As blunt as he could be, Doneil Henry walked into his press conference after the match and said “we knew we’re playing a really good Seattle team. They’re in form right now, and we’re not.” That sentiment was certainly one that was shared amongst the Vancouver supporters that I talked to before the match.
After the match though, the mood was quite different. Of the fans that I talked to heading into Saturday as the Vancouver Whitecaps hosted the Seattle Sounders in the first Cascadia clash of the season, if you had asked if they’d take a draw from this match, they’d have told you yes. But, in a derby game where the adage is always that form goes out the window, the ‘Caps nearly pulled off a fantastic smash and grab as Joaquin Ardaiz went close in the dying moments of the match.
Goalkeeper Max Crepeau said afterwards that “It could go both ways so from where we are, everyone is good with the fact that we didn’t concede, that’s for sure. Can we win it? Yes, we have that feeling as well. It’s pretty 50-50.”
After securing his first clean sheet in MLS, Crepeau certainly wasn’t about to start resting on his laurels. He told media that he wasn’t even thinking about it, even though “it feels good but it’s just the beginning.”
For Crepeau it’s been a lot of change, and positive change at that as he’s played a lot of soccer over 12 months and now finds himself as the first-choice keeper in Vancouver. He continued to say that “in MLS now, it’s about getting some momentum, getting the clean sheets if we [can] get clean sheets. Championships are won by defence, we all know that. It’s about details going forward.”
Those same details are what Doneil Henry commented on as well, noting that “as a defender, we get put in tough situations all the time. We’re the villains when we get scored on, and we don’t get the praise when we win.”
Through three games, the defensive miscues have been unfortunate talking points for the ‘Caps to battle through, and the clean sheet had to feel good for Henry as he added that “we’ve made a lot of mistakes, and we weren’t able to get ourselves out of those troubles. I made it really clear to those guys that, listen, we can’t play with fear but, we also have to be able to get each other out of those situations. And that takes pride, that takes effort, that takes full commitment, and the boys didn’t lack any of those things tonight.”
Similarly, Dos Santos was quick to praise his side’s commitment and organisation in the match saying “you will see in the three losses that we had, it’s little details. What I criticized last week was sometimes, I felt that not the full team at the same time had the commitment in the defensive organization part. And sometimes, we were detached so we spoke a lot about this during the week.”
After working to incorporate new left back Ali Adnan – who’s stay in Vancouver will be brief but, potentially memorable from what was on display Saturday evening – the team clearly focused on eliminating preventable mistakes and it paid off, with Dos Santos adding that “the mentality, the commitment, the players were at the level of the fans tonight.”
Some will certainly look at a 0-0 score line and think that this is a team that has already departed from Dos Santos’ early comments, when he took the helm in Vancouver and he promised a team that would attack and go forward with verve, but, personally I don’t think the result doesn’t tell the full story. On stats, the Whitecaps were level in shots on target with the vaunted Sounders attack with three a piece, and only attempted two less shots across the 90 minutes.
Yes, there were blocks that were made at crucial times, but how is that a negative? Defenders made quality defensive plays when they were required to.
Dos Santos was quizzed on the performance of centre halves Doneil Henry and Erik Godoy after the match, both of whom made several outstanding plays to stifle the Seattle attack. All he had to say was that it was “normal.” Going on to add that “I work with them everyday. I believe in them. Doneil has shown signs all year of great defensive plays. He’s grown. If you see Érik training sometimes, you think it’s too easy for him. I think what’s happening is they’re getting an understanding of one another. I think everybody was a monster on the defensive side.”
This is a manager that’s clearly smart enough to know when his tactics need to be adjusted because of the opposition. MDS continued to add that “there’s a team playing at home with fans that are incredible, who showed up and were there to support the team after three losses in a row. And then there’s a Seattle team that scored 10 goals in the first three games and dominated fully their first three opponents. So, there was a strategic part of our game to keep them a lot in front of us, so their possession was a lot in front of us, and a lot side-to-side, so we did a good job and that was very strategic on our part.”
At the end of it, I think Doneil Henry put it best, “We take it as what it is. We played Seattle, a top team, and we got a point. They had their chances, we had out chances, but I’m satisfied with the result. We go forward with this same momentum for our next game on the weekend.”
The Whitecaps take the Friday evening slot next week as they host LA Galaxy for another 7:00PM kick off, with three more points to play for as the calendar turns to April.