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Whitecaps Thrashed 3-0 By Sporting KC

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With a declaration from Derek Cornelius heading into the weekend, that “we need three points now,” which was echoed by his Head Coach, the Whitecaps fell well short of that with a 3-0 reverse at the hands of Sporting KC.

MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It didn’t go the way the ‘Caps needed it to tonight, and in truth, it wasn’t close. Marc Dos Santos begrudged their first half, opening his press conference saying “that I have to apologise to the fans for the first half. I think that’s where the game happened. It was very sloppy, lack of intensity, lack of willingness mentally... for a game that had so much importance for us.”

There were numerous early chances for Sporting, as Graham Zusi challenged Zac MacMath at his near post from a free kick. MacMath deflected that effort behind, but rather uncharacteristically, Ali Adnan’s duel with Gerso Fernandes kept going the way of the Guinean winger.

In the 24’ minute Fernandes opened the scoring - though not officially as it went down as an Ali Adnan own goal - in the second wave of a corner kick for Sporting. He picked the ball up on the left hand flank before darting towards the touch line and cutting the ball back onto his left foot. Gerso’s cross/shot attempt looked to be heading in at the far post and Adnan’s last ditch attempt to keep it out only knocked the ball in to make it 1-0 for the visitors.

While the Whitecaps started the second half brightly, just 10 minutes after the restart, a giveaway in midfield lead to a half chance for Felipe Guittierez who beat Zac MacMath with a low shot from 25 yards. Debate as you may like as to whether Mazime Crepeau would have made that save or not, the ‘Caps were down 2-0 and showing no signs of fighting their way into the game.

On Crepeau and MacMath, MDS opened up about the decision to go with MacMath ahead of the now fan favourite Canadian between the sticks. Dos Santos told media that he and the coaching staff had been looking at the run of games between here and the end of August, noting that “we were looking at where’s the best time right now to rotate before Max gets a big stretch, and, this was the time for us in our cycle. It’s tough for a goalkeeper to play 15 games in two months and we don’t want to get nobody injured. So, that was the thought behind it, Zac showed in other games that he could do the job, and I trust Zac and I think he has abilities to do well in this league.”

Whether Crepeau would have made a difference on the night was likely a moot point, as Gerso banged in a loose ball in almost the 90’ minute to kill the game and prompt boos from the 18,700 in attendance at BC Place.

It was ugly, and perhaps that’s even an understatement. The repeated inability of the Whitecaps to score from open play was highlighted again on the evening as Yordy Reyna’s free kick that was deflected off the post was the closest the ‘Caps came to finding the net.

By the numbers, the ‘Caps lost the possession battle at home, 43.7% to Sporting’s 56.3%. They were also out shot 13 to 20, and out passed 322 to 456. Where it was once a tough place to come and play for opposition - certainly through the first 12 games of the season - the Whitecaps are now struggling to keep games in touch, being outscored 10-1 over their last four.

The answers just aren’t there right now for this rendition of the Vancouver Whitecaps. At the end of the match, head coach Marc Dos Santos admitted “at this stage right now we’re a little bit fragile. We’re in a position that now every time the opponent scores it looks heavy, and we need to grow at that.”

That weight was pretty clear in Doneil Henry during his post match presser. Every defender is going to be downtrodden after a 3-0 loss, but when asked how this team is going to start to keep clean sheets again, Doneil answered somberly.

“It’s tough, because the defence has done really well. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s tough, I don’t know. I don’t want to make any excuses for why or what’s going on. But when you’re playing in a team that’s not doing as well as we want to be doing, it’s really easy to point the finger. But as a club, we’re not doing well. I think it’s kind of harsh to just say that the defense as of late has been doing poorly; as a team we’ve been doing poorly, and that needs to change.”

While Dos Santos defended his players, particularly Andy Rose after he was beaten for the first goal of the night, Dos Santos said that “in Portugal, we have a great saying, it’s tough to be the matador when the bull comes out, it’s easy to be in the stands and say, ‘oh, the matador should have done this, done that.”

While the spectators, myself included, can always say that the coaching decisions and execution of a game plan fell short, sometimes we have to consider that the coaching staff and the team are looking at a bigger picture.

One of the few bright spots was the debut of Theo Bair, who showed the strength of his frame in the middle of the park holding the ball well as a true target man, Bair also went close from a chance midway through the second half as he picked up a deflected cross and quickly fired a low shot with his weaker left foot that beat Tim Melia, but also beat the left hand post.

Bair has shown promise in the academy level, and it is nice to see him getting a run out in the team. There were a few soft calls that went against Bair, in particular, one where a ball over the top from Hwang In-Beom fell goal side of Bair and Botond Barath, however as the Ottawa born Bair used his arms to hold off the challenge from Barath, he was adjudged to have fouled the Sporting KC man. As Bair himself put it, “it’s been that way my whole life, every time that I touch someone, they usually fall so it is just something I need to adjust to, maybe pull up a little bit.”

It’s quick turnaround after quick turnaround from here, and while we can pretty safely expect to see Maxime Crepeau starting against New England on Wednesday, the answers of how this team is going to find goals from open play will still loom over whatever line-up Dos Santos fields in Boston.

Whether you want to say the matador should have played Crepeau, or if the matador should be focused on winning the game at hand as opposed to the stretch of a ‘potential’ 15 games over the next 7 weeks is another thing altogether.

“I think we have to come back to what we want to look like... because of the pieces we have right now, we’re changing a lot from the 4-3-3 to the 3-5-2, and if you look at the beginning of the year or in the first 12 games, I would say when we looked more solid defensively there was habits that were kind of getting into the team,” concluded Dos Santos. While I’m hoping he’s mildly alluding to some incoming transfer business, right now when you look at this team on paper, there just don’t seem to be the pieces to right the ship.

Whatever he chooses to do against the bull that is the upcoming schedule, the pressure certainly seems to be mounting on Dos Santos and his team as the responses from Doneil Henry emphasized. The ‘Caps know they’re falling out of the playoff race even in July, and they need to find some points soon if they’re going to have any chance at playing the big games in October.