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Thanksgiving Report Card: Whitecaps Thankful for Another Win vs. RSL

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Which Whitecaps players earned a passing grade in the victory over RSL?

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back everyone, and I hope that you’re having/had a nice thanksgiving weekend.

After four straight losses, the Vancouver Whitecaps got themselves back in the winning column on Saturday night with another 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake. With the victory, the Whitecaps are only one point out of a playoff spot (but it’s really two points because the Rapids have four games in hand due to covid).

Regardless, Real Salt Lake has given the Whitecaps a shot of life in an otherwise very poor series of matches, although I’ll admit it’s quite difficult to evaluate how much stock can be put in this victory. Sure, the Whitecaps managed to win a match without a player on the other team being sent off for once, but realistically, it was still a very poorly played match from both teams. Passing percentages were below 80% for both sides, and there were 42 combined fouls. Long story short, I think it’s likely they’ll be another rude awakening when the Whitecaps face LAFC.

But enough about my thoughts on the match overall, how did the players stack up?

Evan Bush (6.0) - There was little Bush could have done about the lone goal against, and otherwise he looked solid. Hopefully he didn’t pick up anything serious from those collisions. It’s obvious he’s the starter going forwards.

Jake Nerwinski (6.5) - The New Jersey native continues to churn in solid performances. He was very active up and down the right side of the pitch and got stuck in defensively with a few key interventions. You’d still like to see more in attack from Jake, but maybe that’s something he can show more often if the team improves.

Ranko Veselinovic (4.5) - Other than the glaring error, Ranko’s stats for this match looked pretty good. He passed at a rate of 90% and stretched the field on occasion completing 6 of his 9 long balls. Unfortunately, the way he completed switched off on the goal against is unforgivable. Just two starts away from having his purchase option picked up, what would you like to see the Whitecaps do?

Erik Godoy (7.0) - Every match back now I’m reminded why the Whitecaps missed Godoy as much as they did. Statistically he might not stand out that much over his fellow Whitecaps centrebacks, but he brings a calming presence and sturdiness that the team has missed on many occasions. He’s also got underrated attacking qualities, he registered a key pass in this one, and also helped create the RSL own goal.

Ali Adnan (5.5) - I mean credit to Adnan for playing in the cross which eventually led to the winning goal, even though it went straight to a defender. What’s nice about Adnan is that his qualities force the other team to prepare for him, and often compensate on the left side of the pitch. What’s not so great is that he’s consistently the Whitecaps’ top turnover machine (18 in this one), and doesn’t offer a lot when he’s not creating going forwards.

Russell Teibert (5.0) - Ali is at least somewhat to blame for Teibert’s lack of involvement in this one. He only had 25 touches, and realistically has no business playing on the wing. Playing someone just to cover for Ali when he charges forward doesn’t seem like a great idea, and hasn’t really worked this season.

Leonard Owusu (4.5) - Man, I really want Owusu to be good but it’s a struggle right now. He’s had trouble retaining possession recently, and has looked a bit frazzled in the middle of the park. While he continually pumps out decent passing rates (85% in this one), his crucial passes and forward balls are most often off target.

Janio Bikel (6.5) - Bikel needs to keep his arms down on 50/50 challenges but other than that, I thought it was a good showing from him. He’s the best defensive midfielder the Whitecaps have, and I maintain that pairing him alongside Baldi in a 4-2-3-1 is the Whitecaps’ best bet. His passing does need some work, but I think he’s got more quality in that department than he’s showing right now.

Cristian Dajome (5.5) - Dajome worked his tail off in this one, but didn’t see many fruits of his labour. He only won 5 of his 16 ground duels and was dribbled past 3 times, but he also has a key pass as well as three tackles. The 4-4-2 hurts Dajome’s effectiveness in my view, and as a result, his final product in and around the box has suffered.

Lucas Cavallini (6.5) - I’m going to quote Caleb here because I think it fits perfectly:

“Cavallini is good at getting into dangerous scoring areas and winning physical battles. He is not good at dribbling or passing.” That pretty much sums up his performance. His goal and aerial work was good, the rest, not so much.

Fredy Montero (6.5) - Montero is the Whitecaps’ best (and perhaps only) creator when Michael Baldisimo isn’t on the park. Sure he has his limitations at this point, his movement isn’t great, and he’s not very good at set pieces, but if you’re the Whitecaps, you have to do everything you can to extend this guy for another season right?

He had 2 key passes in this one, and completed 2 crosses as well as 4 long balls.

Michael Baldisimo (SUB - 9.0) - Baldi changed the game when he came on in the 66th, and unless there are fitness concerns, there’s absolutely no reason he shouldn’t have started. To put it in simple terms, he created both goals. His quality set piece delivery put RSL defenders in a difficult position on the own goal, and his wonderful through ball down the left side helped unlock Ali Adnan on the winner.

Baldi is the only Whitecaps midfielder who plays effective line-breaking passes right now - and if that’s not enough for him to be a focal point within this team, then I don’t know what is.

Ryan Raposo, Derek Cornelius & Tosaint Ricketts (SUB - No Grade)

Even Ryan Raposo (who saw 20+ minutes of action) only had three touches as the Whitecaps parked the bus down the stretch. Cornelius was solid and Tos did some running, I’m not sure what else to say really.

Marc Dos Santos (5.5) - Credit to MDS’ side for earning three points, but this is far from the best match they’ve played, even recently. Marc even alluded to this in his post match presser:

“I feel the game against Portland here, our chances were clearer and although we weren’t able to score them then, here today we were able to score them.”

My worry coming out of this match was that the Whitecaps would think they had fixed all their problems which had led to a four game slide, but it’s good to see that expectations appear to be set at a realistic level. The Whitecaps will have to be sharper defensively and produce more than a couple moments of magic if they want to hang with LAFC on Wednesday.