It’s now been a full day (and then some) since the Vancouver Whitecaps netted their first win of the season against Los Angeles FC, and I’m damn well done over-analyzing three points that really could not have come too soon.
That said, the cohesion and decision making of the Whitecaps players on the pitch was very encouraging. The high pressure supplanted the LAFC attack and kept its backline on its heels for the first 45, while the second half saw some dogged defensive work from Vancouver.
It was certainly a great team effort, but how about the individual performances? Well, I’ve got yer ratings right here!
And, please: feel free to drag me in the comments below on any unabashed over-exuberance.
Maxime Crepeau - 7
Felt like he had a rather quiet night. Of the three shots on target, Crepeau handled them relatively painlessly, particularly on either of Peter-Lee Vassell’s attempts: a shot straight down the middle that Crepeau sat on, or the winger’s header to induce the calmest looking dive I’ve ever seen. Most of the remaining shots were either blocked or off target (aka, “How Carlos Vela’s Night Went”).
If I had any quibble, it’s that he’s got to get those pass backs out of his feet quicker. Otherwise, cool as a cucumber all night.
Ali Adnan - 7.5
The guy’s a stud. Defensively, had three clearances, four tackles, an interception, and a couple recoveries. Offensively, his passing was good, as long as he wasn’t trying to do too much, but boy, does he like getting up field.
Just look at the build up that lead to Hwang In-beom’s goal: runs into space down the wing as Erice threads a pass to Teibert, strong on the challenge from Shaft Brewer, and lays a simple cutback to a wide open PC.
But what impressed me most, and I think this is what Marc Dos Santos is going for, is the fluidity and like-mindedness shared by Adnan, Teibert, and PC on that wing. They certainly have their respective individual talents, but all three can play for pace while rotating into either offensive or defensive positions.
It’s a bonus when you can have PC play as a wingback or Rusty as a DM, but when they’re able to interchange on the fly, that’s something special. The result? A certain sense of ease on the left side of the pitch.
Doneil Henry - 6
That YC was a rough tackle, but regardless he looked very commanding throughout, leading both teams with six clearances on the night.
With the ball at his feet, Henry was very trusting in playing short balls to his teammates’ feet. Strangely, he only had one pass into the opposing half and, were you to solely look at his passing chart, you’d think Henry had zero interest in crossing the halfway line.
Not that it mattered, I suppose. He held down the fort and was a solid anchor with LAFC doggedly trying to equalize in the second half.
Erik Godoy - 7
If Crepeau was cool, then Godoy was what’s cooler than being cool: ice cold. This guy wasn’t phased by anything Wednesday night. Didn’t rush himself, weighted his passes very well, but was adept enough to quickly move to block passing lanes. Two blocked shots, four clearances, and five interceptions, while barely bringing attention to himself. On the other hand...
Jake Nerwinski - 4
I’m glad Nerwinski got the start, because he needs playing time to shake off whatever yips he’s suffering right now. On Wednesday, he still looked pretty tense.
Had a couple of sloppy clearances, duffed a shot (though it may have been blocked), and holy crap did he get lucky that the short goal kick Crepeau played him didn’t amount to more than the foul he forced himself to make.
But he also was able to get up the pitch, made some clutch interceptions, and was drawing fouls off LA. It’s been an odd season for him so far. He’s still a bundle of nerves that may need to start chanting “goosfraba” to chill out a bit.
Russell Teibert - 6.5
His regular, workmanlike game, which generally consists of boundless energy and good touches to corral passes, despite somehow digressing into panicky, yet effective, ball control. Defensively, worked very well to tag team Vela and offer the LAFC captain very little time on the ball.
Plus, all the rotational activity mentioned earlier was a treat, particularly when it incidentally resulted in Teibert getting way up the pitch to assist Yordy Reyna with the press.
