Unfortunately for the Vancouver Whitecaps, they were able to do very little to slow down the DC United hype train that was the arrival of Wayne Rooney and the opening of Audi Field this Saturday night. DC United cruised to an effortless 3-1 victory that made the home side look nothing like the team that their position in the Eastern Conference standings would suggest.
The Whitecaps made only one change to the starting XI from their previous match, replacing Jake Nerwinski with Sean Franklin.
The boys breaking in Audi Field #VWFC pic.twitter.com/7KgpunwPi0— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 14, 2018
As you would expect from a team breaking-in a new stadium, DC United dominated the first 25 minutes or so of possession. While the ‘Caps back four was able to absorb much of this early pressure, things fell apart in the 27th minute when Asad was left unmarked at the top of the box:
Asad's opening goal is the first goal scored at the new Audi Field.— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 15, 2018
1-0 | #VWFC | #DCvVAN pic.twitter.com/qSY1w0U8My
This kind of goal has been a consistent issue for the Whitecaps this season, even spanning back into late last year. Too often the ‘Caps back four will drop off far too deep leaving plenty of space for opposing attacking midfielders to wind up shots at the top of the box. Additionally, for a team that should be inundated with defensively proficient midfielders, that space at the top of the box is rarely closed down by back-tracking midfielders. This seems like a relatively fundamental issue which should have been remedied through coaching long ago and yet we’re still left saying far too often after matches that the Goalkeeper “never really had a chance” on that one.
After a relatively innocuous final 15 minutes, the Whitecaps arrived at half-time having limited the damage, and almost having equalized on a Kei Kamara header:
31' SO CLOSE!! Kei Kamara denied by the crossbar!— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 15, 2018
1-0 | #VWFC | #DCvVAN pic.twitter.com/lZvW7jVEdj
In the 58th minute, we witnessed a moment many MLS fans had been hotly anticipating for more than a month, the debut of former England international and Manchester United stalwart Wayne Rooney.
Welcome to the League, @WayneRooney! #UnitedAtHome | #DCvVAN pic.twitter.com/u7i5oStUkp— Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 15, 2018
Interestingly enough, Rooney came on to replace former Whitecap Darren Mattocks, who had only just begun to find his best goal-scoring form in MLS having already registered a career high in goals scored (8) through only 14 matches.
While the ‘Caps had a much brighter start to the second half than we’ve often seen this season, much of this hope was lost in the 68th minute when Marcel DeJong, Doneil Henry and Erfan Juarez all appeared to switch off defensively and Paul Arriola was left largely unmarked in front of goal. While Brian Rowe looked as though he wished he could’ve done better, it was a dead to rights opportunity on which he stood little chance:
Here is the goal that made it 2-0 for DC United.— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 15, 2018
2-0 | #VWFC | #DCvVAN pic.twitter.com/vwOxz5rO3Z
This second goal appeared to deflate the ‘Caps spirits and Arriola would score again in the 80th minute, this time from outside the box, assisted by Rooney:
80' Arriola makes it 3-0 with a strike from distance.— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 15, 2018
3-0 | #VWFC | #DCvVAN pic.twitter.com/qaOlIYb1MJ
Again the Whitecaps allowed their backlines to drop very deep into their own area while midfielders jogged back lackadaisically.
Manager Carl Robinson briefly addressed this issue after the match but didn’t offer any insights we haven’t heard before: “I’m disappointed we conceded two goals from well outside the box, which is not very good. It’s little details that we need to improve on — We need to tidy up on the areas of individual defending, because if we don’t — Arriola was arguably the best on the pitch today — if we let good players shoots from distance, that’s what they’ll do.” It seems as though it’s been months now of “tidying up” defensively and yet the same issues persist for Carl Robinson’s side.
While many of us might be devoted to the Vancouver Whitecaps win or lose, the month of August represents a relative sports void in which it is vital for the health of the franchise that the ‘Caps continue to draw the casual sports fan. I think this tweet represents how many casual fans feel about the team in it’s current state:
Oh man... these last 4 games need answering for.. 3 of them embarrassing defeats now. Whitecaps need to salvage their season somehow. Where’s the accountability?— Blake Price (@BlakePriceTSN) July 15, 2018
While I might not agree with this position in it’s entirety, I do think that it’s important for the ‘Caps to re-establish some legitimacy in this market by at least putting together solid, entertaining perfomances week-in week-out, something they have struggled to do over the past two months.
Alright, enough with the negativity. If there’s been one reason to watch the Whitecaps recently it’s been none other than Alphonso Davies. Here’s why:
90' Here is the wonder-strike from the kid! Take a bow, Alphonso!— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) July 15, 2018
3-1 | #VWFC | #DCvVAN pic.twitter.com/DvNfnmIN78
The Canadian wunderkind still needs polishing in order to thrive in the European game, but he clearly posesses gifts that simply cannot be taught, one’s which are much better viewed in-person while you have the chance. Although the match ended 3-1 on Davies’ wonder-strike, his promise represents not only the best of what this current squad has to offer but also a potential gravy-train for it’s future after his departure. Unless this all too plausible scenario is to be believed:
Here’s the thing about selling Davies. Say we get $15M. That doesn’t even recoup the total spent on residency since ‘07. So, I could see Caps justifying not spending it on transfers/salary. Will be a huge moment for the club. A chance to go to another level with DPs. But...— Marc Weber (@marcdweber) July 15, 2018
Here’s to hoping the Whitecaps can take advantage of Davies’ miraculous gifts while they still have the chance.