There was a lot going on Saturday night as the Vancouver Whitecaps paid a visit to the new shindigs of D.C. United. Audi Field was officially open! Wayne Rooney was debuting in the MLS! The Whitecaps were facing former ‘keeper David Ousted for the first time! The local supporters groups actually had a reasonable thing to protest!
It was a hot, high-energy night, with the Whitecaps playing the role of the defeated villain to a ‘T’, as D.C. opened their new grounds with a 3-1 victory.
Kudos to them, I suppose, as it’s ideal to have an inauguration worth celebrating. Though being on the losing side, the “christening” felt a little different...
So, how did things individually shake out for the blue and white?
Brian Rowe - 4.5
Made three saves on the night, one of which was a decent push of a Wayne Rooney header, and no major gaffes that I can recall. As for the goals...
Yamil Asad’s one-timed a perfectly nestled shot into the top corner to open the scoring, so it’s hard to put the blame on Rowe, but I’ll bet he feels like he should have stopped the second, with Paul Arriola rifling his shot straight at the keeper. Too bad it also went straight through him. The third, well, let’s just say Arriola did a much better job of placing his shot.
Sean Franklin - 3
Just a lackadaisical game for the right back. On the rare opportunity to get up field, his crosses were mediocre, and he was often slow to react when the Whitecaps needed to defensively regroup. His pairing with Jordon Mutch along the right flank was just plain wrong.
Franklin was replaced by Jake Nerwinski (3.5) in the 67th minute, who probably should have started, and was a reasonable improvement offensively, though that may have been due to the fact that he was now chasing a two-goal deficit.
Jose Aja - 4
Aja was decent in the air, on defense and offense (though he really should have put his header away), but looked awkward when having to play with his feet, whether it was bringing balls down or his passes going forward. A little too disjointed for a team that likes to counterattack.
It also didn’t help that he followed Darren Mattocks everywhere, whether it meant staying in the center of the park or nearly going to the sidelines. D.C. never scored as a direct result of this, but it did create an absence of command and control from the tall centerback.
Doneil Henry - 5
Smart decision making early on, but it felt like too many of his passes up-field stayed in the center of the park and weren’t necessarily the safest. Nevertheless, he was strong in the air and defensively overall (4 Interceptions, 5 Recoveries, & 3 Clearances), despite being put in damning situations, such as having to choose between covering Luciano Acosta or going at Arriola in the lead up to the third goal. To me, that had more to do with the defensive breakdown of the team beforehand rather than his failure to step up at the right moment, but, here we are.
The other “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moment for Henry was the free-and-clear header he put wide in the 52nd minute, making him just another Whitecap who could have put home an equalizer.
Marcel de Jong - 5
It felt like a number of his passes made in transition were far too heavy, but that may have been my only gripe with him on the night. He made a number of strong tackles and any dead ball he struck was generally fantastic, such as the one that led to Kei Kamara striking the crossbar.
Jordon Mutch - 4
Like Franklin, Mutch seemed to be lacking in dynamism. He would often dig in his heels and get stuck-in when tight to an attacker, and his long balls forward often carried the right amount of weight or were kept to the corners. Ultimately, too often was Mutch being tied in knots with Franklin as Asad, Mattocks, and Acosta weaved through the flank with relative ease.
Was subbed for Nicolas Mezquida (5) in the 72nd minute, who made for some positive possessions, though most came unfortunately after the match was already decided in the 80th minute.
Felipe - 3.5
His passing felt beneath what we’ve seen recently, which is a shame, but his dead balls were just bad, like that wormburner in the 49th minute. It did lead to a corner that had Felipe put a cross to Henry’s noggin, but with David Ousted often leaving his net wide open, why not whip the ball across the face of the goal? Did he mishit the ball?
And unlike Henry on the third goal, I’m looking at Felipe for a brain fart on the opener. It was unfortunate that the ball pinged back to the center in the way that it had, but why Felipe dropped deeper than Aja on the play is beyond me. That left far too much space for Zoltan Steiber and Asad to work in the middle.
Lastly, saying something bad enough to the referee to draw a yellow card on a clear foul that had nothing to do with you is never, ever, ever a good idea.
Ultimately, Felipe was replaced with Aly Ghazal (4.5) in the 72nd minute, who did have some positive touches in his short time on the pitch, but ultimately stood out for me as the one who broke formation on the third goal, creating space for Acosta to find Rooney, putting the play into motion.
Efraín Juárez - 5
Periodically caught ball-watching in transition, exemplified by the clumsy yellow card he took in the 38th minute that didn’t even halt the play. C’mon man, at least draw a whistle when they’re on the attack!
However, he was by far the best passer (statistically) for the Whitecaps on the evening, at 93% from 42 attempts on 54 touches. And he showed good hustle to collect an errant clearance and put it back across for Aja’s header:
If anything, he was maybe just a little too foul-y on the night.
Alphonso Davies - 6.5
Davies continues to show how threatening he is with the ball at his feet, though my initial reaction was to say he far too often toed the line of when it was appropriate to go at his opponents with a dribble.
And then, he goes ahead and scores that goal in stoppage time. It was part Riverdance, part baby deer taking his first steps, before smashing it past Ousted. I don’t know how he does it.
However, that doesn’t let him off the hook for some sloppy defending. If you could say he was daydreaming on Asad’s opener, then he was completely asleep for Arriola’s first, as Davies had no interest in tracking back.
I mean, Arriola literally jogged right by him:
Maybe it was the heat getting to him, but the optics on this play in particular are kinda bad.
Kei Kamara - 6
Obviously, you want your goal scorer to score goals, but all things considered I thought Kamara had a decent match. He was strong in the air, as per usual, and was unfortunate to have his header beat everything but the woodwork:
But I think my biggest gripe on his performance was less with Kamara specifically, and more to do with his partnership up top with Reyna.
Kamara never appeared to be any more of a target-man than Reyna (for whatever reason), and neither seemed to have any interest in pressuring the D.C. backline. It was just, “Kamara get the high balls, Reyna gets the low ones, but they both play waaaaaaay up the pitch.”
That said, Kamara did well in running at United with the ball at his feet, which is a side of his game we don’t see quite as often.
Anyway, if I were to put on my Carl Robinson-approved manager’s cardigan, I would have started the way I finished: let Mezquida run rampant up top with Kamara strong in support to collect errant balls, while Reyna deftly moves up and down the wing, passing, running, whatever, and takes advantage of any overlapping runs made by de Jong.
Yordy Reyna - 5.5
Started up top alongside Kei Kamara, and did OK when coming back to receive balls played forward that weren’t pumped into the night sky. However, any time he did so it would demonstrate how large the gap was between Vancouver’s strikers and its central midfielders at the center-third of the pitch, where the mids were sitting too deep or the strikers too high.
If that’s going to be the roll Reyna plays, shouldn’t he be under Kamara rather than beside him?
Nevertheless, once he made way for Mezquida and slid to the wing, his play opened up a little. His passing was deft and weighted well, his turns were skillful, and he was better in transition. And, with his diving header, he joined the club of Whitecaps who should have scored on the night, but didn’t.