In what could have been a far worse result, the Vancouver Whitecaps opened their Canadian Championship on the road with a 0-0 draw against a game Cavalry FC from the Canadian Premier League. In some ways, the visiting MLS side were lucky to hold on for a scoreless draw.
What’s missing from that outline are the eight corner kicks conceded by the Whitecaps, and the thirty-two (!) clearances they were forced into, suggesting that Cavalry had no issue with running at Vancouver all match.
In fact, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to think it was Cavalry figuratively tearing up the turf in the CPL that led to the literally beaten-down, worn-out grass at Spruce Meadows, though in reality the pitch was only days removed from a showjumping competition that led to its spotty condition. Nevertheless: giddyup.
Marc Dos Santos appeared to be staying true to his “Canadian Championship is EVERYTHING!” mantra (or to at least make the final) alluded to earlier this year by fielding a lineup very similar to what’s been run in MLS:
Nevertheless, there were a few changes to the lineup that endured a 6-1 throttling at the hands of LAFC last Saturday in league play.
Scott Sutter slid in to right wingback in place of Jake Nerwinski, while Brett Levis made way for Ali Adnan on the left side, with the reissuing of Adnan’s International Transfer Certificate following his official transfer to the club.
Derek Cornelius joined Doneil Henry and Erik Godoy on the backline, as Andy Rose moved up the pitch to replace Hwang In-beom in a midfield consisting of Russell Teibert and Felipe, which will grant Jon Erice a well deserved break.
And joining Yordy Reyna up front was the red card man himself, Fredy Montero, who was surely looking for some kind of redemption going into tonight’s match, personal or otherwise, after replacing Lucas Venuto in the match at LAFC, only to be kicked out in the 85th minute.
Mixed among Cavalry FC’s starting eleven were a handful of familiar names and faces:
Former Whitecaps abound!
Mixed in the XI were Dominick Zator, part of the WFC2 USL development squad; Elijah Adekugbe, VWFC Academy member & brother of former Whitecap defender, Sam Adekugbe; and Mason Trafford, who played on the Whitecaps USL side before the club joined MLS.
Oh, and that may or may not have been former ‘Caps keeper Marco Carducci in net for Cavalry FC. I’m pretty sure I heard that factoid get called out during the broadcast.
The Whitecaps hit the ground running, literally, with Yordy Reyna hitting the deck hard within seconds of kickoff. Following that, early high pressure by the Whitecaps was mixed with a number of stop-and-start fouls at either end of the pitch.
A dangerous early spotkick came from the hosts as Jose Escalante put a ball across and onto the head of Godoy, leading to a quickly cleared cornerkick.
Cavalry FC certainly weren’t afraid to run at the Whitecaps with the ball at their feet, but were more than accommodating in the first half when it came to allowing for deep Whitecaps possession. Doing so proved wise early as Vancouver seemingly couldn’t help themselves into making poor square passes when attempting to get past the center of the pitch.
And it was conceded possession in the Whitecaps’ end that led to the first threat on net, where a turnover led to a quick Nico Pasquotti shot inside the penalty area, though the tight angle allowed keeper Maxime Crepeau to push it for another corner, which, when played quick and short, thankfully found no one once it squirted through the box.
After finding a bit of decorum, the Whitecaps earned their first shot of the match in the 13th minute, where a strong individual effort from Reyna resulted in a slow roller to Carducci off a partial block from Trafford.
After both sides exchanged a pair of long throw-ins placed directly in snatching range of the opposing keeper, Reyna got a second effort from distance, this time a low rocket that Carducci turned aside.
The half more or less ran out with both sides maintaining decent bouts of possession often truncated by long balls going a little too long, or square balls being far too sloppy.
In a more succinct analysis, specific to the Whitecaps...
For example, Andy Rose was nearly able to latch on to a looping pass in the 30th minute, only for it to carry off the endline, while Cavalry quickly matched that with a potentially effective long ball of its of their own, where a forceful pass over Adnan caught Dean Northover squarely in the chest, shooting forward to the endline.
