As much as I lament the labeling of the Vancouver Whitecaps’ effort Tuesday night as lifeless, lethargic, and lackadaisical, those descriptors are not only reasonably accurate, but all conveniently start with the letter “L”, which is precisely what the ‘Caps have done in their return to regular MLS play, falling to Toronto FC 3-0 last night.
The week certainly started on an interesting note, with the transfer of Hwang In-beom to Rubin Kazan now official, but there was hope to be had going into Tuesday’s game, with the return of Lucas Cavallini, Andy Rose, and Tosaint Ricketts to the eighteen following their respective absences from MLS is Back in Orlando, as well as an Erik Godoy-sighting on the bench.
Unfortunately, those roster revisions weren’t enough to propel the Whitecaps to a result. But hey, we’re doing it all again on Friday, so maybe this time it’ll be different!
Before getting into the player ratings, a quick reminder: the scores below are marked out of 10, where everyone starts with a score of 5, which can be approximately classified as a, “I’m just doing my job as averagely as average gets” performance, and can rise or fall from there.
Tuesday night, the scores were primarily “falling.”
Thomas Hasal - 4.5
Looking at a 3-0 scoreline you could arguably go lower than a 4 for Hasal, but when the his defense often reacted far too slowly after continually dropping deeper and deeper, I’m willing to cut him some slack.
Out of the three goals, my initial thought was that Hasal maybe could have done better on the third, by coming out and challenging Nick DeLeon sooner, but there was a lot of ground to cover once DeLeon scooted in behind everyone. Otherwise, Hasal was hard pressed to stop either of Pablo Piatti’s efforts.
On the five saves made, Hasal never looked overly troubled, though a 21st minute fumbling off a Jozy Altidore shot could have been disastrous. Thankfully, Andy Rose was there for the clearance.
Otherwise, boy did Hasal put too many balls out to touch, particularly in his own half. If you’re going to punt it out of bounds, at least do it in your opponent’s end of the park.
Jake Nerwinski - 4
Despite how quickly and often the Vancouver backline would drop, I thought Nerwinski did a decent job of reacting to the play happening in front of him. He did a great job of saving Ranko from a misplayed bouncing ball in the 21st before bailing himself out after getting rounded by Richie Laryea in the 50th, nearly going box to box to stop the run of the Toronto left back:
On the second and third Toronto goals, Nerwinski initially appears to be caught chasing the play twice, but in rewatching both I think he’s more a victim of his teammates not helping out, which I’ll elaborate on further below when we get to the respective culprits.
Ranko Veselinovic - 3
If you only consider blocked passes and maintaining position in the middle, the Whitecaps’ centerbacks made for an OK partnership. Heck, if they got a point out of this one, you could argue that the pairing of Ranko and Rose could be the inspiration of a buddy cop comedy (I mean, Ranko & Rose at least sounds like it could be a TV show).
But whenever he broke formation to step up and disrupt the play, Ranko went for an adventure.
Veselinovic’s 6 clearances, most of any player on the night, were voluminous but sloppy, with the ball often going right back to TFC in the center of the pitch. And I have no idea why he let that ball bounce over him the 21st minute, but he definitely owes Nerwinski a beer for the rightback’s closing down of Altidore. I also was not particularly happy with how flat-footed Ranko looked on DeLeon’s goal. It was like he was on a 7/4 time signature all night, just a little off-beat with everyone else (not that anyone was truly in rhythm).
Andy Rose - 5
Rose looked decent for most of the night. He also suffered from an occasional poor clearance, but made up for it by being far better in any situation demanding an immediate reaction. Rose also gets props for setting up Vancouver’s only shot on goal all night, with a beautiful ball over the top to Lucas Cavallini from inside his own eighteen:
My only ask of Rose? Find ways to move the ball a little quicker.
Ali Adnan - 2.5
Early on, Adnan was doing a decent job of reading the play and helping advance the ball up field, but it felt like he was doing so far too quickly compared to the rest of the team.
