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Post Match: Whitecaps’ Early Woes Prevent a Full Three Points at Home

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The Vancouver Whitecaps fell behind early, but were the better team for most of the match in a 2-2 draw following a lengthy international break.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a lengthy International break, the Vancouver Whitecaps found themselves back in action on Saturday night at BC Place against the visiting Colorado Rapids. Although facing the Rapids may have appeared an easy matchup early on in the season, the Colorado team came into the match with great recent form, finding themselves unbeaten in their past five matches.

Meanwhile, with five players still away on international duty, the Whitecaps were forced to find their stride with a less than full strength squad. Notably, Andy Rose remained at CB in a back four role and Venuto and Reyna flanked Montero up front, while Zac Macmath got the nod in Goal.

Before the match had even kicked off, former Whitecaps (and current Rapids) players Nico Mezquida and Kei Kamara received warm receptions from the BC Place crowd as they were greeted with cheers as opposed to the usual jeers opposition players enjoy in the pre-match lineup announcements.

Whitecaps fans’ admiration for their former players wouldn’t last long however, as the Rapids got on the board in just the 8th minute off a Nico Mezquida corner kick. The Whitecaps defensive marking was shambolic to say the least on the play, and 2nd choice keeper Zac Macmath failed to communicate with his defenders and command the box the way Crepeau likely would have.

The Whitecaps first good chance of the match came in the 12th minute, when a long ball over the top to Montero from In-Beom set up a decent shot for Yordy Reyna.

Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, they would double down on their defensive struggles in the 20th minute. As the Rapids broke on the counter attack, Mezquida played a ball into Kei Kamara, whose header was grossly misjudged by Macmath and this led to Shinyashiki finding himself all alone in front of goal. Once again, the lack of communication between the Whitecaps defensive line and keeper proved costly, as the Caps found themselves with a daunting two goal deficit early on in the match.

To make matters worse, it could have very easily been 3-0 in the 23rd minute after Kei Kamara’s shot rang off the post, and if not for Jake Nerwinski’s goal line clearance, Diego Rubio could have very easily netted his second goal of the night.

Other than a scary moment from Macmath where he almost palmed the ball back into his own goal, the Whitecaps turned the game around after the 25th minute mark.

In the 30th minute, In-Beom made a nice fake before firing a swerving shot on target. A play like this was nice to see from the young Korean, as the midfielder has at times been hesitant to take matters into his own hands so far this season, but appeared more assertive in this match.

The Whitecaps headed to the closing stages of the first half with quality offensive pressure, but were for the most part unable to create many high quality scoring chances, as ball after ball was cleared away from danger and shot attempts were blocked by the Rapids defenders.

This all changed in first half stoppage time however, as Ali Adnan made an incisive run into the box and positioned himself well to draw contact from a Rapids defender, earning his team a penalty kick. Frontman Fredy Montero was clinical from the spot, and the Caps took a renewed sense of optimism into the second half, down only a goal and having carried the balance of play for the last 25 minutes or so.

Despite being down a goal, the stat sheet backed up the Whitecaps’ first half performance as they’d dominated possession with 72% of the ball and passed at a rate of 92% (in comparison to Colorado’s 72%). In spite of these lob-sided stats, the Rapids deserved credit for capitalizing on the Whitecaps mistakes in the first half, as well as making the most of their limited possession.

It was evident to start the second half that both sides had made tactical adjustments, as the opening 25 minutes was much less eventful than the first half had been. The Whitecaps made their first substitution in the 63rd minute, as Scott Sutter replaced Jake Nerwinski. While you don’t often see a like-for-like RB substitution, Marc Dos Santos explained post match the desire to switch to a 3-5-2 formation, and that he felt Sutter suited the right wing back role better than Nerwinski at that juncture in the match. Given that both RB’s saw significant action on Saturday, it will be interesting to see who gets the nod Wednesday on the road in Dallas.

The Whitecaps made their second substitution in the 69th minute as PC replaced Lucas Venuto. It still seems as though the Brazilian winger struggles to play a full 90 minutes, and I can’t say that I found PC terribly impactful once he was inserted. Especially with players away on international duty, the Whitecaps continue to lack dynamic attacking options off the bench.

The game began to liven up again for the Caps at around the 70th minute mark and this pressure came to a head in the 75th minute, when In-Beom fired another shot on target and the Whitecaps continued to pour on the pressure, winning a corner kick.

Just five minutes later, the Whitecaps earned themselves a prime scoring opportunity just outside the Rapids box, and both Yordy Reyna and Ali Adnan stood over the dead ball chance. Reyna was the one who eventually stood up to take the kick, and boy, did he deliver. The Peruvian fired a knuckling ball which kissed off the near post woodwork and into the back of the net. This left goalkeeper Tim Howard, as well as many Rapids defenders, rooted to the spot in disbelief.

Following the Reyna wonder-strike, there was a huge amount to write home about in the final ten minutes, although it was curious to see Marc Dos Santos choose not to use his third and final substitution, especially considering the busy stretch of matches the Whitecaps are facing over the next few weeks. Personally, I would have liked to see Theo Bair make an appearance up front, as Rapids defender Lalas Abubakar was a dominant aerial presence throughout the match, and it would have been nice to see him challenged in the closing stages.

The match ended on another free kick chance for the Whitecaps and Yordy Reyna (in a very similar spot, albeit farther away from the target than his first attempt), but this time Reyna was unable to find the target as his shot sailed high and the match would end level with the score 2-2 at fulltime.

Much like at the end of the first half, the Whitecaps had dominated the possession metrics, with a whopping 70% of the ball and 89% passing accuracy overall, which is certainly the most impressive collection of stats I can remember the Whitecaps recording in recent memory.

Not to be forgotten, Ali Adnan was mega at left back as per usual. The Iraqi not only drew the penalty kick, but was a dynamic driver of the Caps attack throughout the match. To get a small glimpse at his impact, here are some stats from Adnan’s opening half.

The left back would finish the match with a whopping 117 total touches and 76 completed passes. At this point, Adnan is a player that Whitecaps can simply not afford to lose, although things still appear to be very much up in the air as Udinese has yet to decide on his fate.

At the end of the day, this match can likely be looked at as both two points lost and a point gained by the Whitecaps. Although their unorganized defending put them in an early hole, they persevered in the final 70+ minutes of the match and were, all things considered, the much better side.

As a final side note, something rather interesting which came out of the post-game reaction from Colorado media was the sense that the Whitecaps were “lucky” to have rescued a point at home, especially with their goals coming “against the run of play”. This was a legitimate question which Rapids media directed at each of their players in the post-match press conferences.

Although I understand that both Whitecaps goals came off of set piece opportunities, it seems hard to claim that a team which had 70% of the possession scored both their goals “against the run of play”, but that’s just me.

Lastly, according to our friends at the Burgundy Wave, apparently Reyna’s free kick goal was a “lucky” break.

Yup, looked like it was all luck to me.

As always, let me know your thoughts on this, as well as everything else from the match, in the comments section!