The Whitecaps’ search for answers will only intensify after a 4-0 defeat to New England Revolution in Foxboro Wednesday, with a hapless first half giving way to a torrent of goals from the red hot Revs in the second 45 minutes.
New England was perhaps the worst possible opponent for Vancouver to play, with the Revs unbeaten under new manager Bruce Arena and trotting out their shiny new DP signing Gustavo Bou, who tallied the game winning goal in first half stoppage time.
Given the cross country travel involved in this match, Marc dos Santos made a few tweaks to the lineup. In a rather strange move, Max Crepeau was chosen to make the cross country journey after sitting at home against Sporting Kansas City. MDS returned to a back four of Scott Sutter, who replaced a suspended Ali Adnan, Derek Cornelius, Erik Godoy and Jake Nerwinski. Andy Rose was slotted back in his natural deep midfield role, alongside Russell Teibert and Hwang In-Beom. And Theo Bair made his second straight start, as MDS is apparently looking to the future. The youngster slotted in between Lucas Venuto and Yordy Reyna.
It was familiar territory for the Caps following a brief weather delay, with New England on the front foot from the get go. A turnover deep in Caps territory gave the Revs an early chance, with the ball switched across the Brandon Bye. Bye dominated the right hand side of the pitch in the first half but his deflected cross was just out of the reach of Teal Bunbury, negating the opportunity.
Bye nearly had a goal of his own in the 15 minute, playing a lovely Andrew Farrell through ball off the chest and hitting it off the volley, only to be denied by the upright.
The distressing part of the first half was not necessarily the poor possession numbers but more how the Caps conceded possession: abysmal passing. The first half pass accuracy was 69 percent and it almost seemed worse, with the Caps unable to take advantage of the few attacking opportunities they created for themselves going forward. Passing was sloppy, runs were sloppy and virtually no player was immune.
The only thing that kept the match at 0-0 was some desperate defending and a magnificent double save from Max Crepeau. Carlos Gil was not properly closed down on the left edge of the box and launched a long distance shot that was well placed, forcing a diving save. Unfortunately, Max palmed the ball right into the path of Juan Fernando Caicedo but was able to recover to halt the putback and keep the match scoreless.
The Revs broke the deadlock, however, in spectacular fashion. Roberto Saviga allowed the Revs to take a corner on the stroke of halftime and Gustavo Bou latched onto the cross at the top of a box with a sensational volley that rocketed past Maxime Crepeau. It was a surefire goal of the week contender and, unlike virtually every other chance the Caps conceded in the first 45, it was tough to assign blame. The first half ended with a deserved 1-0 league for the Revs.
The second half saw much better defensive organization from the Caps and that discipline brought them their first real offensive opportunity. In-Beom launched a terrific long ball forward, which Venuto ran onto and quickly found Bair in the box. Using his large physical frame, Bair secured the pass and flicked a deft shot, with only an unlucky bounce off the upright denying him his first MLS goal. Still, a marginal sign of improvement from Vancouver, with Venuto and Bair nearly linking up again moments later.
The match evened out in the second half, with the Caps actually having slightly more possession. MDS elected to bring on Lass Bangoura, fresh off AFCON duty for Guinea, to replace Russell Teibert and crank up the attacking heat. Fredy Montero also made an appearance, replacing Theo Bair with a more experienced forward.
The Revs continued to give the Caps problems, with a pair of free kicks from Bao and Carles Gill really testing Crepeau. The best of those chances was a counter in the 76th minute, when a misplaced Venuto pass resulted in Cristian Penilla 1v1 with Crepeau but the shot was right at him and there were no other Revs around to pounce on the rebound.
The dithering around eventually cost the away team, with Diego Fagundez coming off the bench to head home an inch perfect Penilla cross where Godoy and Cornelius were both caught ball watching. It will be hard to argue the goal wasn’t meritted but Vancouver will be frustrated that they weren’t able to turn improvement in the second half into a goal.
Everything went wrong for Vancouver at this point, with Gill adding a third from distance with a purely struck shot that PC Giro, who replaced Venuto, was too slow to close down.
The real exclamation point came in stoppage time, when Penilla found Teal Bunbury, who beat the offside trap, pulled Crepeau off his line and eventually slotted it home to make it 4-0, which would be the final score.
- Brandon Bye bossing Scott Sutter on the right hand side in the first half really should have produced at least one goal for the Revs and if Bye actually could have managed to hit an accurate cross, it might have been multiple. There were some adjustments as the match went on but this was the canary in the coal mine early that this was going to be a stinker of a defensive effort.
- I criticized Jon Erice after the LAFC (and largely stand by that criticism) but there is no doubt his ability to manage the midfield and serve as a defensive stop gap was sorely missing here. Andy Rose just doesn’t have the savvy (or the short passing, quite frankly) to facilitate building up out of the back and his defensive contributions paled in comparison to what the Spaniard usually offers.
- It was really hard to tell where Theo Bair falls in terms of his development when he got such little support but I think this match was a sign that he doesn’t always quite know what to do with the ball when it comes to him. That’s not a big problem—he hasn’t gotten that many minutes! But I think it does show where his weakness (unsurprisingly) lies: his physical skills are very much ready for prime time but he needs more minutes to develop his passing, timing and decision making. I liked what Bair offered and I think this match should be a pretty compelling argument for getting him more matches, not fewer.
- Its effect on the match was negligible but PC for Venuto will never be a sub I will understand when you’re down a goal.
- In-Beom had flashes of the player we saw who utterly dominated in the first few games of this year but unfortunately he also was guilty of as many misplaced passes as everyone. His inconsistency has largely been do to a weak midfield surrounding him but I don’t think there is anyone on the team who can wait for the offseason more than Hwang given how much he has played in the past year for club and country. A reset will benefit the South Korean international greatly methinks.
- Death, taxes and out of town announcers confusing Lass and Reyna.
- So on one hand that was another pretty poor performance. On the other, the second half was much improved and I think the scoreline flatters New England in the sense that they were quite lax defensively in the second 45 and a more clinical team would have taken advantage. Unfortunately that term does not describe the 2019 Whitecaps and despite the best efforts of Venuto and Bair they couldn’t do much about it. It should also be said that this is a team that has a horrendous habbit of switching off in a major way when things start going south and that’s basically why the scoreline got as lopsided as it did. I don’t know that this match was ever going to tell us much about this team one way or the other given the travel involved and the searing form of New England. But it will only serve to fuel the deserved frustration of Caps fans everywhere.