It’s been a gruelling couple of weeks for the Vancouver Whitecaps, taking on five matches in a 16 day span dating back to the May 10 win over Portland Timbers at BC Place. In between that, the ‘Caps have travelled more than 8000 kilometres to take on Sporting KC and New York Red Bulls, and the toll is starting to become apparent on the squad.
The injury list keeps growing, having added Joaquin Ardaiz to the infirmary along with the likes of Lass Bangoura, Yordy Reyna and Doneil Henry going into Saturday’s match, the number of first team players available to head coach Marc Dos Santos was becoming fewer by the match. Afterwards, MDS told reporters that “travel that was a nightmare, it’s a reality. And coming in here, we knew that the only way that we would get something is almost that, ok, tactically following up on what we did against the Red Bulls, but, a level of commitment and passion and heart above anything else.”
Having eked out the win, which was a Lucas Venuto break from being a comfortable 3-0 score line, the ‘Caps suffered another casualty as Ali Adnan was forced out of the match with a groin problem in the first half. Dos Santos went on to add that “I knew that after the 60-65’ minute it would’ve started to become difficult for us physically, and it’s what showed.”
The post match statistics were certainly ugly reading everywhere but the final score, as the ‘Caps were out shot 20-7, and on the wrong end of a lopsided 60%-40% possession stat. Add on to that 13 corners for FC Dallas to zero for the ‘Caps and it’s somewhat remarkable that Vancouver were able to take all 3 points.
Key to that, has been flexibility in personnel that are available, and full back Jake Nerwinski was quick to point out that “we’ve proved it over these past three games, we are an entire team, it’s not just XI guys, it’s not just XIV guys, you know three subs off the bench, it’s a whole team. We shifted lineups three different times in the last eight days and we’ve gotten results every single time, and it just shows how important every player on the team is.”
His coach echoed those sentiments, noting how important that flexibility is and highlighting some of his unsung personnel. Since Doneil Henry went down with a hamstring problem, Andy Rose has been filling in at the heart of defence for the club and done so quite adeptly making half a dozen clearances against Dallas on Saturday.
MDS said of Rose that “he’s intelligent, he knows the game. So, when we had to play him there against the New York Red Bull, no problem, you know, you don’t do that with every player. Some players have a tougher time adapting, but he knows the game.”
Combining that flexibility in formation and personnel with work ethic is proving to be a formula that’s bringing success in the short term, and particularly at home. Since a dispiriting run to start the season, the Whitecaps have won three of their past five matches at BC Place, only losing once to defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United.
That record at home is something that the club was aiming to use as a fulcrum for success this season, with Nerwinski noting that “we started out at the beginning of this year saying that we wanted to win as many times at home as we can, we want to make BC Place hard for teams to come in and beat us and score goals and we did that against Portland and we set ourselves up to go on a long road trip in good spirits and were able to get two hard fought results. We come back here, and some of the guys are tired, I think most of the guys are tired, it’s been a long week, and we just came out and won again and it’s just huge, it really is.”
Despite all the injuries, it’s been hard work and a sense of fighting for the man beside them that’s getting results for the Whitecaps right now. Nerwinski continued to say that “You saw this team today, we all fought for each other, it wasn’t individual, it was everyone fighting for a common good and I think that’s what’s keeping us going, that’s what’s driving us right now, and that’s what’s going to push us to the playoffs.”
The Whitecaps get a well deserved breather this week, before getting ready to host Toronto FC on May 31 in their last home match before the Gold Cup begins in June.