Jon Erice - 6.5
Honestly, he kind of looked like a 32 year old Russell Teibert. Completed 91.3% of his passes, never forcing himself into dangerous scenarios, whether that meant playing the ball backward or knowing where is mark was so he could adeptly turn away. Subbed for Felipe at 79’.
Hwang In-beom - 8.5
Calmly & briskly auspicious. Never really rushing to force a play, but could quickly form passing triangles with whoever was nearby to get the LAFC players to seemingly chase ghosts (in the first half, more so). To be fair, had the occasional bad pass or held a ball too long, but that volley for the goal! Superb.
Defensively, and this goes for the front six, made LAFC’s first half absolutely miserable with the press. Without question the visitors had the dominant possession throughout, but the first half saw them mired in the center of the park. That had a lot to do with Hwang, Teibert, and Erice closing down on players quickly.
“PC” Giro - 6.5
Again, the cycling with Teibert and Adnan was phenomenal, and they were able to lock down their side of the pitch rather well.
With the ball at his feet, PC seemed to find himself in little pockets to work the ball around, as opposed to Venuto’s flank, which was very much up-and-down the field. PC’s off the ball movement proved to be quite a bit more dynamic.
Had two shots on net, with his first effort on net being a little stale. However, the curling effort that caromed off the bar and resulted in Hwang’s goal was sublime in itself. Subbed for Fredy Montero at 90’+2’.
Yordy Reyna - 7.5
His high pressure was great, particularly when he could tag team with whomever was nearby to help out.
But what Reyna added as the high striker, that I’ve yet to consistently see from Montero or Joaquin Ardaiz, is a concentrated effort to come back and demand a pass to his feet. Reyna made himself available to receive passes by moving to space, rather than run towards a spot where he wanted the ball, that would demand a trickier pass to be made.
In doing so, it would afford Reyna the opportunity to periodically make longer runs to the corner, where he’d primarily control the ball and wait for reinforcements, always keeping the CBs at his back. Or, he could turn and send an amazing through ball to Lucas Venuto...
Lucas Venuto - 5.5
...who would regrettably shoot it straight at Tyler Miller. In all fairness, he had a decent match. Had the occasional sloppy pass to nowhere, but would usually make up for it by simplifying his game and being part of the heavy pressure on LAFC. And was a big threat early in the second half, resulting in inconsequential runs.
His first, in the linked video above, Venuto didn’t look remotely interested in trying to confuse either Miller or Eddie Seguera. It was a shot where he took a touch, ran forward eight or nine steps, then shot. The run up seemed to give Miller far too much time to square himself and read where the shot was going.
For the second run, this time off a long ball from Erice, it looked like Venuto over-thought what he had planned and allowed Niko Hämäläinen to close him down, gain position on the ball, and allow it to roll for a goal kick (if I remember correctly).
They were great runs, but if either were to have a more eloquent finish, the last 30 minutes wouldn’t have felt so nervy. Subbed for Lass Bangoura at 74’.
Of Lass Bangoura, Felipe, and Fredy Montero, it was Lass who seemingly got himself more involved in the play, though noting this isn’t intended to be a slight on either Felipe or Fredy.
Montero (Inc.) was the last sub of the night in injury time, which gifted us the PC “Walk of
Shame Pain,” to drag out the clock as the winger left the pitch. There wasn’t much for Fredy to do except help run out the clock.
Felipe (Inc.) completed his two passes, got three touches on the ball, made a recovery outside the Whitecap penalty, and conceded a foul somewhat deep-ish in LAFC territory AFTER the clock passed the ninety minute mark. If you’re going to have to concede a foul, those are the best places and times to do so. If anything, he didn’t need to be spectacular; he just need to help keep the defensive shape and clog the middle. which he did.
Lass (6) had a little more time to work himself into the match. He was able to get up the pitch, which we’d expect him to do, but more importantly he got his butt back and helped out on defense. Was impressed with how he stood up Rossi in the 86th minute to neutralize the attack. And, like Felipe, he held the defensive shape while LAFC threatened to equalize.