The Vancouver Whitecaps visited Yankee Stadium to take on the New York City. Carl Robinson made 7 changes from the team that beat Minnesota United, with an eye clearly on Wednesday’s Canadian Cup Final first leg against Toronto FC.
Kei Kamara missed out through rest, while Kendall Waston and Efrain Juarez both missed out through suspension, while injuries to Doneil Henry and Jordon Mutch kept them out of the lineup. To be clear, it looked like a lot of the ‘B’ options were sent out in an attempt to grind out a result.
Changes to the backline saw Sean Franklin, Aly Ghazal, Aaron Maund and Brett Levis come in, while Bernie Ibini and Brek Shea stepped in on the flanks. Nicolas Mezquida started in support of Anthony Blondell in attack.
Early on Stefan Marinovic made a great reactions save on Jo Inge Berget from point blank range, which required a but of help from Aly Ghazal who made a goal line clearance following the initial save.
New York continued to press, and looked to be the more likely to go ahead, but just after the 20’ mark, Nico Mezquida picked up a ball that was knocked on by Bernie Ibini, and was given far too much space to run at the heart of the Blues defence. He was allowed to waltz right up the middle of the park, from the halfway line right to the edge of the box, where he hit a hard low shot down to the right of Brad Stuver.
The rest of the half saw some backs to the wall stuff, but Marinovic and the backline did well to keep NYC out. There were some dangerous chances from Matarrita, Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shroudi, but it took until first half injury time to break through the Whitecaps.
Tajouri-Shroudi and Anton Tinnerholm combined well on the right flank to get past Brett Levis and Russell Teibert. The latter picked out Jesus Medina, who beat Marinovic through the legs from just outside the 6-yard box, to send the teams into the break tied at 1-1.
Needing a good start to the second half, Blondell was substituted for Erik Hurtado with Robinson hoping to add some pace and energy to the attack. Instead, the ‘Caps came out complacent and got caught out to a ball over the top from Maxi Moralez to Berget.
The Norwegian controlled despite some suspicion of both offside and handball, beat Sean Franklin down the line and played a square ball across the face of goal which Valentin Castellanos tapped in.
With the team now chasing the game, Alphonso Davies was introduced for Ibini at the 54’ minute mark.
The ‘Caps looked to be a bit more incisive, and Felipe worked an opening for himself just outside the box, only to be fouled by Alexander Ring. The position looked good but the ensuing free kick was straight into the arms of Brad Stuver from Mezquida.
The tide still wasn’t going in favour of Vancouver though, as New York piled on the pressure. With 20 minutes remaining Robinson went for it, and moved Shea to left back, while substituting Brett Levis for Yordy Reyna.
Even with the team clearly needing a goal, the ‘Caps struggled to make chances. NYC FC kept applying pressure and it felt like there was going to be an inevitable third goal for a long time.
It took until almost the 85’ minute for the ‘Caps to get a real chance, worked some space just outside the top of the box and let fly with a vicious left-footed effort. Stuver did well though and tipped the ball past his right post for a corner kick.
The pressure kept coming though, there was a set piece Felipe tried to cut back for Reyna which was botched. But then just a minute after that, Russell Teibert played a beauty of a pass down the wing for Brek Shea who the played a very nice cross for Hurtado who volleyed it in, at the back post.
It was a really good goal from the 27-year old, and it just felt so Whitecaps to be back in this kind of game.
There should be some credit given, because this could have been a lost cause of a game, but the Caps’ kept it tight at the back, and then kept coming. Minutes after drawing level, Yordy Reyna won a free kick in a really dangerous position, and Shea proceeded to get a really good curling effort over the wall, but unfortunately hit the crossbar.
In the end though, this was probably the most typical “Robbo Ball” game you could imagine. The ‘Caps could have been out of this one for a long time, but somehow found a way to get out of New York with a point. It has to be said that it was a really good point to take considering Seattle and Minnesota were playing, with the Sounders picking up the points late in that one too.
It keeps them in the race for the last playoff spot, and plenty of key players will be well rested for the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup Final on Wednesday.
What are your thoughts? Teibert looked really good in the middle, and the out of favour Aaron Maund played well in the heart of defence alongside Aly Ghazal. There were certainly some positives that came out of a match that looked all but over with fifteen minutes to go.