A road game featuring two players in their second-choice positions, with two late forced omissions from our starting lineup against a team debuting the most prolific Mexican striker this world has ever seen and I have one question for you: was it ever in doubt? Yes. Yes it was in doubt from the many concerned citizens of Vancouver Whitecaps Twitter (myself included).
Okay, so maybe Javier “Chicharito” Hernández isn’t the player he once was, and this LA Galaxy team isn’t the same that sent chills down our collective spine when they lost only one game against us in our first twelve fixtures. But this year, our unlikely 1-0 victory against a team from LA came a little bit earlier, and it felt even better. Side note: is it that big of a deal losing to us?
The #LAGalaxy has some talented players, but they are a bad team. No wonder Zlatan was so mean to them.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) March 8, 2020
But you’ve probably read all about how our Vancouver Whitecaps did this weekend by reading our very informative MLS Match Review and Report Card pieces, as well as perhaps watching the match itself; if you missed last week’s Thinking Caps, let me remind you that this is a weekly article where we look at and break down different plays that didn’t necessarily make it into the post-game highlights. On Wednesdays after a match, this space will be chock full of the best and worst GIFs, fits, tweets and more from the past weekend. Why don’t we just get right into it?
You Love To See It
This time around we were mostly able to execute what we wanted in terms of our offense. We were also very organized in our defense against some pretty capable players playing in a cross-heavy system (27 crosses/game, good enough for 6th in MLS according to whoscored.com). Let’s look at a few things that worked.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway was how well we played on the wing in the final third. On a few different occasions we saw some great quick passes followed by smart runs into the newly created space. The first one actually involved newcomer Janio Bikel, who we’ll have a closer look at later. After a few quick passes, look at where the LA Galaxy players end up in relation to Inbeom Hwang, Cristian Dajome and the aforementioned Bikel:
From there, we get to see one of the biggest benefits for having Bikel in at fullback, as he lofts a ball perfectly into the path of a streaking Dajome:
Up next is a simple give and go between Tosaint Ricketts and David Milinković:
I’m calling this one “Milink-up”:
Here’s another one featuring Ali Adnan, with Inbeom playing the role of facilitator:
This play, although it is encouraging, supports the farfetched theory that it is easier to play against 10 men vs. 11:
Whether it was the level of competition or a change in personnel, we saw much better movement in the final third, leading to 21 crosses (10 more than in our opener per whoscored.com). Let’s see if we can get our marquee striker on the end of a few more.
JB > JN?
In a surprising turn of events, Jake Nerwinski didn’t make the trip to Carson due to sustaining an injury in practice. In his place, Janio Bikel got the start in his second choice fullback position. He was tasked with covering Designated Player Cristian Pavon, and acquitted himself quite well, holding him scoreless. Here are some positives to take away from his performance, starting with his shielding skills:
Both plays involved him in precarious situations where he could have easily lost the ball. Instead, he either keeps the play alive or draws a foul. It appears as though we got a two-for-one deal on tanks in 2020.
You can also expect him to use his body to produce these quick turns throughout the season, as he seemed to use the outside of his foot a lot in his highlight package:
We also saw some great 1-on-1 defense, as Pavon ran into this type of play a few times:
It will be interesting to see how he fares in his more traditional Defensive Midfield position, but he offers us an interesting option in terms of building play up, as well as keeping it alive.
Last week I mentioned a few things that I wanted to see, and although we didn’t see a formation change (we may not see this until we are 100% healthy), a few other predictions/requests came true. If I start seeing trends throughout the season, I’ll be sure to mention them here. This includes what I want to call a “two point clearance”. Watch as Jasser Khmiri lays it up to Rose, making sure the ball ends up in a different area code:
We also saw a successful press! To start the second half, we were provided with proof of pressure creating diamonds:
Did you see that? Four Whitecaps moving as one, leading to Ricketts getting his foot on the ball. As the play continues, watch as all options are smothered - this is exactly what we need to see more of:
Who wore it best: Maxime Crépeau or the Green Ranger? I’ll let you decide:
Other Things We Loved
I can only describe this reaction as a live look at my brain when I taste either a veggie-based gravy, a bland soup or a nut in a chocolate chip cookie:
It’s not what happened prior to this next one - we don’t love to see that. Here is, however, valuable information for anyone who goes through a similar experience to the one we saw Russell Teibert overcome - this is straight from a trained professional:
In his brief appearance as a sub, Leonard Owusu acquitted himself well, with this Laba-esque defensive play being my highlight:
I just thought this was a fun little clearance:
You Hate To See It
There wasn’t a whole lot to dislike in this game. After we scored, LA’s Joe Corona was given his second yellow card, allowing us to finish the match up a man, and it never felt like LA posed enough of a threat to equalize.
The Loneliest Press
We saw a successful press, but too often did we see this when LA was forced to retreat into their own end:
It’s a familiar sight, unfortunately. It is something that Cavallini was able to succeed in doing against all odds, to his credit:
Let’s see more of the press that I detailed in the first section, please.
Eyes On The Prize
We also saw a few instances of being drawn out of position by watching the ball. Watch as Teibert over-commits to following the runner with the ball, leaving an open shot (the other defenders were ball-watching a little bit as well) after the fancy drop-pass:
In this next play, LA takes a turn with the quick passes, and draws Dajome out of position:
You Want To See It
Overall, I think this was a quality team performance that we can build off of. I’d like to see more instances of a full team press, but if we can generate dangerous runs like we did against LA at a better success rate, we might be onto something.
I’m curious to see if we get Owusu as a starter in the middle, and the health of Yordy Reyna and Jake Nerwinski is something to follow in our newly consolidated preview article. I think 2019 Draftee Ryan Raposo was a revelation on the wing, and deserves to see the field in some capacity against the Colorado Rapids.
I’m predicting a pre-match Costco hotdog or two for myself. Stay tuned for a full analytical breakdown of the different tasting notes of the all-beef and polish varieties.
Will we see our second win of the season? Or will this newfound optimism fizzle out against our Mile High opponents? Only one way to find out!