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Deja vu: Listless Caps fall 3-0 to Toronto FC

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I feel like I’ve been here before...

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Toronto FC Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports

It was more of the same from Vancouver Tuesday night, as a powerless Whitecaps team fell to Toronto 3-0 at BMO Field. The home side prevailed thanks to a brace from Pablo Piatti, a goal from Nick DeLeon and a lot of listless defending from the Caps.

The starting XI was a marked departure from the MiB lineups, in part due to the return of Lucas Cavallini and Andy Rose to the fold, and MDS opted for a 4-4-2 after the departure of In-Beom Hwang.

Rose got the nod over Jasser Khmiri and Derek Cornelius in the back alongside Ranko Veselinovic. Ali Adnan returned to his traditional left back position, with Cristian Gutierrez spelling David Milinkovic on the left wing, thought Adnan got forward plenty. In one of the bigger open questions, Thomas Hasal remained in goal after his stellar Orlando performance with Bryan Meredith slotting in as backup.

The match started with few clear cut chances for either side but the Caps looked better in terms of their pressing and defensive work rate. Unfortunately, that didn’t last as Toronto (unsurprisingly) saw more of the ball than the Caps and made it known in a few instances. Long range shots from Jonathan Osorio and Richie Laryea let long range shots fly that Hasal had to stand strong and gather.

The Caps’ play kept deteriorating from there over the course of the first half. A bit of sloppiness from Vancouver in failing to clear their lines combined with a moment of magic from Pablo Piatti to produce a Toronto opener. After the ball pinballed around the box, Piatti backtracked to gather it and launched a missile into the upper 90 that not even Hasal was saving.

There was basically no response from the Caps after conceding—their possession slipped even further and Toronto could basically attack at will. A backtracking defense allowed Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore and Piatti to build up at will but fortunately Piatti’s resulting shot was blocked over the bar.

Part of the problem is that the Caps weren’t even able to bunker properly. Whether using some half hearted pressing or half hearted attacking moves which would fizzle, the end result was the same: a team that struggled to hold its shape, with the center midfielders often caught out of position. This meant Toronto was able to run at backtracking Caps’ defenders and either use the space to create a shot or pin them so deep into their own zone by the time they actually were able to settle them into their shape.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Caps were able to weather the TFC pressure the remainder of the half and limp into the break down only a goal.

Shortly after the break, the Caps put together their only chance to that point, with a brilliant ball out of the back from Andy Rose beating everybody and hitting a streaking Cava in stride. Joseph Mavinga did enough to put him off and force his well hit shot into the path of Westberg. If you were looking for the bright spot of Rose getting selected over Cornelius and Khmiri, this was it.

Little else changed from the Caps, however. The passing accuracy was still in the gutter, with a lot of speculative balls forward and little effort to build something up.

This left a massive opportunity for Toronto and in the 55th minute they took advantage. A nice bit of build up and a whole lot of ball watching from the Caps (Jake Nerwinski, here’s looking at you) resulted in Piatti getting his brace, finishing off a Osorio cross. In all honesty, the goal probably should’ve been chalked off for the ball going out of play before Altidore could pass it in but its hard to find the emotion to disagree with the ruling at this point.

MDS didn’t wait much longer to make a change, bringing on David Milinkovic to replace Guitierrez and Theo Bair spelling Christian Dajome. After another five minutes of getting shellacked by TFC, he elected to bring on Ryan Raposo as well in lieu of Yordy Reyna but not before Reyna launched an MiB-esque counter and fired a shot from range that went harmlessly wide.

Ali Adnan had a similar moment of individual brilliance, dancing by Michael Bradley and nearly scoring from range but the shot fizzed over the bar. Adnan was infuriating at times but I give him credit as one of the few guys trying to do something offensively, as this chance indicated.

In a final roll of the dice, Thomas Metcalfe came on for Russell Teibert and Cava made way for Toss Ricketts, in perhaps the first time in recorded human history that MDS used all of his available subs.

It made no impact, as Pozuelo and Nick DeLeon took advantage of a weak attempt at a clearance from the Caps’ backline to play a one-two and grab a third, with the sub DeLeon getting the goal.

Both sides expended minimal energy after the final goal and the match ended 3-0.

Thoughts

  • I didn’t think it could get any worse but yet here we are.
  • Guys I don’t think a new number 10 is going to redeem this team. I mean improving on a 57 percent passing accuracy rate in the first half would be nice but this simply comes down to tactics, which leads us back to MDS. It’s one thing to play this way to grind out results when you’re down half your squad in a dumb tournament. Its another to play this way when you have your best attacking players back and all the time in the world to craft a new tactical model.
  • That being said, I was disappointed in the passing from Owusu, who looked much more inspired in Orlando. Losing In-Beom would mean a hit in passing but I thought Owusu would pick up the slack. He did not, at least not tonight.
  • I actually don’t mind Cristian Guitierrez as a player but whatever MDS was trying to accomplish with him on the wing just didn’t come off. I hope we don’t see this experiment again—if anything, put Adnan on the wing and Cristian at LB.
  • Maybe the only thing that MDS got right was sticking with Hasal in goal. He looked comfortable again in net and wasn’t at fault on any of the goals. I’m glad they didn’t overthink this anyway.
  • I think the toughest pill to swallow from tonight was that, while the tactics were more or less the same as they were in Orlando, the focus that was there against Chicago and SKC was totally absent. Whether it was the layoff or the weirdness of the situation or some internal dynamics, the team just didn’t have any drive. Combine that with a mismatch in midfield and poor tactics and the end result wasn’t surprising.