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MLS: Sporting Kansas City at Vancouver Whitecaps FC

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Thinking Caps: A Drab Debut

Sifting through the ashes after Kansas City barbecues the Vancouver Whitecaps

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

New Technical Director, new CEO, new players, same old result. The Vancouver Whitecaps opened their 2020 season with a disappointing 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City. Okay, so maybe the sky isn’t quite falling for your Vancouver Whitecaps, but whatever goodwill that was accrued over a once again busy off-season has faded like a t-shirt from H&M after a single wash cycle: unsurprisingly quickly.

This isn’t to say that we witnessed a terrible opening day clash (we certainly had our moments), but we witnessed, like last year against Minnesota United FC, a team that was able to break down our press with simple ball movement and accurate passing. There was an eerily familiar feeling in my stomach when Erik Hurtado scored in the final seconds of stoppage time. It’s a feeling that all the E-Money in the world couldn’t buy: being a Vancouver sports fan.

But this isn’t a weekly piece detailing my personal sadness and disappointment (you can follow me on twitter for that), it’s a weekly article where we can 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

There wasn’t a whole lot to love about this match, but a few players had their own positive moments. “Love” might be a bit of stretch for some of these, but hey, I don’t make the rules. I mean I do, but still.

Holding The Reyns

We lined up in a 4-4-2, with Yordy Reyna dropping back into the midfield when SKC were in possession. His speed and skill were on full display, as he was able to lead the charge on the counterattack on a few different occasions, with some leading to legitimate scoring chances. Watch as his first touch spins him out of danger, leaving him with acres of space to make a run with the ball. He’s patient, and makes a great pass to lead marquee striker Lucas Cavallini to a scoring chance.

His next run with the ball in open space wasn’t quite as successful. Notice how he doesn’t quite crane his neck far enough to see David Milinkovic’s undetected run on his left.

With a 100% healthy lineup, I almost wonder if Reyna’s best role would be in Fredy Montero’s current spot in the lineup. Fredy brings a scoring touch, but doesn’t have the same explosiveness that a fresh Reyna brings.

Ali Adnan: Best Player?

Up next in our journey is the play of one Ali Adnan. It wasn’t necessarily the most positive technical game from him. We saw a few of his patented power runs down the sideline, but it was the effort that stood out to me. This first play exemplifies one of the bigger problems with the match. Watch as the team sits back, allowing SKC to play the ball around (more on that later) by making great runs, finishing passes and easily beating us to balls. Adnan’s last-ditch block at the end really stands out next to the rest of the mostly stationary players.

Hey Ali, how do you feel about that last play?

Ah, I see. How about an accidental infinite Ali Adnan diving clearance GIF?

A Touchy Subject

Coach Marc Dos Santos seems intent on trying to draw players out of position. You’ll see it with how wide both wingers play when the team is in possession, but you’ll also see it with how often his team will make quick touch passes before playing a long ball. In the first case, you’ll see this occur in our own end.

The stakes are quite high with plays like this in our own end, but the hope is that it opens up a channel that wasn’t there before to play a long ball and break out on the attack. That’s what happened on this next play. Sure, the cross ended up in the keeper’s arms, but it’s a start. A few quick passes drew multiple players towards the ball, allowing Cristian Dajome to lay it into Jake Nerwinski’s path.

Please ignore the end of this next one. Close your eyes if you have to. This play involves a bit more luck, but once again quick touch passes gave us some space to work with.

So, so close. Which is something that would make sense only if you watched the end of that last GIF, but I’m sure you did not. Thank you for listening to me.

Controversial Fit

Listen, I understand that I may come under fire for my support of this particular look, but I’m committing in 2020 to an honest lifestyle. This, to me, is a good look:

Simple, effective and tied together by a pristine taupe pickup truck. This is your Mathew Prince fit of the week. We’ll see you next time.

You Hate To See It

I’ll probably spend less time on this section than the more positive one. For more cynicism around our beloved team, I’d recommend once again going to Twitter. That’s both a joke and not at all a joke, as exemplified by our current tally of SIX for the #MDSOut Hashtag.

That didn’t take long. Thankfully, help is on the way.

Overwhelmed

Although I agree with the switch to a 4-3-3, I don’t necessarily think it’s due to our midfield losing the second ball. This first clip is from the first 5 minutes of the game. Everyone seems to be running hard, but following the ball. If that’s not bad enough as it is, we also seemed to be a split second behind our opponents.

I should really mention how pretty that last play was. Great buildup, accurate passes, and even a callback to my mention of Adnan’s diving prowess. If you weren’t already aware, I’m currently doing a chef’s kiss. This next one isn’t as pretty as it is bleak. Watch how the ball manages to evade two outstretched legs.

Part of why we were a step behind is due to our lack of defensive awareness and anticipation with Russell Teibert and In-beom Hwang in the middle. Back in the days of Matias Laba, we had someone who could snuff out a play before it even happened. This is why we can have a bit of optimism about bringing in Leonard Owusu and Janio Bikel, with the latter being even better suited for that role. To tie a little bow on this point, having a 4-3-3, with a bigger defensive presence in midfield should help alleviate instances where our opposition is stringing multiple successful passes around and through us.

Stopped The Press

I’m a bit stumped on this one. One of the expectations of the MDS era was that we’d press the living daylights out of our opposition. I’m about to show you something that isn’t quite that.

It’s not egregious, but overall there weren’t many moments that created much chaos for those pesky former Wizards. In an attempt to find an example of what a good high press looks like, I found what I was looking for in the wrong place. That’s right, another textbook play that we were trying to execute was nefariously stolen from us by the other team in blue. Watch as seemingly the entire team slowly takes away our passing lanes as we eventually wilt under pressure and give the ball away.

Something to look for against the Los Angeles Galaxy would be more of a team approach to the press. We had some players running ragged, but without everyone on the same page it was all for naught. We’ll see if the team can adjust and get those forced turnovers going.

You Want To See It

Looking forward to the next match against the LA Galaxy, it’s hard to be optimistic against a team that we had little success against in the preseason, but you’d certainly hope to see a few adjustments. I’ll be watching for the formation change, a more effective press and improved passing accuracy. Let’s see if we can’t create more scoring chances by creating more space through the quick little passes we covered in this piece. Who knows what will happen if we convert our chances. Is the #OptimistsUnion accepting applications?

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