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Report Card: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Seattle Sounders

Early Promise Falls Flat in the Emerald City

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Whitecaps showed a surprisingly good defensive performance in the first half of their game against Cascadia rivals Seattle Sounders, maybe giving hope that what was seen in previous performances wasn’t going to be the norm. The game did not stop there though, and the second half demonstrated how easy it is to unlock the Vancouver outfit. Here are the ratings of the individual players below.

Bryan Meredith: 4.0

In the first half, Bryan Meredith looked sharp, unwilling to let the early goal mistakes of the previous games haunt him, and he saved a couple of dangerous looking shots while also throwing his body into position on the shots that went just wide. The second half though, was more like what was seen in previous games from the American keeper, letting in three shots, some of which he could have got a hand to. It’ll be interesting to see how early Evan Bush begins to don the gloves for this side, or whether it’ll even make a difference.

Ali Adnan: 4.0

Ali Adnan played more reserved, with less runs up the field, allowing his teammates to make their own attacking runs while also absorbing Seattle’s dynamic attacks. It was a change of pace compared to many times where the defense would be left exposed due to his bombs forwards. Later in the game as the Whitecaps began to leak goals, Adnan went back to his lax ways of defending, exposing the underbelly that was the ‘Caps’ spotty defense.

Derek Cornelius: 4.0

Cornelius had a pretty solid half for himself, nothing too flashy or extraordinary, but did his job in the first as the Whitecaps went goalless into the half. Something happened in that half time team talk, or maybe it could just have been the momentum being lost by Vancouver, but the defenders lost all of their promise just a couple of seconds after coming back onto the field. Cornelius was not as visible or effect as he usually finds himself being this match, so it didn’t seem like he made much of an impact at all. It would have been a serviceable display if the game remained scoreless, but the defenders need to step out of the shadows once the team goes down, and it didn’t seem like anyone did on the night.

Erik Godoy: 4.5

Erik Godoy took the brunt of the defensive work himself, showing why Marc Dos Santos chose to take on the Argentinian project. It’s even more baffling to think that he wasn’t utilized at this position earlier, as at his best, he is an agile and acrobatic defender with a big presence that would be wasted on the flank. Yes, his own goal dug the Whitecaps into a bigger hole than they needed to be in, but take his performance in a vacuum and with some better pieces around him he could be a genuine stalwart.

Jake Nerwinski: 4.0

A standard Nerwinski affair, he made attacking runs and created a lot of chances for Dajome while also tracking back to defend on the counters. These didn’t bear any fruit, and what seemed to be a promising affair didn’t amount to anything, event with the change of personnel. While in defensively poor performances by the Whitecaps, most of the goals seem to come from the right flank, in Seattle, this was not the case, so in ways that is something to take away from Nerwinski’s performance.

David Milinkovic: 4.0

David Milinkovic had an average game, not much to say. He made his usual attacking runs and looked positive, but did not offer enough creativity or spark to bring something good for the Whitecaps. It was a little disappointing to see him taken off so early in the second half, but for a breath of fresh air in terms of ideas putting giving a young attacker minutes could be rewarded with unexpected performances.

Janio Bikel: 3.0

Making a couple of effective passes early in the game, Bikel mostly found himself giving the ball as much and received the first yellow card of the game. The promise shown by those passes, was rewarded with a straight red in the second half after a unnecessary tackle that ended with Bikel’s foot in the midriff of a Seattle player. It was a careless tackle, done in clear view of the referee and killed any momentum that the Whitecaps had following Montero’s penalty goal. He was by far the worst performing player on the field on the night and leaves Marc Dos Santos with many more questions about who to put in midfield going forwards.

Andy Rose: 3.0

Mostly anonymous in midfield, Andy Rose sacrificed possession in the middle of the park for some extra defensive solidity. Unfortunately, as has been clear in previous games, defense is not Rose’s strong suit. Although the first half ended scoreless, the second had three goals scored in succession, with the third coming from a header that could have been covered by rose. It would be a dreadful performance from a defender, but Rose came on as a midfielder, and neglected his position to play another terribly. It was not a surprise to see his number on the board as he was one of the first two players subbed. From the get go, Rose never looked to be a lock for the first team, and it was surprising to see him be one of the few players kept in the transition from last season, but performances like this don’t inspire reasons to pick up the option for an extra season from Rose.

Fredy Montero: 6.0

The arguable best player on the field, it is still maddening to think that Fredy wasn’t played more earlier in the season. Although he started up at striker, his role in the game was more of a facilitator, finding players with surprisingly sharp passes from deep in the field. DP signing he is not, but he is playing his role especially well, and his efforts seem to be one of the highest on the team. Whether he’s playing for a contract from here or another team is yet to be seen, but the potential for Fredy to succeed in this new role is definitely there. Not to mention, having someone to actually score penalties is a big plus.

Cristian Dajome: 3.5

Dajome was more visible than his left flanking counterpart, so it is more telling that his production was equal to that of his partner. A lot of balls seemed to go Dajome’s way, but he was not able to take advantage of it, even with the aforementioned service of Fredy Montero and Jake Nerwinski. From the Whitecaps’ positive attacking onset in the first half, the lack of production from Dajome on the wings hurt the team massively, and he looked lost many times in game.

