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Report Card: Whitecaps vs Atlanta United

Against an Atlanta squad formerly renowned for its attack, we break down the Vancouver performance in last night’s defensive showdown

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

It’s probably been said dozens of times since last night, but I feel a little cheated in not getting the offensive display from Atlanta United that I’ve grown accustomed to over the past two years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that the Vancouver Whitecaps had a semblance of a chance in this one. Technically speaking, that is, as that’s what a one-goal deficit earns you by default.

And I’ll take a puncher’s chance every day of the week, even if it solely comes from stout defending surrounded by a flurry of arguably miraculous saves.

But even against the stingy defense that Atlanta has rounded into under Frank de Boer, there’s got to be a better effort to generate offense. The team has to find a way to stop unintentionally playing Hot Lava in the opponent penalty area.

Nevertheless, a 1-0 home loss to a roster rotating, cross continent-travelling squad is where you lose points that you’ll so desperately need at the end of the season, regardless of who you’ve lost them to.

A few other meandering thoughts from the match for you:

  • Continue to love the defensive formation by the Whitecaps, but man, there really needs to be some incoming offensive support in the next transfer window;
  • To that end, the Whitecaps 58% passing success rate in the final third was gag-inducing;
  • Kudos to de Boer for having one of the most impressively furrowed brows I’ve ever seen;
  • The Whitecaps dead ball tactics were about as appealing as cold oatmeal.

But let’s get on the player reviews, starting with the brightest Whitecap peformance on the night...

Maxime Crepeau - 10

Honestly, I’m not sure what more you could demand from a keeper, aside from giving him Astro Boy-style rockets in his feet to properly front Josef Martinez’s PK. Crepeaue did well with diving stops on nearly all other shots on net, including that crazy flurry in the 59th minute:

And somehow, Crepeau led the team in Passing Accuracy, with 96.3%. As great as that sounds, “Goalie leads team in PA%,” is generally a phrase that isn’t all that desirable.

Ali Adnan - 6

Stats-wise, Adnan had an alright night: five recoveries and two clearances, was strong in the air with seven aerials won, drew some fouls to go with six successful dribbles, and his passing was decent (when you exclude his long balls).

What grated me, however, was how often he got caught up the pitch. I get it can happen if you’re making a longer run or an overlap into the corner, but when you’re doing neither when the final third has already been seized, only for possession to be conceded due to your sloppy pass, get on your bike and get back.

I’ve lauded how well he can cycle positions with the players in front of him, but it wasn’t there last night.

Doneil Henry - 7.5

Another strong night for Henry in my opinion. Three clearances, two interceptions, two tackles, one of which was on a fast-breaking Josef Martinez in the 52nd minute, and a great block in the 37th. But what was with that goofy switch to the far touchline in the 21st minute? In the Whitecaps end? On the whole his passing was decent, but oh man, that cross was ugly.

Erik Godoy - 6.5

Overshadowed by Henry defensively, but I feel that’s more to do with how calm he is at the back. Worked well with Felipe to hold formation and close down shooting lanes in the middle, but just about anything he played long into the Atlanta half did not work. The Whitecaps midfield had a rough night, but I don’t know if bypassing them was the answer.

Jake Nerwinski - 6

Far more cautious with his runs than Adnan, but I can appreciate that he’s willing to wait until it makes sense to do so. Reasonably decent defensively and although he won’t be the guy to build a play around, he at least gets back in position like a mofo.

Russell Teibert - 3

Rusty, where were you? He and the rest of the midfield were swallowed up. He’ll never not have that draw towards defensive responsibility, and will always make the sure pass rather than the risky one, but offensively he added but a single failed dribble to the stat sheet.

Came out in the 69th minute in place of Andy Rose, who saw the game very well from the center. Arguably should have started, but perhaps he’s being weaned back in to the lineup following his head injury.

Felipe - 4.5

Like Teibert, thought he did well defensively, holding formation well to help his centerbacks clog the middle. But that was about it, really. Passing mostly consisted of safe square balls rather than to the corners. Even if its a risk, I’d like to see him spray the ball to the corners, up the wing. Make Venuto and Bangoura RUN.

Replaced by Joaquin Adraiz in the 78th minute who, despite needlessly picking up a yellow card right away, along with Rose arguably added more pressure to the Atlanta backline than we saw in the first 80% of the match or so.

Hwang In-beom - 3.5

The third in the trifecta of offensively absent midfielders Wednesday night. Again, did his job defensively, with a block and ten recoveries, and cycled the ball well enough, but just couldn’t create anything significant up the pitch.

Lass Bangoura - 2.5

Somewhat absent offensively, his passing wasn’t spectacular, and whyohwhy are you collapsing into the back of Pity Martinez? I get that the ball was not cleared well, and it wasn’t a barging challenge, but you had a box full of defenders to muddy the cross, as well as Adnan ready to force Pity to the endline. Just plain silly.

And although I was throwing shade at Adnan earlier, when the left back does make a great run and can be fed the ball in the box, PLEASE don’t opt for the 28-yard strike! Even if it was the first of only two shots on target all night, at least put some mustard on it if you’re going to opt out of the easy through ball into space.

Made way for PC Giro in the 64th minute, who had the energy for the wing, but was more often than not trying to sell fouls to a Baldomero Toledo who wasn’t buying.

Fredy Montero - 4.5

Offensively, I think Fredy Montero was the only Whitecaps on the pitch who was willing to try something different when the attack wasn’t working. He was clearly being smothered by Florentin Pogba, so Montero started to make himself available for passes rather than wait for them. Three key passes on the night is also a plus.

Lucas Venuto - 3.5

Just got owned by Brek Shea on the wing. I don’t know if I can phrase it any better. Had a key pass early on, and was part of some early pressure being applied by the front three, but felt largely absent in this one.

The new haircut didn’t help either, unfortunately.

So how off am I this week? How were the subs? Should Rose maybe have started with the ‘Caps in the 4-4-2? Sound off in the comments below!