On Saturday night the Vancouver Whitecaps played host to the Chicago Fire. The Caps entered the match having lost the previous two matches, against a pair of teams they should have beaten. Robbo’s boys were desperate for a win.
The Caps made four changes to the line up after the abysmal effort against the Rapids last week. Jose Aja stepped in in place of the injured Kendall Waston and Jake Nerwinski started at right back ahead of Sean Franklin. Out came Brek Shea and Nico Mezquida, in were Jordon Mutch and Yordy Reyna.
The match started the same way it had against the Rapids. The Caps were slicing through the Chicago back three and creating a ton of chances, but were unable to finish anything. Then in the 28th minute when Yordy Reyna fed a beautifully weighted through ball to Kei Kamara who attempted to round the keeper only to have the ball punched from his feet. However the wonder-kid Alphonso Davies was there to pick up the pieces, he retrieved the ball and fed Yordy Reyna at the top of the box. Reyna’s shot was saved but the rebound bounced straight to the aforementioned Kei Kamara and it was 1-0 for the good guys.
The goal was followed by ten minutes of similar play from the caps. Including an Alphonso Davies breakaway where he sped past the defender to collect the ball, carried into the box and shot, but keeper got a hand to it and the ball bounced harmlessly off the post.
Later as the game neared half time, the Fire won a throw in deep in the Whitecaps end. During the throw Felipe and de Jong both Pressed up to try to catch Chicago offsides, but Doniel Henry didn’t get the memo and Kevin Ellis took the ball to the touchline where he cut the ball back into the six yard box for Nemanja Nikolic and the game was level going into the break.
The Second Half started with a bang. In the 47th minute Efrain Juarez hit a wonderful ball over the top that Jordon Mutch got on the end of. Mutch calmly walked passed the keeper and slotted his first MLS goal past a helpless Brandon Vincent.
The Caps continued to press on the counter every chance they got. In the 72nd minute Alphonso Davies took a through ball from Marcel de Jong all the way up the left flank, around two defenders to the goal line where he cut the ball back into the feet of Kei Kamara who chipped the defenders and it was 3-1 Whitecaps.
After they went up two Robbo made his first change, Russell Teibert came in for Jordon Mutch. The remaining 15 minutes saw the Caps fall into a defensive shell. The Fire made a pair of changes in the 79th minute bringing on John Bakero and former Whitecap Tony Tchani for Bastien Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty. Tchani would make an immediate impact on the match. In the 81st minute he volleyed perfectly placed shot into the far corner of the net during the second phase of a corner.
For the final nine minutes of time and the entire five minutes of stoppage the Caps hung on for dear life. Wave after wave of Fire attackers drove at the Whitecaps net. Check out the passing/shot map for the final stretch of play after the Fire goal.
Not a good look for the home side there.
All in all this match could have been a lot better for the Caps. If the Strikers were truly at peak form, they could have had six or seven goals in this one. That being said, those final sixteen minutes of bunker ball were agonizing. In general I felt the team as a whole were a lot better against the Fire. I really liked Efrain Juarez’s role in midfield, I felt this was probably his best game as a Cap. I was fairly critical of his effort last match against Colorado, but this match he really proved what he can be when he’s on his day. Alphonso Davies was once again Man of the Match for me. His speed is unbelievable. He only had the one assist on the game but he was involved in the other two goals, and created a bevy of other opportunities for himself and his teammates. Honorable mentions to Kei Kamara who scored a brace, and Yordy Reyna who was fantastic playing off of Kei’s shoulder all match.