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Whitecaps, Dos Santos | Still Looking for Answers

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As frustration builds, the Vancouver Whitecaps lost their fifth straight MLS match to the San Jose Earthquakes at BC Place.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Vancouver Whitecaps fell to the San Jose Earthquakes by a score of 3-1 on Saturday night at BC Place Stadium. In the depth of perhaps one of their worst spells in MLS history, Marc Dos Santos’ side has lost five straight matches in league play and conceded an astounding 3.4 goals per game over that span. To compound the issue, there looks to be little hope in sight this season as the prospect of new signings this window looks unlikely, and it’s really hard to make a case for this current roster mounting a charge towards the now almost complete impossibility which is the MLS playoffs. All that being said, for those who missed the match, or perhaps wisely decided to tune out early, here’s how it all went down.

Despite the Whitecaps’ momentus scoring woes as of late, they got off to a hot start in this one. Doneil Henry got the Whitecaps on the board in the 8th minute when he found himself picking up the scraps of an aerial Yordy Reyna free kick. Henry showed impressive striker like composure as he won the ball and drove it into the bottom corner of the net. It was Doneil’s third goal of the season, a career high for the Canadian International in what was also his 100th MLS appearance. It was also the first goal in three games for the Whitecaps (oof).

Unfortunately for the Whitecaps, their success was relatively short-lived. After a sloppy bout of possession, the Caps left far too much space for Espinosa on the flank and he drove in a ball low which Crepeau failed to handle. Ultimately, the combination of lackadaisical defending and sub-optimal handling from Crepeau left the Quakes’ midifieder Vako (Valeri Qazaishvili) with an empty frame which he easily hit. With just 16 minutes played, the match was tied by a score of 1-1.

Later in the first half, soon after Max Crepeau had denied the Quakes’ Vako at point blank range, the Georgian standout earned his second goal of the game in the 34th, giving San Jose the lead by 2 goals to 1. In a wild sequence, Vako smashed a shot off the bar which ricocheted off the back of Crepeau’s head before eventually finding the back of the net. Initially, it looked as though Crepeau might have kept the ball off the line, but it wouldn’t have mattered anyways, as Chris Wondolowski slotted home the rebound. (EDIT - while the goal was initially credited to Vako, the goal was eventually credited to Wondolowski on the rebound, making it his 12th career goal against the Whitecaps. To be honest, it looked to me like it should have been an OG, but who knows at this point.)

At half-time, the Whitecaps found themselves down a goal and looking like the much weaker side overall. Although the possession and passing stats weren’t terribly lopsided, the Caps had offered little other than their early set piece goal. Perhaps the most telling statistic at halftime was the total shots, where the Whitecaps were outshot by the Quakes 15 to 3.

Other than an early potential handball shout against Doneil Henry, very little happened to open up the second half. Looking to ignite an attacking spark in his team, Marc Dos Santos made his first substitution of the match in the 62nd minute - bringing on Joaquin Ardaiz for Lass Bangoura. This was an interesting substitution, both in the sense that Joaquin has not been a man in favour with MDS throughout much of the season, but also because it left the Whitecaps with practically no wide attacking options on the pitch.

The substitution had little impact early on, as the Quakes continued to circle around the Whitecaps’ box and it felt as though a 3rd goal was surely coming on for San Jose. Perhaps sensing this, MDS made his second substitution in the 70th minute, as Russell Teibert was replaced by Felipe centrally, and Hwang In-Beom moved out to the left side.

One of the Whitecaps’ better chances of the night came in the 75th minute when Ardaiz created some space for himself just outside the box. Ultimately, the Uruguayan could only manage to sky a shot into the cheap seats. I’m desperately waiting to see what Ardaiz’s goal celebration is going to look like - I hope I get to see it at some point.

The Caps made their final substitution in the 75th minute as young Theo Bair came on to replace Montero at Striker. In the 80th minute, a major point of contention came about as San Jose finally found the third goal they had threatened to score for so long. Although Magnus Eriksson did well to get on the end of a nice series of build up passing, it appeared as though Eriksson may have handled the ball earlier in the sequence of play.

Despite the Whitecaps’ consternation, the goal stood, and the Caps found themselves in an somewhat unfortunate, albeit deserved, 3-1 hole late on. After the third San Jose goal, there was a rather noticeable chant from the supporters section, and even us writers faced some abuse. Safe to say that the pitchforks are out and here to stay in Vancouver.

The match ended with the Whitecaps holding just 40% of the possession, passing at a rate of just 78% and having been outshot by a gobsmacking 32 to 6, something which has become standard practice for the Caps as of late.

In a match which was thoroughly underwhelming in almost all aspects, I thought one bright spot was the re-insertion of Jon Erice into the lineup. The Spanish midfielder had a 90% passing rate, as well as three successful long balls, four blocked shots and three interceptions. There are plenty of problems with this Whitecaps squad, but I don’t think Erice is one of them.

The Whitecaps focus must now sternly shift to their Canadian Championship match with Cavalry FC on Wednesday. If the team fails to advance on Wednesday night, there’s an argument to be made that the Whitecaps season is as good as over. Unless something changes soon, it’s going to be hard to find storylines as this season winds to a close. Here’s to hoping we have something fun to talk about soon. In the meantime, I’m ready to embrace the chaos.

As always, let me know your thoughts on the match, as well as all things Whitecaps!