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Caps worn down, fall late to Orlando City SC

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Don’t get too used to that winning feeling folks

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

A late deflected goal was the difference Saturday in Orlando, as the home Orlando City side punished a lackluster Whitecaps team 1-0 in central Florida.

The Caps could not parlay their first win of the season Wednesday into momentum on Saturday, creating only a few decent chances and they were eventually put to the sword by a more energetic Orlando City team.

Marc dos Santos went for a tactical change, opting to go with three centerbacks as Derek Cornelius joined the normal cornerback pairing. Ali Adnan and former OCSC man Scott Sutter played as wingback. Felipe rejoined the lineup, playing in the middle alongside Russell Teibert and Hwang In-Beom. Yordy Reyna was back up top but this time was joined by Fredy Montero.

Last but not least, Zac MacMath earned his first start in goal, replacing Maxime Crepeau.

Both teams spent much of the first half feeling each other out, especially given the warm central Florida afternoon.

The best chances for the Caps came in a brief window midway through the half, playing primarily through Reyna on the left hand side. The best chance came by way of a lovely through ball from Sutter, torching Ruan but the Brazilian recovered to drill the ball out for a corner before the Peruvian could corral it.

Orlando had a penalty shout and it gave a brief impression that VAR would once again be the bugaboo. Nani clipped a well weighted cross into the box trying to pick out Dom Dwyer but in instead pinballed around the box and off the face of Donneil Henry. While clearly not a pen, I’m triggered every time an MLS ref goes to VAR after the way this season has gone.

The Caps’ set pieces left a lot to be desired but two dead ball scenarios game them some decent chances in the 34th minute. Firstly, Ali Adnan took full advantage of Felipe getting hacked down about 35 yards from goal, launching a swerving effort which Brian Rowe turned away. Hwang took over corner duties on the resulting kick and gave them their best set piece of the half, picking out Cornelius but his header darted just over the bar.

Orlando nearly broke the deadlock on the stroke of halftime. Expecting a foul to be called, the Caps took their foot off the defensive gas, allowing Joao Moutinho to dart into the box. MacMath was equal to his well-driven shot, however, and pushed it away to keep the match scoreless.

The halftime whistle blew moments later. It was a decent effort from the Caps given the weather and travel but Orlando had the bulk of the possession and chances. The 5-3-2 just didn’t bake enough creativity in and the Caps were forced to lean on Reyna to create the few chances they had.

The Lions got their best chance to the game up until that point about 10 minutes into the second half. A poor Felipe cross was picked out and left Nani with acres of space to launch a counter. The former Manchester United man found Chris Mueller, who fired a shot right at MacMath. The rebound tantalizingly fell to Nani but it was blocked and cleared. Too close for comfort and for a Caps side that was basically banking on its organization to absorb Orlando chances, it was a nearly fatal error.

Orlando continued to be on the front foot offensively but it was an attack to the back of Hwang’s head that infuriated Caps’ fans. As the Korean turned to head away a corner, Nani barreled into him, elbows raised. While not malicious, it was a dangerous play which is always a focal point for officials. Both Nani and Sané (dissent) earned bookings for their part.

In-Beom recovered and nearly had his second goal in as many matches, with the Caps creating their best chance of the match. Reyna launched a counter with Sutter and Montero by his side. Rather than play it out wide, Reyna pushed it to Montero show back heeled it into the path of Hwang. The resulting shot drifted just over the bar, as the midfielder could not keep it on target. A chance he will likely rue later.

MDS strangely waited until the 79th minute to make a sub, bringing on Joaquin Ardaiz for Montero. A disappointing performance for the Uruguayan, however, as he looked listless and rather uninterested.

It was late heartbreak for Vancouver, however, as Nani finally made them pay in the 89th minute. A deflected cross from Ruan found Sascha Kliejstan, whose shot deflected off Nani and past a helpless MacMath. It was disappointing for the Caps, who felt they had done just enough to earn a point, but the Caps took their foot off the gas against a team known for scoring late and were beaten because of it.

Thoughts:

  • This was always going to be the weird game due to the travel off a midweek game (remember the last game in Orlando was under similar circumstances and the only reason the Caps won was a classic Robbo smash and grab). That being said, the formation MDS deployed just didn’t have enough creativity to make things happen. The problem with dropping Hwang back deeper is you largely neuter his passing abilities-that’s in part why MDS has tried to use him more as a winger. Montero put in another lackluster display (partially due to no real link between himself and the midfield) and that means the team is essentially relying on Reyna to make things happen or hoping Adnan or Hwang launch a world class long ball. Not a sustainable offensive strategy.
  • I’d admire the social impact of the plastic jerseys but man they’re kinda ugly. -
  • It’s not that I think Derek Cornelius is bad (and he was definitely better than his “holy sh*t we need to sub him off at halftime” performance against Houston). But he looks noticeably shakier than either Godoy or Henry. Losing Sané on the first half corner was a good example-he just seems to be struggling to adapt to the physicality of MLS. He’s needed depth until Jasser Khmiri gets off the physio’s table but probably shouldn’t be more than that for the time being.
  • Two back-to-back counters in the second half underscored what Vancouver must be better at. Nani and Orlando moved so dynamically to create multiple chances. Moments later, Yordy Reyna latched onto a turnover and attempted to start a foray of his own but lacked any support aside from Montero. Obviously this was in part due to the tactical setup, but without Venuto or Lass on the pitch, the team just doesn’t have the ability to launch the aggressive runs forward to take advantage of counter attacking chances. Again, this setup asked Reyna to do way too much; more than once he was the only player thrusting forward.
  • Scott Sutter was solid defensively but I have to wonder if this was a good chance to continue to build Jake Nerwinski’s confidence after a decent performance Wednesday. MacMath on the other hand looked quite sharp, something that can be difficult for a backup keeper. A breath of fresh air to have 2 capable keepers.
  • If you’re looking for Dom Dwyer, you’ll find him in Erik Godoy’s pocket.
  • Tough to argue the Caps deserved a point; the Caps played for a quality over quantity approach for chances and when you do that you need to finish them. That clinical nature was lacking. Certainly a step back after Wednesday but #finelines I suppose?

Vancouver will be back in action at BC Place next Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.