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Late Felipe goal sees Whitecaps take all three points against FC Cincinnati

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Wait, it is possible to win?

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A late strike from Felipe lifted the Caps to victory in their first-ever meeting with expansion side FC Cincinnati Saturday night at Nippert Stadium.

While Vancouver looked typically lost offensively, they roared back to life shortly before half time with a great long range strike from In-Beom. Despite parking the bus in the final 20 minutes, the Caps strung together a lively counter, capitalized on a FCC defensive lapse and Felipe put them to the sword.

Marc dos Santos, without any true winger due to the departure of Lucas Venuto and Lass Bangoura, elected to stick with the triangle-like 4-3-2-1 formation from last week. Joaquin Ardaiz led the charge up front, with Theo Bair and Fredy Montero in attacking midfielder-like roles. Russell Teibert, Hwang In-Beom and Felipe Martins slotted into the midfield. Injury forced Doneil Henry to sit in favor of Derek Cornelius, who paired with the usual suspects Ali Adnan, Erik Godoy and Jake Nerwinski in defense.

On the other side of the pitch were former Whitecaps Kendall Waston and Darron Mattocks (Kekuta Manneh also made a cameo sub appearance), with the relationship between the two clubs gaining no shortage of media attention this week. Former Whitecaps youth product Spencer Richey has started most of FCC’s matches but missed out Saturday due to injury.

It didn’t take long for the Caps to go down 1-0, as another defensive calamity bit them early. Mathieu DePlaigne latched onto a free pass that deflected into his path and sent in a cross intended for Mattocks. The Jamaican whiffed on the header but Godoy also whiffed on marking midfielder Alan Cruz, who slotted it by a helpless Max Crepeau. There were other defensive problems here as well but the end result was the same: Whitecaps down 1-0 early.

FCC held the majority of possession in the first 20 minutes or so but I thought the Caps actually did a decent job of moving the ball through the midfield. The breakdown came, as it so often does, towards the final third, where the Caps were lifeless. Fredy Montero especially was letting down his strike partner Ardaiz routinely with poor passes and giveaways.

The Caps gradually settled into more possession, although the final product was almost always left wanting. They got a couple licks in, including a header from Theo Bair and a long range shot from Montero that dipped and swerved, forcing Przemysław Tytoń into a save.

It was a stroke of magic that equalized for the Caps in the 42nd minute, however. A long range free kick was headed out of the box but fell perfectly for a charging In-Beom, who walloped it by Tyton, as the keeper had trouble seeing it due to the quantity of players in the box. It was still an excellent goal from In-Beom and came at the perfect time to get Vancouver some momentum ahead of half time.

The start of the second half nearly brought disaster for the Caps. Cruz fired one time from the right-hand corner of the box and it was rocketing towards the upper 90 but for the hand of Crepeau, who pushed it off the bar.

It was Crepeau who was then nearly busted for a rare error, when DePlaigne launched an ambitious volley which nearly caught Crepeau off his line. Max was saved, as the ball hit the top of the upright but it was another let off from the Caps for which they were nearly punished.

Moments later, it was the Caps who nearly benefited from a sleeping keeper. After a perfectly executed press, the Caps forced a turnover and an Ali Adnan rocket was just barely tipped away by Tyton. Unfortunately, Vancouver was subsequently forced to make a defensive sub with few attacking options on the bench, bringing on Brett Levis for Ardaiz in the 68th minute.

FCC should have had a go ahead goal after Crepeau could only push away a Roland Lamah shot but it skipped by Mattocks on the far post and Levis was able to steer it out for a corner. He then proceeded to sky another shot less than five minutes later from close range. It was the peak Darren Mattocks that Whitecaps’ fans will remember well.

After conceding these chances, MDS elected to really drop deeper and tighten up the organization. That paid off in a big way in the 84th minute after great build up and a searching long ball from Adnan found Teibert, who squared it for Felipe.

The Brazilian made no mistake in pushing it by a late-arriving Tyton. It was a Caps-like defensive let off from Cinci and against the run of play but no complaints here.

After the ecstasy of the late goal, it was anxiety soon after. FC Cincy won a free kick and Ledeasma surprised everyone by going for goal rather than sending in a cross, catching Crepeau sleeping. The ball whipped just a bit too much and hit off the base of the upright and out of play. Fortunately, despite a late free kick, this was the closest the home side came to scoring in the late stages and the Caps held on for all three points.

Notes

  • Felipe scoring the winner, out of the mouths of babes.
  • Ali Adnan did little to silence the “Adnan sucks because he can’t play defense” crowd with his performance Saturday. I think a more competent midfield would help his cause but it was admittedly a poor giveaway that led to Cincinnati’s first goal. Thought he put in a decent shift after that though and his offensive capabilities were a real asset (see: the game winning move).
  • If I had a shot for every turnover made by Fredy Montero, I would’ve been too drunk to write this … in the 20th minute.
  • Speaking of which, Hwang has really quietly turned things around despite a) running on fumes, b) being the primary focal point of the Caps’ midfield for opposing teams and c) having basically no help. His goal against Cavalry will quickly be forgotten but the long range goal tonight won’t be. His passing has improved too after bottoming out in the middle of the season.
  • The Caps had a decent amount of success moving the ball through the center of the park which is why it was mystifying why they kept pushing it out to the flanks. FC Cinci picked up on this strategy early and had the center backs covering, making it hard for Ali Adnan and Theo Bair to have space to create. They moved a bit away from this in the second half and incidentally that is when they were most successful offensively.
  • I thought Nerwinski was excellent today, really working hard defensively. There were times when you wished he had an extra gear of pace and a little more desire to take on defenders but he was a steady hand in carrying the ball forward when things were a bit erratic in the first half.
  • Ardaiz didn’t get a lot of help from guys like Montero but woof. Wouldn’t have killed him to track back and defend a bit either, would it?
  • It wasn’t pretty but hey, at this point I forgot what it was like to win a match so I’ll take it!