After an early goal from Fredy Montero, the Whitecaps withstood continued pressure from the Portland Timbers through the rest of the game to see out the win. At the end, the final shot tally had 27 attempts from the Timbers compared to just 12 from the Whitecaps.
As the simple stats showed, they certainly made tough work of it in the second half, something of a recurring trend through the first two months of the season, but the Vancouver Whitecaps still came out with all 3 points. Marc Dos Santos as usual was very animated on the touchline, and afterwards said that his team dealt with the pressure well but that, “look, no, you never want to [defend like that], because I’m going to be 42 in May, the 26th, and if I continue like that at the end of the season I’m going to be 58.”
When asked about the performance, Dos Santos was happy to highlight how his team started, noting that “the first 20 minutes, the team were fantastic in every sense. Possession, creating, scoring, mobility in the attack, very good.” Yet that is still something that the team needs to improve upon and be able to sustain through 90 minutes.
Dos Santos went on to add that consistency doesn’t come easy, but that “it’s with work, it’s with a lot of work. It’s going from 45 to 60 to 70 [minutes], but it’s also normal that that happens. Because we’re not Man City, we’re not Barcelona, you know it’s not a reality. There’s going to be periods of the game that we’re going to be lower and we’re going to have to fight for the result and grind. It’s also very tough to do that, because mentally you need to be very focused and the guys have been warriors, and I’m proud of them.”
Maxime Crepeau who kept his third clean sheet of the season, was also quick to point out that while consistency is the long-term goal of the team, now that we’ve passed the 10 game mark, the group is growing together. Crepeau said that last night you could see that as a group “we have better movement and we have better cohesion, because it takes time. We said it would take about 10 games to feel comfortable with each other… and all that stuff. So, the timing is right, and we see it, the proof is that we win tonight, and we are where we are right now.”
With the back four starting to become more settled and looking like there’s a real first choice group in defence, the ‘Caps are starting to produce the results. Now 3-5-3 on the season and having kept more clean sheets than in all of 2018, the Whitecaps are showing steady signs of improvement.
Crepeau added that his teammates, and not just the back four, were the reason the team was successful on Friday night. The Montreal born goalkeeper added that “it’s not even the four men, yes, it’s them, but it’s even our midfield, the wingers tracking back and Fredy running off his arse if I can say, and then there’s the back 4 and they’re really solid. Look, we saw it tonight, we saw it last weekend, it’s always like that, the work ethic of the boys and the mentality.”
As the Whitecaps are starting to pick-up results, it’s really no surprise that Fredy Montero is finding the back of the net. Having been brought in from Sporting Lisbon, Montero was expected to be the goalscoring focus of this ‘Caps team and he’s starting to round into form. After being dropped from the starting XI, he’s worked hard to get back to his best. Montero told media on Friday that “today and in the game, in the past when I scored the goals. It’s about working hard in training. I know during the game it’s 90 minutes, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to give up just because I don’t score goals. It’s a long season, it doesn’t matter if my season started a year ago, I’m here for one reason and I just want to help the team reach the playoffs.”
His coach also pointed out that Fredy has gotten back to his best with “work. Work [and] understanding exactly what we want from him, video, meetings, investment. For a coach, love and caring about his players and them responding to that, and that’s important. You know you always have two choices – when you’re going through a spell that’s not good, you put your head down you cry, you have excuses – nobody did that here, including Fredy.”
It wasn’t just Fredy, who’s elation at finding the back of the net was on full display, but his teammates celebrated the goal just as much as they piled onto the Colombian forward. With a broad smile, Montero beamed to reporters saying that “besides everything, my first goal of the season in front of our fans. Always feeling the support when we play at home, and they sing my name. Obviously, I wanted to give back this confidence, and these supporters they are always supporting me, and especially scoring goals against Portland and winning the game, it’s always a plus.”
With a busy week now ahead, as the Whitecaps get set to host defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United on Wednesday, MDS gave a quick outline of how he will build his team back-up after a taxing win against the Timbers. “First mentally I have to leave the players a little bit alone. It’s important that mentally it was a tough game, they rest from it. Tomorrow, we’re here at 9 so we take care of the guys that didn’t play or didn’t have a lot of minutes. It’s important because they’re going to have to be ready for the long run. Sunday, families. Rest. And then Monday we start right away preparing for Atlanta. And for us it’s a very, very important game, we need to keep going.”
The momentum will need to keep going for the Whitecaps to push for the playoffs, but after a rocky start, they briefly find themselves above the line in the Western Conference. The ‘Caps get a chance to kick-on again at BC Place with another 7PM kickoff Wednesday night.