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Post Match: Two Dazzling Goals Lead Whitecaps Over FC Dallas

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Ali Adnan opened his MLS account as the Whitecaps held on for a three match unbeaten streak.

MLS: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday afternoon, the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated FC Dallas by a score of 2-1 at BC Place stadium in front of one of the larger (and most boisterous) crowds of the young MLS season at home.

The home side faced significant injury woes heading into the affair, with notable absences including Doneil Henry, Yordy Reyna, Lass Bangoura and Joaquin Ardaiz. In light of these absences, Marc Dos Santos chose to opt for his secondary 3-5-2 formation for the second match in a row. This saw Rose earn another start at Centre Back, meanwhile Lucas Venuto found himself starting in a striking role, alongside Fredy Montero.

Starting off, FC Dallas looked organized and well drilled in their tactical shape early on. As they dominated the majority of possession and surrendered little to the Whitecaps other than some build-up off of Fredy Montero’s hold-up play.

Meanwhile, inside the opening 15 minutes the Vancouver Whitecaps back five appeared to be struggling for organization, as Ali Adnan’s attacking play put an increased stress on Derek Cornelius, and the young Canadian had some difficulty finding his composure.

Jesus Ferreira had an opportunity to put Dallas ahead in the 26th minute off a cross from the diminutive Micheal Barrios, but the Colombian fired his attempt high of the target and the Whitecaps maintained a level scoreline.

Although having looked like the second best team for most of the opening stages, the Whitecaps would break things wide open when Ali Adnan opened his MLS account in the 30th minute. I could use many superlatives to describe his goal, but to be honest, anything short of actual watching his wonder goal fails to do it proper justice. Even if we had to wait a few extra matches for Adnan to produce a goal like this, it was worth it. Simply stunning.

The Whitecaps were noticeably energized by Adnan’s wonder strike, and other than a brief scary moment from Crepeau on the ball (or cheeky skill depending on how you look at it), the Whitecaps took control of the match in the later stages of the first half.

The Whitecaps would find themselves rewarded for their improved play in the 40th minute. After an innocent Jake Nerwinski cross was mis-played by the FC Dallas defence, Fredy Montero showed wonderful composure with a back-heel touch, and off the pass, Lucas Venuto calmly placed his second MLS goal into the bottom right corner of the net, doubling the score at 2-0.

Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, the elation of doubling the lead was quickly diminished by an apparent injury to the first goal-scorer, Ali Adnan. Adnan went down several times prior to being removed in an attempt to nurse his apparent groin injury, and it’s still unclear as to whether or not his removal from the match was for a serious concern, or more as a precautionary measure. Adnan was replaced by PC in the 42nd minute and the Whitecaps soldiered on to halftime with a comfortable advantage by a score of 2-0.

(Update) Corey Basso of TSN reported that Adnan’s substitution was a precautionary one. Interesting MDS chose not to answer this in the post-match presser but did so to for TSN.

While there was certainly some debate as to whether or not the Whitecaps two goal lead was entirely deserving, there was no doubt that Marc Dos Santos and his side were incredibly pleased with the end result of their first half performance.

Perhaps the most pivotal moment of the match came in the 56th minute, when FC Dallas’ Aranguiz clattered a dead to rights scoring chance off the crossbar and straight back into the arms of Maxime Crepeau. Had FC Dallas been able to convert this scoring opportunity, the rest of the match may have gone quite differently.

It appeared as though Fredy Montero picked up a knock early on in the second half, and after some communication with the sideline, it was clear that Whitecaps Academy’s Theo Bair would get his first MLS opportunity at some point in the second half. Bair’s moment finally came in the 71st minute, as the young Canadian was introduced for the first time at BC Place.

Only a few minutes into his debut, Bair had his first good chance when the ball was crossed in towards him high and hard near the top of the box. While Bair did terrifically well to get his foot on the cross, he was unable to generate enough power on the strike and his shot fell comfortably into the arms of FC Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzales.

After looking rock solid defensively for the majority of the second half, the Whitecaps were finally broken open on an FC Dallas counter attack in the final ten minutes. In a wild sequence, Lucas Venuto failed to score after finding himself one on one with the FC Dallas keeper and the away side charged down the other end of the pitch. Dallas’ Dom Badji would slip past Derek Cornelius at the edge of the box, then beating Max Crepeau with a left-footed strike. In the 85th minute, the Whitecaps found themselves up only a goal at 2-1 when it looked as though they might have been up by three only moments prior.

While there were some tense moments in the final five minutes and extra time, the Whitecaps were able to continue their relatively robust defending, and as a result would hold on for a hard-earned, under-manned, 2-1 victory at BC Place.

The result makes Whitecaps undefeated in their last three matches and having earned a point in five of their last six. While the club might not exactly be setting the world on fire, Marc Dos Santos has found a way for his club to earn results as of late, and this should only improve as the ‘Caps grow healthier and endeavour to improve their roster in the summer transfer window.

Reflecting on the match, I thought that there were a few unsung perfomances on the Whitecaps side which were worth noting. First off, In-Beom Hwang’s defensive work-rate continues to impress. While this is certainly not his calling card, the young Korean is not afraid to get stuck in defensively and is actually quite adept at initiating contact and winning the ball through a sliding challenge.

Additionally, it should not go understated just how important Jon Erice has been to the Whitecaps defensive structure and midfield organization. In his second match back from injury, Erice was back on the form we’ve come to expect, linking up play with 47 passes at a rate of 92% and also contributing through timely interceptions (of which the Spaniard had 4).

Last but certainly not least, Derek Cornelius (in-spite of the early struggles with Adnan and the lone Dallas goal), is slowly rounding into form and has done an admirable job in place of Doneil Henry. Cornelius was asked to do an incredible amount of defensive work against Dallas, and his statistics paint a pretty vivid picture. Cornelius recorded 12 clearances in the match as well as two blocked shots, and while distribution is still the weakest part of his game, he also faired decently well in that respect, passing at a rate of 82%. While Cornelius has hardly “arrived” at just 21 years of age, the young Canadian is certainly on his way to becoming a serviceable MLS Centre Back.

If the Whitecaps are able to foster the development of their young prospects (Like Bair and Cornelius) while also adding high quality pieces in key positions, the future could look bright. First step, secure Ali Adnan on a permanent deal!

As always, let me know your thoughts on the victory and all things ‘Caps in the comments section.