At half, the only real distinction between each team was the marginally better possession stats for the Whitecaps, as the teams saw out the first 45 with a mutual inability to break down the opposing final third.
It was only a few minutes into the second half before Vancouver saw a strong effort flagged down for offside. After calling for a pass around the back, Adnan juked his way deep into Cavalry territory before dishing to Montero. Adnan kept his run goingnd took a pass into the area where the reply showed a well-timed run, though it didn’t keep the linesman’s flag from rising.
I mean, we’re not biased, right?
The Whitecaps had a scare in the 59th minute, where a loooooong Pasquotti throw got stuck in a leg salad just outside the Vancouver six. Thankfully, the ball was cleared and quickly turned into a successful breakout, where Reyna again forced Carducci into a sharp save and a conceded corner.
Prior to the quick substitution of Teibert for PC Giro in the 64th minute, the Whitecaps were nearly made to suffer as Henry sloppily gave up possession to Dominique Malonga just outside the penalty area, only for the Congolese striker to blast his effort well over the bar.
A second giveaway by Henry in a matter of minutes allowed for sub and Canadian international Nik Ledgerwood to break through. Thankfully, Godoy was able to limit the threat to a corner.
A second corner to follow made for a reasonable penalty shout for Cavalry, as Sutter flattened Pasquotti through the chest with a leap and a high knee, but after conversation with his assistant it wasn’t enough for the referee to decide on a PK.
A reasonable if not unspectacular night came to an end for Reyna in the 70th minute, as Lucas Venuto entered the pitch, right before a free kick earned by Montero nearly found the head of Henry just outside the six.
After a number of lengthy throws from Pasquotti helped bury the Whitecaps deep, a fast paced breakout allowed for Venuto to launch a ball into the path of PC, who’s shot stayed wide of the near post:
Cavalry continued to mount its pressure on the Vancouver backline, who defended well enough, but could never find a way to consistently maintain the possession the club enjoyed in the first half.
Joaquin Ardaiz, returning from a hamstring injury, found a strong run early in his shift, after replacing Montero in the 76th, but he too could not success in the final third, being dispossessed at the top of the box when trying to play Venuto through.
A glut of late action all came in front of the Whitecaps’ net, first as Zator nearly netted on a just-wide header, moments before a lunging Henry conceded another corner, blocking a low Pasquotti shot.
One giveaway after another for the Whitecaps nearly proved fateful in the 89th minute, as Crepeau was able to rise and push wide a long, curling effort from Escalante.
DO IT JOSE— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) July 11, 2019
@joseescalante20 shot pushed away
@CPLCavalryFC seriously putting @WhitecapsFC under heat tonight at Spruce Meadows!
▶️ https://t.co/hishXepRT3 | #CanChampxOneSoccer pic.twitter.com/5YeRsJE0Yc
I tell ya, if it wasn’t for Crepeau, this season would look a hell of a lot worse.
Despite the decidedly one-way play late in the match, a last gasp run down the pitch for the Whitecaps nearly resulted in an important away goal.
After having drawn a free kick outside the right side of the Cavalry penalty area, Rose was the beneficiary of the ensuing dead ball, going unmarked and rising well to meet the cross, only to head well over the net just before the whistle blew.
On its face, you would think an MLS side would have drawn a better result from a club in a newly formed league, and a roster of players who at one time or another, in one way or another, have been limited to the fringes of the MLS without any respective professional breakthroughs.
Ah, but this is the 2019 Vancouver Whitecaps they were up against, proving that their inability to pass into the penalty area of an opposing side can be achieved at any level of soccer.
In fairness, Cavalry FC are a strong side; they won the CPL’s “apertura” afterall, and you could argue that maybe the Whitecaps took them for granted. But given how strong the starting eleven appeared to be for Vancouver, it’s their continued inability to break down an opposing defense that’s held the club to a draw in the first leg of their Canadian Championship semi-final.