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Post Match – Whitecaps Get Shea’med by Atlanta

The ‘Caps winning ‘streak’ comes to an end at the hands of defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

In his pre-match introduction, Carl Valentine aptly noted that the Whitecaps seem to keep getting to host the hottest team in the league as Atlanta Untied arrived on the back of four consecutive victories – having conceded zero goals across those four matches. Not only did United maintain that record, they kept yet another clean sheet in Vancouver on their way to a 1-0 win on Wednesday.

After a very positive result over a Portland team that is clearly beginning their usual mid-season surge toward the playoffs, Marc Dos Santos and the Vancouver Whitecaps aimed to keep the positive momentum of their own having reeled off a run of three wins, one loss and one draw over their previous five matches.

The ‘Caps started an almost unchanged team, save Felipe Martins coming in for the injured Jon Erice at the base of midfield. That consistency in line-up began brightly, bringing immediate energy into the opening minutes of the game. Through the first 15 minutes the ‘Caps had 70% of possession with the front trio of Bangoura-Montero-Venuto nipping at the heels of the Atlanta back line and forcing some early turnovers.

As lively as they were though, the first real chance of the match fell to the usual suspect, Josef Martinez, who got onto the end of a good ball from Franco Escobar that beat Doneil Henry. The Venezuelan sent his effort wide, and the ‘Caps carried on building counter after counter.

Unfortunately, the triangles of play just couldn’t find a way through the Atlanta back line, with MLS debutant Florentin Pogba and former Whitecaps outcast Brek Shea repeatedly snuffing out break after break from entering the final third.

Speaking of Shea – where did that come from? I’ll call a spade a spade, and to be fair to the gangly Texan, he had a solid game at left back. He even looked calm in possession while Atlanta built up play, providing simple passes for his teammates and creating three chances on the night, while winning six of his nine duels per

The breakthrough in the match came from the penalty spot, as Baldomero Toledo blew for the foul from Lass Bangoura on Pity Martinez following a nice save in close from Maxime Crepeau on Josef Martinez. The rebound was cleared but played quickly back into Pity Martinez whom Bangoura came in late on and rather clearly barged into, and as per usual Josef Martinez buried his opportunity. Crepeau guessed the right way, but you simply can’t afford last year’s Golden Boot winner an opportunity from the penalty spot and the ‘Caps paid the price.

This is the part, where we get to talk about how good of a shot stopper that Maxime Crepeau is proving himself to be. It’s been numerous times this season that the Quebecois backstop has bailed out his team, and as noted by our own Caleb Wilkins – Crepeau is putting together quite the impressive run, especially in contrast to his former club’s current number one Evan Bush.

Crepeau bailed out his team time and again, yes there was the early save on Josef Martinez before the penalty was awarded. You can follow that up with an absolutely remarkable sequence in the second half, where Crepeau made 3 consecutive top drawer saves.

First Hector Villalba was played through on the break by Pity Martinez, and with his pace raced in clean on goal only to be denied one-on-one by Crepeau. The rebound fell to Josef Martinez who played a square ball to Eric Remedi who was head in hands as he was denied acrobatically by Crepeau, and then immediately sprang to his feet as he was called into action again as Pity Martinez thumped a diving header back towards the ‘Caps keeper-of-goal who saved yet again.

It was a remarkable moment, and a sequence that brought the crowd at BC Place to their feet in a standing ovation of the other worldly reflexes displayed by number 16.

After that, with the momentum clearly not going in favour of the home side, Marc Dos Santos opted to bring in Victor Giro for Bangoura who had a decent game, but couldn’t produce more than a curling effort from deep that was very comfortable for Brad Guzan. PC much like his teammate couldn’t create much more against the likes of Franco Escobar and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez.

The ‘Caps started to calm down and get more presence in the game in the final twenty minutes as Andy Rose was introduced. I’d like to also point out that Rose has been quite the steady presence off the bench for the Whitecaps of late, and while he couldn’t make the difference today you can see that he’s almost another coach when he’s in the game.

From his introduction, Rose was very vocal calling his teammate’s passes, and directing traffic as the ‘Caps prepared for set pieces. It’s clear to see that he’s an astute student of the game and is bringing his work on his coaching badges into the field as he martials his side through difficult moments.

You have the complete opposite in the last substitution of the match for the Whitecaps in Joaquin Ardaiz, who has been criticized publicly by Dos Santos for his work ethic. Ardaiz entered the match in the 78’ minute as the ‘Caps were chasing the game and switched formations to a 4-4-2. Within about a minute of being introduced, Ardaiz went into a challenge recklessly on Jeff Larentowicz and found himself in the book, beyond that he created and added next to nothing for his side.

That’s really all there is to say about this match. Ali Adnan looks like he’s getting frustrated in this team, and I can’t help but think that despite his opportunity to be ‘the man’ here and the best left back in MLS, that he’ll be moving on in 6 weeks. He had another very good game at left back, but just couldn’t link up well with his teammates going forward as he appears to try and do too much.

With the transfer window approaching, and the repeated fluctuation of the potential incoming targets for the Whitecaps, let’s hope that MDS uses his opportunity well and strengthens this squad for the second half of the season.