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Post Match: A Win Worth Celebrating?

The Whitecaps beat the worst team in MLS, but what does it mean?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps defeated the Colorado Rapids by a score of 3-2 on Friday night at DSG Park in Commerce City, CO.

Marc Dos Santos started the match with a new front three of Montero, Venuto and Bangoura (a group we had yet to see start together so far this season) but other than that, the only notable choice was the continued absence of Felipe from the starting XI.

In the opening ten minutes of play in Colorado, the match looked very much like what it was, a matchup between the bottom two teams in MLS. While it’s debatable as to whether or not the quality of play improved as the match went on, things did certainly pick up in so far as entertainment value.

The first decent chance of the match came on a Kei Kamara header in the 16th minute, while the former Whitecap was too far from goal to really trouble Max Crepeau, this was the first sign of things beginning to open up offensively.

Just a few plays later, in the 17th minute, Bangoura made a great pass from midfield which sprung forward Fredy Montero, who had no trouble slotting it home as the Rapids woeful defending allowed him to slip in unimpeded on Tim Howard.

Shockingly, the Whitecaps continued to control play and in the 26th minute, the road side doubled their advantage. This time Montero was the set-up man as he hustled past a Rapids defender and whipped in a low ball straight onto the foot of a waiting Lucas Venuto, who opened his Whitecaps account with his first goal in MLS.

Up two goals, the Whitecaps continued their strong play. Yet in the 37th minute, Fredy Montero foolishly challenged a Rapids attacker from behind near the edge of the box and conceded yet another Whitecaps penalty in this young season. Kamara was Johnny on the spot with the PK and the Rapids quickly found themselves back within a goal at 2-1.

The Kamara goal served as a huge momentum boost for the winless Rapids, who completely flipped the run of play following their opening goal and dominated the rest of the first half in possession. After forty-five minutes, Marc Dos Santos and his Whitecaps were likely disappointed to be leading by just a goal, having done so much to build an early advantage only to see it cut in half by a needless challenge.

The Whitecaps returned from the halftime break with the substitution of one of their goal scorers, as Lucas Venuto had to be removed with a left foot contusion and was replaced by the ever-young Canadian Brett Levis.

Levis made his presence felt in an unfortunate way just minutes into the second half, as he was nudged by Montero from behind and subsequently clattered into two Rapids going up for a header in the box.

While the official let the play go on the field, our good ol’ friend VAR stepped in and upon review the play was deemed to have resulted in another penalty opportunity for the Rapids. While this was an unfortunate break for the Caps, it would be hard to say that the penalty was not deserved on this occasion. Kei Kamara neatly converted once again from the spot and the Rapids found themselves level at 2-2 in the 53rd minute.

Things settled down a bit after the score was tied at two - and in the 68th minute - Andy Rose came on in relief of Russel Teibert, making his first MLS start in over a month, having started two matches early in the year before suffering a facial fracture in Houston.

In the 76th minute, the match was blown completely wide-open after Diego Rubio was sent off with a Red Card for violent conduct. After Whitecaps defender Doneil Henry had gone in strongly on a challenge, it appeared as though Henry’s knee grazed the back of Rubio’s head. While this was clearly unintentional, Rubio did not take kindly to Henry’s play and lashed out instinctually, striking Henry in the face with a swing of the arm.

With a renewed sense of vigour now finding themselves up a man, the Whitecaps set out on the offensive. In the 82nd minute, it appeared as though Lass Bangoura had netted his second goal of the season after he curled a ball past Tim Howard which had arrived at his feet after a poor Rapids header. Unfortunately for the Caps, VAR stepped in yet again and the goal was disallowed after it was found that Andy Rose had been in an offside position in the build to the play. To be honest, it’s hard to see how the AR could’ve missed this call in the first place, but regardless, Whitecaps fans likely felt they were about to have their hearts broken by VAR yet again (even though it was the right call at the end of the day).

Andy Rose would redeem himself however, as the offside culprit on the disallowed goal got himself on the end of a deflected pass from lass Bangoura in the 87th minute. With the ball at his feet, Rose showed nice composure in the box as he lifted a shot just high enough to crawl over a sprawling Tim Howard. Rose’s goal gave the Whitecaps a decisive lead at 3-2 with just moments remaining in a match that looked like it could’ve gone either way for most of the second half.

Rose’s goal would prove to be the difference in the end as the Colorado Rapids remained winless on the season while Marc Dos Santos secured his first road victory as an MLS manager with a 3-2 victory in Commerce City.

It’s also worth noting that the Whitecaps victory ends a rather significant drought in road form spanning back to last season.

While securing a win on the road is obviously positive, the big question which remains from this match is whether or not a win against the Rapids really means anything? Sure, it’s nice to pick up three points on the road, but is only squeaking out a win against the worst team in MLS really much of a stepping stone? I think that from a purely performance standpoint, it’s likely that the Whitecaps were better in their matches against Seattle, LAFC and Philadelphia than they were Friday night. It will be interesting how the players/manager dissect this one in the coming days, but I suspect they will say that there is still plenty to be improved upon.

One definite bright spot from this match was the overall success of the new front three (Venuto, Montero and Lass B). While it really only lasted the first 35 mins as a trio, it definitely looks as though there’s some chemistry to be built upon there over the coming month.

Finally, I’d like to give a special shoutout to Lass Bangoura, who for me was undoubtably the man of the match. The Guinean forward had an assist, nearly scored a goal as well (if not for the offside call) and was dynamic on the ball almost every time he touched it. He made 8 successful passes in the final third and completed 92% of his passes overall. Lass also had two shots on target, two long balls completed and one completed cross.

Manager Marc Dos Santos has been stressing the all round performance he expects from his forwards in recent weeks, and this match (I think) was much closer to what Dos Santos wants to see from his wide players. This is also certainly the kind of performance (from their wingers) the Whitecaps will need to replicate going forward in order to stay in the Western Conference fray - as they now sit just one point back of a playoff place (I know, I can’t believe it either).