When the line-ups came out and you saw that both Greg Vanney and Marc Dos Santos had opted for 3-5-2 formations, it was hard not to think that the teams could cancel each other out.
What was harder to believe was how accurate that was through the entirety of the 90 minutes.
This was certainly no banner match for Major League Soccer, this instead was two teams in the middle of a season, both riddled with injuries trying to limp to the break ahead of the Gold Cup. With both Toronto and Vancouver having played 6 matches in the last 3 weeks, the toll the schedule has taken on both clubs resulted in a dour match on a night that the Vancouver Whitecaps celebrated the 40th anniversary of their NASL Soccer Bowl winning team.
The positives for Vancouver were some of the usual – Fredy Montero managed to find the back of the net for his fifth goal of the year, albeit from the penalty spot for the third time. The penalty was awarded after spark plug Yordy Reyna – who was making his return from injury coming on in the 62’ minute – took the ball on a 50-yard run straight at the heart of the Toronto defence late in the game, only to be fouled in the box by Drew Moor.
It should have been the second yellow for Moor without question and even Marc Dos Santos said so after the match that he thought it should have been a sending off, but hey – I’ll take the penalty kick at that point in the game.
At the back, Maxime Crepeau continues his impressive season, even drawing praise from Vanney after the match for the campaign he is putting together. Crepeau made 4 saves, while also managing to recover the ball 16 times from slews of crosses and deflected shots throughout the match.
Outside of a Terrence Boyd break, and a distance range effort from Marky Delgado, there were few clear-cut chances created by Toronto FC to threaten the ‘Caps goalkeeper. Unfortunately, it was a deflected effort from Nick DeLeon that ricocheted off Ali Adnan to beat the off-balance Crepeau that levelled the match in the 90’ minute, just 5 minutes after Montero had given Vancouver the lead.
Unlucky, but perhaps just with the way the match unfolded.
On the flip side, the same negatives keep rearing their head though. The Whitecaps failed to make almost any chances outside of the penalty, and didn’t win a single corner throughout the entire match. Of the other efforts towards Quentin Westberg’s goal, not one managed to find the target. The closest efforts being Ali Adnan’s dipping effort from 30 yards, and Russell Teibert’s flash across the goal mouth from a sharp angle.
The heat map once again didn’t make for pretty viewing as this year’s rendition of the Vancouver club continues its struggles to break into the attacking third.
On the plus side, there is the looming transfer window coming for July 7, and while Marc Dos Santos’ comments weren’t overly promising – I actually feel comfortable saying that he and his backroom staff are working diligently to bring in reinforcements.
At this point, mum’s the word on where those reinforcement will come from. But, this recurring pattern of the club lacking a player that can unlock a defence is the most obvious spot to address that I can recall seeing in any season, for any club that I’ve watched over the past 20 odd years.
The Whitecaps need another midfielder that can break the lines and provide service to their forwards. Clearly asking Lucas Venuto or Yordy Reyna to take on an entire team’s defence at speed is the most effective attack the ‘Caps have right now. It was never the plan when Dos Santos came to the club, to be a team reliant on hitting opponents on the break. The idea was supposed to be to control more of the game, and that’s just not happening right now.
At times in the first half, Toronto’s players had so much time and space on the ball, that they were literally afforded the chance to stand in space, in possession, as a red teammate moved into space or became available for a pass.
The high press hasn’t set in, and it actually seems to have been abandoned as the legs of each ‘Caps player grows heavier and heavier as the season grinds on.
While the possession stats at the end of the day came to be pretty close with Toronto edging that category with 54.8% to the ‘Caps 45.2%, you couldn’t really help but look at the continued cutting passes from Alejandro Pozuelo and see the type of player that this Whitecaps team is so desperately crying out for.
Perhaps the break has come at a much needed time though, and hopefully the ‘Caps will be able to get back a few players of the likes of Doneil Henry, Lass Bangoura and Joaquin Ardaiz to bring some much needed depth back to the squad. Of course, with the caveat being that if various National teams go on a run at the Concacaf Gold Cup, the ‘Caps will still be short handed when they get going again on June 22nd against the Colorado Rapids.
To fill the void, the Canadian National team and our beloved Alphonso Davies get underway at the Gold Cup in Los Angeles on June 15. Until then, have a swell international break.