With so many new pieces, it was always going to be a challenge to get everyone on the same page in time for Saturday’s home opener. There were plenty of promising signs, even if the result was disappointing in front of 27,000 strong at BC Place for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
With 9 new players making their MLS debuts, the Whitecaps got out to a quick start with Erik Godoy diverting home the opener from a setpiece and a fine ball from Yordy Reyna just 6 minutes into the game. Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos said that the goal was “kind of a hidden moment,” and while it was positive, “it was good to start like that, we scored, but then we were never able to take a grip of the first half.”
Dos Santos continued to say “even if it was 1-0 for us, I don’t feel that it was about us. The second half we were able to connect more passes in possession, be more in the opponents half, be more aggressive in our movements.”
The coach certainly lamented the moments that cost his side the game, saying “what’s more disappointing about the result, for me, it’s the kind of goals that we gave away. The 2-1 and the 3-1 were kind of sloppy and I think we can do a much better job there. Then we scored the 3-2, we react, we pushed. Everybody was very committed to the end but a little bit too late.”
He also noted that he was disappointed for Jake Nerwinski as the full back committed a foul in the 18-yard box on Francisco Calvo, saying “Jake was a monster in the first half. He was probably one of our best players on the field in the first half. He had a lot of good defensive actions, and then comes this play over the top, and his body position kind of misread the moment.”
There were certainly things to like though, as South Korean international In-beom Hwang impressed as the match wore on, and his coach certainly liked what he saw, saying “I think he grew throughout the game, the first half wasn’t easy for him, and while the game was going forward he was kind of growing in the game. In the second half, he got involved, he was cramping he kept going, and it’s encouraging. I see a lot of positive things moving forward.”
At the end of the day though, Dos Santos lamented his side’s decision making in moments throughout the match, and says he plans to work on them to build from this game. Immediately after the match, Dos Santos knew “a lot of moments that we have possession, and suddenly we take the decision to try to go over the top looking for Fredy between Boxall and Opara. That’s bad decision making, and we know that, and we just think that if we’re a little bit cleaner in those moments, then we’ll have players like Felipe, Jon, In-beom, more in the opponents half and that’s where you could originate more offense.”
Doneil Henry also felt that the ‘Caps could have improved their decision making on the defensive end of the pitch, stating that “I think that we kind of created the trouble for ourselves.” Playing for the first time with Erik Godoy in the heart of defence, Henry added that “we have a structure of how we want to play defensively. Erik’s a good player, you see what he can do. He’s tough tackling fast, athletic. We take a real pride in defending, try not to complicate our game, we want to be the calming presence in the team… but, like I said today we conceded 3, and we’re not happy about that. So we want to go into this week, and figure it out, and make sure that we that we can tighten up the shop back there. “
Both of the centre halves got onto the score sheet, which was certainly a positive, and even Dos Santos noted that “I spoke so much about us being fragile on set plays, and we scored two goals on set plays. I think that their timing is good. We watched a lot of games of Erik in Argentina, scoring out of corner kicks or set plays. He has a good timing. Doneil has done it in the past... It was two good deliveries, two good plays.”
With so many new faces, and a backline playing together in competitive games for the first time, Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau told the assembled media that “It’s just little details, half a step, to a step to drop, be on the same line, and to be fair we did a good job defending as a block as well because they put in a lot of crosses that didn’t go through us a lot, so it’s a good sign that we’re good and compact.”
The new goalkeeper, like Dos Santos and Henry, also felt there are plenty of ways the ‘Caps can improve on this result, and moving forward this week will be about getting everyone “on the same page, because building out I think we were a little too spread out. We need to be closer to each other, to get more solutions, create diamonds around it. But, right now it’s right after the game we need to see the tapes all together, and see which moments we can do better because we can, there’s always room for improvement, and build from there. Totally we’re disappointed, now we look for next weekend.”
The Whitecaps head to the Rio Tinto Stadium next Saturday to take on Real Salt Lake, and will look to bounce back quickly and try to capture 3 points at a stadium that hasn’t always been a happy hunting ground for the club. We’ll see how well the team can take the lessons from their loss to Minnesota into that game which kicks off at 3:00PM on Saturday.