What a difference 24 days can make.
Simply put, the Vancouver Whitecaps’ 2-1 victory over Los Angeles Football Club on Wednesday night was a jarring result in comparison to the 6-0 throttling we all witnessed just under a month ago. Sure, it wasn’t LAFC’s best team as injuries and international duty substantially weakened the roster, but it was still a very similar lineup to the one that beat top-seeded Seattle on the weekend.
Perhaps the most notable difference in this one was the midfield, as Janio Bikel and Leonard Owusu worked their absolute bags off, especially in the first half, and eased some of the anxieties I had about a two man midfield going into the match. I still have a minor qualm with how long Marc Dos Santos took to introduce Michael Baldisimo, but that gripe can probably be saved for another day. Both Bikel and Owusu were defensively sturdy throughout this one, and inside the opening thirty minutes, Owusu’s passing was spectacular: more along the lines of what we were hoping (and expecting) to see from him this year.
Higher up the pitch, Cristian Dajome joined the attacking party of Montero and Cavallini. While both frontmen have been notable recently, adding Dajome into the mix really made the Whitecaps’ attack look dynamic. Dajome helped link Bikel and Owusu with the two strikers, leading to both Vancouver Whitecaps goals.
The Whitecaps’ first marker was likely the best team goal I’ve seen from the club in a very long time. From the unlocking ball by Bikel, to Dajome’s deft give and go with Fredy, all the way to Cavallini’s composed finish - it was terrific to watch, and one I’ll be watching on replay for the rest of this week at least.
The second Whitecaps goal was perhaps a bit simpler, and LAFC’s defending inside the box could definitely be questioned. But again, the club’s buildup through Dajome, Montero and Cavallini was impressive.
The Whitecaps didn’t close the match with the same fire and dynamism that they opened it, and some of LAFC’s young substitutes put the Whitecaps under pressure. This pressure culminated in several handball shouts and eventually a VAR review which led to a penalty call.
It was unfortunate to see the Whitecaps concede here, but you knew that LAFC was not going to go away without a fight, and overall, the Whitecaps defended well in the final stages.
In particular, I thought that Jake Nerwinski and Ranko Veselinovic gave good accounts of themselves. It was especially nice to see Ranko bounce back from a tough moment against RSL. Regardless of what you think about the purchase option, he’s an important player for the Caps this season, and they’ll need some solid form from him if they’re going to mount a prolonged playoff push. Erik Godoy also deserves a shout, and it’s only because he’s been so reliable and consistent since returning to the centreback position that I left him out of my primary defensive thoughts.
Overall, this a tremendous building block for a young Whitecaps roster. They are now 4-0 against teams other than Portland at Providence Park this season, and fortunately for them, they only have to leave the friendly confines once more during the regular season: next up at LA Galaxy this weekend.
It’s only one match, and realistically it was only 60ish minutes of top-tier play, but that 60 minutes was some of the best football we’ve seen since the preseason, high praise! In short, I’m left feeling significantly more confident about this 2-1 win than the last one. But what did you think? Let me know in the comments!