Lucas Cavallini: 3.5

Oh Lucas. I am a fan of the Canadian striker and his play style, since his bite is something that the Whitecaps and Canada have been lacking but tonight did not do the DP striker any favors. In fair objectivity, Cavallini has been disappointing this season, being outshined by an aging MLS veteran that was rotational for last and this year, and his performances leave a lot to be desired. Some could say that it is due to lack of support for him on the team, but Fredy gave Cavallini many great passes yesterday, and aside from a ball that bounced off of his knee, Cavallini did not pose a threat in front of net. Not to mention his yellow card which he received after an unnecessary tackle leaves him out of San Jose’s game. Tackling is a big part of Lucas Cavallini’s game, and the coaching staff knew that coming into his purchase, yet it seems that they’re not able to control the rate of which he’s doing it at, whether that’s due to frustration or an unwillingness to listen is up in the air at this point. (More on this later.)

Ryan Raposo: 4.0

Added to the game to add some attacking dynamism, the 2020 draft pick unfortunately couldn’t provide the answers to the Whitecaps’ problem. Did his best, but his performance was hampered by the expulsion of Janio Bikel as the few attacking opportunities he had turned to almost none.

Michael Baldisimo: 5.0

Coming in for Andy Rose, Baldi played with the same intensity seen from him in previous matches, and brought his trademark forward passes with him. A midfielder who could have helped turn the tides in attack, again Bikel’s expulsion killed any chances to seeing if the Whitecaps could make a comeback.

Theo Bair: 4.0

Taking off Fredy Montero, Theo had some big shoes to fill. Seeing as the Whitecaps’ only goal came from the spot by the aforementioned Colombian, Bair did not do what was required of him, but it was hardly his fault considering the team was regressing to their classic defeatist selves.

Patrick Metcalfe: 4.0

Another hurried midfield substitution, it seemed to little too late for another midfield substitution and it was so. Metcalfe didn’t do anything quite flashy enough to catch the eye and seemed to be overshadowed by his other midfield counterpart.

Tossaint Ricketts: N/A

Didn’t impact the game enough to make a noticeable positive or negative impact.

Brace yourselves, because this next one is a long one.

Marc Dos Santos: 2.5

Okay, admittedly the rating might look a bit harsh, but hear me out for a second. If were to be completely transparent, had the game ended at the first half, I would have awarded Marc Dos Santos a 6.0, pointing out his astuteness in making the right calls in terms of personnel and play style, as the team looked to be playing the role of a smaller team defending and countering effectively. They seemed restrained, but in a positive way, taking necessary risks that generally paid off and keeping defensive shape in a performance that was very un-2020 Whitecaps. Of course, we know that all that positivity meant nothing as soon as the second half whistle blew, as it was a completely different team that was out on the field it seemed.

My biggest complaints come from the constantly rotating personnel and formation with no real purpose other than seeing what sticks and what doesn’t, and switching both as soon as there is any inkling of failure instead of working to perfect the said formation and develop a style. That has been Marc Dos Santos’ biggest problem in my eyes since he was appointed, at this point he seems just to be a reactionary coach, setting up to prevent last week’s defeat when facing a completely different team the game following. This is not a fun style to watch, nor, I imagine, is it a fun style to play, with now multiple players visibly showing their frustration and dislike for this grating system of play. It appears that maybe the dressing room has been lost, with players attempting to bring some sort of ingenuity to play rather than play the tired system, leading to the play feeling disjointed. An example of this is Cavallini, as was mentioned before is a physical striker, who seems to be taking way too many liberties and costing the team with the unnecessary yellows. Either MDS finds no fault in this playstyle, or Cavallini simply won’t listen and wants to take matters into his own hands. This coupled with the omission of Baldisimo as a starter for this match, or not playing Montero or Cornelius during many points in the season but improving when they are on the field shows a fundamental disconnect between his team and him.

Many point out the fact that he just needs the right personnel to succeed, especially with the problems pointed out above, but many people forget that was the exact same narrative shown last season. The deadwood in the squad was massively apparent in the middle of the season and there were few players who looked even to be average MLS quality, meanwhile the offseason signings of this year have all played multiple games and some have found a relative groove in the league. Of the players on the field yesterday, Nerwinski was the only one not brought in under Marc Dos Santos’ tenure, so in theory the team should understand his style and be playing it without a hitch. This is clearly not the case.

Back to the game against Seattle though, it seems that the snowball is just getting bigger for Marc Dos Santos, and the problems keep mounting for him. Credit where credit is due, that first half, while not ideal, showed progress but it wasn’t enough. It says a lot that early half collapses have punctuated the Whitecaps’ recent performances. The tightrope should be getting thinner for him, and while his style of play as a concept seems sound, in practice, it seems that it is not what the ‘Caps need or can do right now. Most of the docked points come from the complete collapse of both concentration and mentality in the second half, along with the regression to the negative play the Whitecaps have been criticized for. It will have to take a stroke of genius to turn this team around in order to make playoffs, (Which curiously we are still well in contention for.) and the clock is ticking for Marc Dos Santos to prove that he indeed is the man to take the Whitecaps back over the line.

Disagree with any of the ratings above? Sound off in the comments with your opinion.