Marc Dos Santos’ Vancouver Whitecaps side made another slew of changes from the side that started last weekend against Orlando City. Returning to the other of his two preferred formations, Dos Santos went to a 4-3-3 with Yordy Reyna again starting as the central striker, while Jon Erice, Lucas Venuto, Jake Nerwinski and Maxime Crepeau all returned to their respective starting berths.
Jim Curtin at the helm of the visiting Philadelphia Union also opted to shuffle his line-up making 5 changes of his own, as he was without the suspended Kai Wagner and injured Andre Blake, Olivier Mbaizo came into the lineup at right back shifting Raymon Gaddis to the left side, and Matt Freese started in goal for the Union. Auston Trusty and David Accam also started for Philadelphia, in a 4-1-3-2, while Kacper Przybylko made his first MLS start.
At first glance, it looked like the height difference of the Union could be a challenge for the Whitecaps, as the towering figures of Jack Elliott and Haris Medunjanin were even more apparent against the rather diminutive likes of Venuto, Reyna, and company.
With an early set-piece the Union went incredibly close to opening the scoring as Alejandro Bedoya met the ball at Crepeau’s near post from a Medunjanin corner kick. Bedoya beat Crepeau with his header, but the downward attempt was cleared off the line by PC.
Really impressive reactions from Victor Giro here:
The ‘Caps didn’t take long to get into the game themselves after that. Yordy Reyna got onto the end of a nice ball from Russell Teibert where again the Peruvian’s movement in the final third helped create the opening. The ball was good from Rusty and while it was misjudged by Auston Trusty, Reyna did well to control the ball and get his shot off – unfortunately it was just off the outside of Freese’s post.
Yordy was bright throughout his 65 minutes of game time on Saturday, and despite the height difference, he really gave the Union defence some troubles. In the 25th minute he managed to win another 50-50 against Trusty and made a good chance for himself, but he was closed down by Freese who was quick off his line.
Chances aside, the overall momentum of the game saw a lot of stoppages as Brenden Aaronson seemed to be continually winning free kicks from referee Chris Penso – FotMob stats claim he was adjudged to have been fouled at least 3 times – and the Union’s height advantage continued to look like it was going to be a threat. I was actually pretty impressed with the dead ball delivery of Medunjanin throughout the match, but it should be noted that the ‘Caps were very sound on their set piece defending and managed to not only keep the Union at bay, but also sprung a few quick breaks out of defensive positions.
Again, it was Yordy Reyna in the 35’ minute that broke away, turned the out of position Raymon Gaddis inside out and got off another good shot, only to be thwarted by Freese.
The breakthrough finally came though from a set piece for the Whitecaps. With Ali Adnan on corner duty, the Iraq international played a great ball in toward the near post, and with the Union defence making a mess of their marking, Doneil Henry was afforded a free header which he thumped into the bottom corner for his second goal of the campaign. 1-0 to the ‘Caps.
In front of a home crowd of 17000 and change, the Whitecaps kept pressing in the second half. Lucas Venuto made several nice runs down the right hand flank, and throughout the 90 minutes the Brazilian had what I thought was his best performance to date in a Whitecaps jersey. Meanwhile Yordy Reyna continued to cause problems for the Union defence.
Just after the hour mark, Reyna looked to have been sprung clean through the middle from a very nice ball by Russell Teibert, the Peruvian went on to chip Matt Freese, and while the celebrations in front of the south side were boisterous the goal was ruled out for offside as Reyna went just a second too early.
Reyna was substituted for Joaquin Ardaiz on 65 minutes, and it wasn’t even a full minute later that the Union found some luck to level the match. It has to be said that it was a poor turnover from Ali Adnan in the middle of the park, as he came under pressure from the impressive Jamairo Monteiro. Adnan’s attempted pass back to Doneil Henry had a bit too much on it, and Kasper Przybylko jumped all over it, racing into the Whitecaps’ penalty area and finishing low into the bottom right corner of Crepeau’s goal.
After what I personally felt was a lethargic performance from Ardaiz in Orlando, the Uruguayan appeared to take some of the criticism against him to heart, and he looked lively coming off the bench. It wasn’t even a minute after the Union levelled the match that Ardaiz was played through by Venuto and Matt Freese misjudged the ball. With momentum carrying him towards the touchline, Ardaiz nearly forced in a shot from the tightest of angles only to have it cleared off the line by Gaddis.
The ‘Caps continued to press with Ali Adnan looking to make amends for his error that cost his side the lead. The left back made one of his signature surging runs down the left flank, got into the Union box, and while his first pass to In-Beom was deflected, it fell to Venuto who sent his effort just wide.
In what was a very open contest in the last 20 minutes, the Union had one more big chance as their Polish striker Przybylko was picked out with a low cross from Olivier Mbaizo. Przybylko controlled the ball, beat Doneil Henry but was denied at point blank range by Crepeau who did really well to close the angle down and make another crucial save for his side.
There was a slew of half chances that seemed destined to fall for Ardaiz in the last 10 minutes, but it just wasn’t to be as the ‘Caps did pretty much everything but score towards the end of the game. In the end, it’s another point on the board, and on to Colorado as the ‘Caps head to Denver to take on Kei Kamara and the Rapids next Friday.