The Vancouver Whitecaps defeated LAFC Wednesday night at BC Place by a score of 1-0, giving the home side their first victory of the MLS season, while Marc dos Santos also logged his first victory as Whitecaps Manager.
After an admittedly poor match at Chicago last Friday night, dos Santos decided to mix things up at training this week, which led to Yordy Reyna starting out of position at striker, with PC also in an advanced position on the wing. Jake Nerwinski also re-gained his starting position at right back, though fellow right back Scott Sutter could be back in the mix for his return to Orlando city on Saturday.
Confirmation of the Reyna as striker experiment. Thoughts? https://t.co/fww8kFqxiu— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) April 18, 2019
Meanwhile, LAFC coach Bob Bradley fielded a less than full strength squad with notable absences including former Whitecaps defenders Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour.
In the early stages of the match the Whitecaps tactical adjustments looked promising, with Reyna getting on the end of a few long balls and the ‘Caps controlling the majority of possession. In the 14th minute, both Reyna and Hwang had good opportunities and the Peruvian tested LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller from distance.
In the 19th minute, Whitecaps defender and Canadian international Doneil Henry committed a dangerous tackle on Latif Blessing and found himself in the book with a yellow card - something he would have to carefully manage over the course of the match.
After multiple lengthy Latif Blessing injury timeouts, The Whitecaps found themselves back on the front foot. In the 27th minute, after PC Giro’s curling strike hit the post, In-Beom Hwang opened his Whitecaps account on the rebound as he cushioned a strike into the bottom left corner of the goal with a nice bit of skill, giving the ‘Caps a 1-0 advantage. It’s also worth noting the Ali Adnan played a crucial part in the buildup which led to the goal.
Through thirty-five minutes and up a goal, the Whitecaps looked to be a much better side than has been seen over the last few matches, especially considering how poor the Whitecaps were in Chicago last Friday.
A deserved lead for #VWFC with a much more organized midfield and a much more active front 3 than against Chicago— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) April 18, 2019
In the 42nd minute, Latif Blessing, who struggled to stay upright throughout the majority of his appearance, was substituted in favour of notable Canadian International Marc Anthony-Kaye, although the dynamic midfielder did little over the course of his appearance to make his impact felt on home soil.
In other news, PC earns a yellow for continuing to turn Latif Blessing into a pin cushion. Blessing can't continue and is spelled by the Canadian Mark Anthony Kaye— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) April 18, 2019
LAFC had their first good chance of the match in the 45th minute when Peter-Lee Vassell fired a low shot on frame, but it was calmly dealt with by Maxime Crepeau.
Although LAFC had a strong final ten minutes of the half, Marc dos Santos had to be happy with the performance of his squad through forty-five minutes, as the Caps played some of their best football so far this season and took a 1-0 lead to the second half.
Despite the promising start, the Whitecaps still lagged behind LAFC in terms of possession in the first half losing out 57% to 43%, although they did do an admirable job keeping LAFC’s front three of Rossi, Ramirez and Vela relatively quiet through forty-five minutes.
Rather predictably, LAFC came out strong to start the second half. Diego Rossi found himself in a dangerous position right in front of goal, but Henry and Adnan came to the rescue just in time, blocking Rossi’s attempt.
Soon-after the LAFC chance, the Whitecaps had two good chances of their own. First, Lucas Venuto found himself alone on the counter-attack, but struck it right into the hands of Tyler Miller.
Then, following a corner kick, Ali Adnan took on a miracle strike from long range but could only find the side-netting on the outside of the goal.
In the 65th minute, LAFC manger Bob Bradley made a bold strategic choice, making a double substitution and expending all three of his subs with more than twenty minutes remaining.
LAFC threatened to level the scoreline in the 70th minute as Carlos Vela missed on an attempt you’d expect a player of his quality to finish - this was likely LAFC’s best opportunity to get back in the match, and it would’ve been easy to imagine LAFC going on to victory had Vela netted such a crucial chance.
El Munir drags a cross right to Vela who absolutely skies it from close range. Can't believe he's gone and missed that tbh— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) April 18, 2019
In the 72nd minute, the Whitecaps goalscorer In-Beom Hwang took down Diego Rossi cynically on the counter attack and received a yellow card for his troubles. Rossi appeared to be none too pleased with the challenge, as he had choice words for Hwang and the two teams converged near the centre of the pitch.
Inbeom Hwang ended his press conference by saying in English "I am Korean."— J.J. Adams (@TheRealJJAdams) April 18, 2019
It puzzled most, but context came out later, with some people close to the team saying the scrap he got into with LAFC's Diego Rossi escalated after he called Inbeom a "japanese (****)." #VWFC
The Whitecaps made their first two substitutions between the 74th and 79th minutes with Lass Bangoura replacing Lucas Venuto before Felipe came on in relief of Jon Erice. At the end of the day, neither of these substitutions ended up having a pronounced impact on the match.
In the final ten minutes of regular time, the Whitecaps bunkered in to protect the lead, switching to a more defensive 4-4-2 structure. Despite LAFC buzzing near the edge of the Whitecaps box, Maxime Crepeau and the Whitecaps defensive line held strong, limiting LAFC to mostly low-quality chances.
#VANvLAFC a bit of a lull in this game at the moment. #VWFC are looking pretty decent though, they are sitting deep trying to hit #LAFC on the counter. A cynic would say the Caps are playing Robboball...— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) April 18, 2019
Maxime Crepeau putting in a solid performance once again #VWFC— Between The Sticks (@btsvancity) April 18, 2019
After six minutes of added time were announced, the Whitecaps made their final sub, and in the 92nd minute, PC (who gave an absolute masterclass in time wasting) was removed in favour of Fredy Montero.
Classic got a lead sub the left winger furthest away from the bench love that great time wasting #VWFC— Between The Sticks (@btsvancity) April 18, 2019
LAFC threw everything they could at the Whitecaps in the closing stages (as six minutes of extra time lasted what felt like an eternity) but the ‘Caps would hold on for an impressive 1-0 victory over the (up until that point) undefeated visitors. As is tradition, the Whitecaps pulled a victory out of the bag when it was perhaps least expected.
FT! The Caps needed a win so of course they get one against the best team in the league. Excellent performance to go out and do it— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) April 18, 2019
Overall, Marc dos Santos and his players have to be thrilled with securing the home victory as this lifts a significant amount of pressure going forward into this weekends’ fixture in Orlando. While the possession numbers still aren’t where dos Santos probably wants them (61% to 39% at the final whistle), this was understandable given the nature of the match and LAFC’s vaunted attacking prowess.
Ultimately, the Whitecaps can hang their hats on the quality performance they churned out in the first thirty-five minutes of the match and hope this is something they can build upon in Orlando as well as the rest of the season going forward.
What were your thoughts on the Whitecaps’ first victory of the Season? Who was your man of the match? Be sure to let us know in the comments!