophy, the Rapids intentions going into this match were abundantly clear:
"It’s simple — we have to improve. And in doing so, we need to become a more attack-minded team. We need to invest our time and resources in becoming bolder, and more creative in how we conduct ourselves."#VANvCOL pic.twitter.com/IkihxUs8Cv— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) July 1, 2018
Not only did Colorado start the match in a conservative 5-4-1 formation, but the Rapids “wing” players rarely ventured out of their own half, with the majority of the match being spent with 9 Rapids players in deep lying positions.
This could have made for quite an interesting strategic matchup, as generally neither of these teams value (or are very comfortable in) possession. But Colorado made it clear that they had little interest in holding the ball, leaving the onus on the Whitecaps attackers to break down the Rapids backlines and capitalize on their scoring chances (you know how this story ends).
Do the Colorado Rapids not want the ball, or are they just this poor at keeping hold of it? Mind you, they're playing a team in the Whitecaps that generally don't value possession much either:#VANvCOL pic.twitter.com/DbzPWuenEz— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) July 1, 2018
The Whitecaps were positive in possession for most of the first half, using the wide areas to send crosses into the box and using Davies’ pace to generate chances like this:
Another look at Nico's chance. #VANvCOL pic.twitter.com/A22iUSW1Uo— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 1, 2018
However, things would take a turn for the worse when the Rapids finally exited their own half in the 43rd minute and Sean Franklin was spun round like a turnstile on the counter-attack. Despite a terrific save by Rowe, Henry and DeJong’s late arriving support led to an embarrassing own goal occurring completely against the run of play.
Here's how we took the lead. Boli and Mason have great chances denied and it deflects off De Jong. We'll take it!— Colorado Rapids (@ColoradoRapids) July 2, 2018
0-1 | #VANvCOL pic.twitter.com/zYkeXUzLZe
Brian Rowe absolutely stands on his head to deny the COL attackers but can’t avoid an own goal from his switched-off defenders. 0-1.— Rituro (@ThatRituroGuy) July 1, 2018
(Pretty sure a Henry-to-De Jong OG was not the all-Canada play #VWFC wanted.) #VANvCOL
So after 40+ minutes of generally optimistic feelings about the Whitecaps’ chances in this match, most fans were left feeling much like Jay at half-time:
So Whitecapsy. Playing well, can’t come never on any of your glorious chances, then your fullback has a brain fart and a goal bounces in off a defender.— Jay Duke (@jay_duke) July 1, 2018
To make matters even worse, recent World Cup returnee Kendall Waston had to be removed at the break with a groin strain, prompting a predictably cynical (albeit justified) response.
Pro tip: When a player flies halfway across the planet after playing at the World Cup, maybe give him a few days to rest up… https://t.co/5wBEzWIk8f— Peter Galindo (@GalindoPW) July 2, 2018
While the run of play continued to be the same for much of the second-half, the Whitecaps lost a significant amount of sting to their attack as Davies became the only real threat to create. Perhaps the best Whitecaps chance came in the 72nd minute when Kei Kamara glanced a powerful header off the crossbar.
72' Inches away from 1-1! pic.twitter.com/4TBWfhGbFS— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 2, 2018
Even after replacing Nico Mezquida and deputized left-back Brek Shea with strikers Anthony Blondell and Eric Hurtado, the ‘Caps struggled to look truly dangerous and incisive, even with 25 shots. The last 20+ minutes were painful to watch as Davies’ desperately tried to outrun the team’s problems, but to no avail.
#VWFC are capable of creating chances. That much is clear.— Rituro (@ThatRituroGuy) July 2, 2018
The problem is they either have no idea what to do with these chances or lack the quality to finish them.
In other words, a phenom (Davies) is being wasted. That’s unacceptable. #VANvCOL
This match is especially frustrating in light of all the wonderful, world-class, football we have witnessed over the past three weeks or so in Russia. While MLS has taken massive strides over the past decade and is certainly trending in the right direction, matches such as this one serve as a stark reminder that there’s still a long road ahead in order to make Major League Soccer a top-tier league. I hope your World Cup predictions are doing better than mine!
As far as the Whitecaps themselves are concerned, if they fancy any chance of being contenders this season, they’re going to have to find a way to stop themselves from falling into the same familiar traps: too many chances, not enough finishing and a tendency for embarrassing defensive lapses at the worst possible moments.
Last but not least, really cowardly move by LeBron to announce his free agency decision while the whole world was clearly pre-occupied.
Lakers fans don't deserve this.— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) July 2, 2018