The Vancouver Whitecaps fell to 0-4-1 to start the 2019 season, the reality that this club has some bright spots but needs to start converting those into points is becoming ever more apparent. The ‘Caps made a positive start as Lass Bangoura wriggled past Jorgen Skjelvik only to be fouled and have Baldomero Toledo point straight to the spot.
With a golden chance to open the scoring in front of a sell-out crowd at BC Place, Ali Adnan stepped up and attempted the panenka, and despite going the wrong way to begin, David Bingham was able to react and prevent the ball crossing the line.
Yes, that moment would have changed the game. Zlatan Ibrahimovic told reporters” “Things can happen, I felt sorry for the guy. Even if I was happy that he missed, don’t misunderstand me, when it happens, it happens.”
Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos admitted that “when we had the penalty and a big opportunity in minute one, and we don’t score, it puts ourselves down because we’re thinking, ‘can we get a break?’” The club had what was by far the best first half they’ve had so far this season and looked to have LA Galaxy star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic mostly under wraps through the first 45 minutes.
Dos Santos told media ““The first half, I think we came in very well. It’s probably the best first half that we’ve had this season. It was the same type of rhythm from the game against Seattle [that] we kept carrying.”
With the ‘Caps piling on pressure even after the penalty, there were more opportunities to break the deadlock early, and MDS noted that “Ardaiz has another big chance, Inbeom has another good chance, and then it’s 0-0. The more it’s 0-0, the more instability it could create if the opponent has a little bit of spells in possession and has a player that could make a big difference…But that goal, the 1-0 was really tough on us mentally because I felt that we put ourselves in that situation.”
Midfielder Russell Teibert echoed his manager’s opinion saying ““I can’t remember the last game that we got a PK in the first couple of minutes. But that being said, we played an outstanding first half. We created more chances, we were the better side. There’s a lot of positives that you can take from that first half. But, that’s the name of the game. You have to capitalize on your chances, because if you don’t it comes back to bite you, and that’s what happened tonight.”
The ’Caps were undone by some sloppy marking in the second half, as Zlatan took a ball out in the left hand channel in the second half, and was afforded time able to pick out Dan Steres as he was wide open at the back post for the opening goal.
After the game, when asked about Irbahimovic’s performance, Steres told reporters “I don’t know if it’s the defenders going to sleep but he learns as he plays, he sees what happens and he uses it against you. I mean we train with him everyday, so we know what he’s been doing in training. And he brings it out here. You think you have him for one second and he’ll use that against you the next time and find another way to beat you.”
Marc Dos Santos himself said he needed to watch the first goal back, but that he was aware of the defensive breakdown, telling reporters that “In my angle, I just saw a play from Ibra putting the ball in the back post. Probably I’ll think the same as you after I re-watch the goal. From the sight I have on the bench, I didn’t see exactly how bad it was. I felt the player in the back post was totally alone but I can’t tell you how bad it was.”
Dos Santos continued to express his disappointment about the second half saying “We came in in the first five to ten minutes flat. Nothing of our instructions at halftime or even the feeling we had in the locker room sensed that this was going to go in that direction.”
With mentality being the key word from so much of March and now into April, to see lapses in concentration cost the Whitecaps again – it’s frustrating. Russell Teibert certainly admitted that himself, adding that “this is a difficult time that we’re in. Because you don’t want to say early on it’s not always about points, but we’ve got to start getting points and we all know that. We need to start scoring goals, keep clean sheets – that was a big positive for us last weekend, keeping a clean sheet – but that’s not going to win you games. We’ve got to be able to score goals and capitalize on our chances.”
Whether those chances would have changed the outcome is hindsight, but those chances need to be converted at this level. Even the great Zlatan said that LA Galaxy were poor in the first half, and that they “needed to do more. It was not enough. If he scores the penalty, it would be a different game. In the second half, we came out stronger. We were more confident, more stable in our game.”
Ibrahimovic also went on to say “I think they gave 200% in the first half because they looked tired in the second half and we took over more and more, and we let them run more and more. I don’t think they changed the way they were marking me. We were more dominant and we got more space and more chances.”
While the Zlatan show was the winner on Friday night, the Whitecaps need to move on from here and get ready for next week when they head to Chicago. All of our writers expected it to be a tough start to the season, but the tide needs to turn for this club, and hopefully they’ll be able to pull out a positive result sooner rather than later.