Flight delays and injuries be damned, the Vancouver Whitecaps used a strong second half performance to earn a hard fought 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls Wednesday night in Harrison, New Jersey.
A second half penalty kick from Fredy Montero and Scott Sutter’s first Vancouver goal canceled out a strong performance from the Red Bulls’ Brian White, who had a goal and forced an Andy Rose own goal.
The midweek match and injuries to several key players brought squad rotation. MDS opted to stick with three central defenders in the back, something he briefly experimented with against Sporting Kansas City. Andy Rose moved back to the CB position, slotting in between Erik Godoy and Derek Cornelius. Scott Sutter and Ali Adnan manned the wingback position. Zac MacMath spelled superman Max Crepeau in goal.
In midfield, Jon Erice returned to the lineup next to Felipe, with PC Giro and Brett Levis on the wing and Joaquin Ardaiz up top as a lone striker.
Given that the team didn’t arrive in northern New Jersey until early this morning, fans could be forgiven for expressing some doubts as to how this one would go, especially after the lineups were revealed. It was a slow start, however, with New York going for a direct style which yielded them no shortage of possession but few clear cut chances in early minutes of the match.
That is, until a dangerous Felipe turnover, nearly identical to one that gifted SKC a goal on Saturday, sprung Derek Etienne on the counter in the 11th minute. Etienne flashed some skill in the box before putting the resulting shot inches wide from a tight angle.
The Caps roared to life however, as Joaquin Ardaiz parlayed a strong start into a break clear in on goal. His shot was blocked by a charing Connor Lade to deny Ardaiz his first MLS goal and the resulting corner was headed high by a wide open Derek Cornelius.
The pressure continued from the Red Bulls, to the point where I could simply not envision the Caps maintain the kind of desperate defending (think Ali Adnan scissor kick clearances) for another 60+ minutes. The odd part, however, is the Caps had good success playing through the wings, catching the Red Bulls disorganized at the back on a couple occasions--when Vancouver was able to string together enough possession to carry the ball forward.
The Caps struck first, thanks to more excellent work from Ardaiz, who forced Sean Nealis into a poor turnover and then burned by him near the end line, playing a well placed cross across the box. It missed Brett Levis but fell perfectly to Scott Sutter, who roofed it past Luis Robles into the top of the net. A lead that came firmly against the run of play but richly rewarded a half hour of hard work from Ardaiz.
Godoy preserved the lead just minutes later, with a fantastic double save to halt two good Red Bull chances, including an overhead kick to clear a Lade backheel that was centimeters from crossing the line.
New York succeeded in tying things in the 38th minute, after Amro Tarek latched onto a nice short corner. Brian White deflected it past MacMath and PC, who were not able to change course in time to keep it out.
Despite a flurry of yet more Red Bulls chances (including a last ditch tackle from Scott Sutter to deny a streaking Derek Etienne), the half ended at 1-1.
MDS didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a halftime substitution, bringing on Fredy Montero for Brett Levis, presumably in an attempt to remove Ardaiz from the island he often found himself on. The change was largely successful and gave the Caps an attacking boost, as the away side slowly started to reclaim more and more possession.
Vancouver started out with much more of the ball early on in the second half and built an excellent counter off a stout Fredy Montero challenge. PC swung in an excellent ball for Felipe but his header was turned off the post by Robles, denying a chance for the Brazilian to score against his old team.
It was bad luck that put the Caps down 2-1, with White played through. Cornelius didn’t close down and White played what appeared to be more of a cross across the face of goal, but it deflected off an unlucky Andy Rose, hit the upright and wound up in the back of the net.
Rose nearly made amends but for a fantastic save by Robles, although it was really the Gods of VAR (™) who threw the Caps a bone when the ensuing corner hit off the arm of Tarek. After a review, referee Victor Rivas pointed to the spot and Montero made no mistake from the spot to make it 2-2.
The Caps did everything they could to build on the equalizer, bringing on In-Beom for PC. Ardaiz was able to pull down a nice ball from In-Beom, change speeds and fire a shot but it was straight at Robles. Still, a good chance for Ardaiz to continue to show off the breadth of his skillset but unfortunately he injured himself on the play and the Caps were forced to bring on Lucas Venuto.
The Caps settled into having most of the possession (yes, this was very confusing). But they consistently fell victim to quick throws and quick corners from the Red Bulls. In the 85th minute that let off nearly bit them, as Tom Barlow quickly grabbed a throw in and found a shockingly wide open Daniel Royer, but fortunately the Austrian skied the shot.
It was nearly a Caps winner on the last kick of the game, after Venuto was left all by his lonesome and collected a long ball forward after an ill-fated NYRB free kick. Robles denied his shot, however, and In-Beom’s one time follow-up was easily cleared. The final whistle then sounded to give the Caps a 2-2 result.
- Scott Sutter, Derek Cornelius and Erik Godoy have more goals than Lass, Lucas Venuto, Joaquin Ardaiz and PC Giro combined, just like we all predicted.
- Felipe nearly had an almost identical giveaway to the one that put SKC in the lead on Saturday, except the Caps managed to avert giving away a goal this time. Not sure whether its fatigue, lingering effects from injury or what but he looked a little out of his depth defensively in this match. Thought his passing remained pretty good, however.
- Nice stuff from Ardaiz, despite being on an island a lot in the first half. Drew a yellow and had a great long ball to launch a counter. Played himself into position where he had a break in on goal and would have had one of his own had Connor Lade not intervened. I still think he can become a useful piece for the team, with the floodgates hopefully opening after he notches his first goal. Hopefully his injury boils down to a lack of match fitness and he can continue to get minutes going forward.
- One thing I did appreciate was the fact that the team pushed when they had counter opportunities and didn’t wait to let the potential chance pass them by, as they have the habit of often doing (old Robbo ball habits die hard). Sometimes you need to simply hang onto possession but good things happened when they did try to pin the Red Bull fullbacks on attacking jaunts.
- I stand by my take that Lucas Venuto would instantly be a more useful player if he improved his decision making. He just tries to take on players or make passes when there is an option that is much lower on the degree of difficulty.
- The Caps were very well drilled defensively for the most part, despite being without Doneil Henry. They blocked 10 of NYRB’s 18 shots, an impressive number and a continuation of a real positive in the SKC match. Not only are defenders willing to lay their body on the line but they’re putting themselves in the right places to catch shots.
- All things considered that was a great result. Caps’ travel and injury woes meant you would think the team would have run out of gas in the second half, yet they completely outplayed the home side in the second 45. MDS didn’t really park the bus either and had two inspired subs that helped the Caps take control of possession. Western conference sides are always inclined to take a point on east coast road trips but the Caps were a couple top drawer Nick Robles saves away from taking all 3 points. For sure a result the team can build off of against FC Dallas Saturday.