In fact, I would argue that those lonely sojourns may have been directly responsible for almost all 10 of the recoveries Auro Jr. earned Tuesday night:
He’s great at getting forward, but too often was Adnan rushing to get the ball up the pitch without support ever able to follow behind.
For example, Adnan had himself a fine dribbling sequence in the 71st minute, with a juke on Michael Bradley, before a decent shot from distance:
But even in that circumstance, it was a very quick, one-man build up with a shot over the bar the moment he entered the final third. Possession was quickly earned and almost as quickly given away.
Otherwise, Adnan was reading the play reasonably well, but his deadballs ranged from average to uninspired and ultimately I’d like him to have a little more faith in the winger in front of him, even when it’s an unexpected shock start from the Whitecaps’ other leftback, Cristian Gutierrez.
Oh, and his marking of Piatti on the second goal was brutal, allowing the winger to bring down a cross and shoot from atop the penalty spot, but again, I’m saving my breakdown of that one for a little later.
Cristian Dajome - 3.5
Dajome was decent on the attack, but I’m pretty sure forward is his only direction, unless its one of those rare circumstances where he’s compelled to run from one sideline-to-sideline in an attempt to recover the ball he gave away. To his credit, Dajome often got it back
Nevertheless, Dajome is too much like a Tucker ‘48: until there’s evidence he can go backwards I’m going to assume he can only forwards, because it was far too often Dajome was stuck up the pitch while Nerwinski fended for himself in the defensive end.
Theo Bair (3.5) came on for Dajome in the 60th minute. With his first minutes, Bair got stuck in and quickly found himself fighting for possession, and made a decent give-and-go with Ryan Raposo at 75’, but like many a-Whitecap on the night, he was often swarmed by at least three red shirts.
His rating could arguably be higher, but I was not impressed with his play on that third goal:
He toepokes the ball away from DeLeon and then, y’know, just stops doing anything.
Because the play is over, right? Don’t need to help out Nerwinski as he’s got to deal with DeLeon, the lurking Jonathan Osorio, and Alejandro Pozuelo, the latter of whom deftly backheels into the path of DeLeon, who never stopped his run. Nah. Play’s over, no big deal.
Leonard Owusu and Russell Teibert - 2.5 and 3
I’m rating Rusty and Jingles (which, unlike my cop show Ranko & Rose, sounds more like a Saturday morning cartoon) together because man oh man did they concede too much space to the Toronto midfield by dropping back and back and back.
Their ability to get to the center and maintain positioning aside one another was great, which is fine if that was the specific task being asked of them, but doing so often gave Toronto far too much room to move.
You could see it in the build up to Piatti’s first goal:
There’s a bit of a clustercuss in the middle between Owusu, Teibert, and Gutierrez, with all three retreating to their “spots” on the pitch, but as they do Piatti is given all the time he needs to get around the ball and unleash a howitzer on Hasal that just kept moving away from the keeper.
And for Owusu in particular, “getting into formation” was the wrong decision on the second goal:
With Nerwinski tracking Osorio towards the center (as a defender should when there’s a threat circling the penalty area) and Dajome having already stayed central and closing down on Pozuelo, Owusu just needed to stay out wide for the time being and keep an eye on Altidore.
Individually, Owusu was turning well with the ball whenever he was able to strip a TFC attacker, but his next move was either a square or backwards ball, or a dribble into congestion. In fact, Owusu had only one successful pass forward in TFC’s end.
Rusty did a decent job of stepping forward and joining the press at the start of the game, but like Owusu, rarely did he make any meaningful offensive passes in the attacking end.
Patrick Metcalfe (N/A) came on for Teibert in the 80th minute, and aside from biting on the DeLeon juke that initiated the third goal, didn’t have an impact in this one.
Cristian Gutierrez - 4
Gutierrez was kind of a non-entity for me. It’s not like he did anything wrong: he made safe passes the few times he had the ball, was often reading the play well, pinched in towards the center at the right times on defense while staying wide offensively. Could he have tracked back quicker? Sure, but I wouldn’t put the onus on him if the game plan wasn’t to have him cover for Adnan’s dalliances up-field.
In fact, Gutierrez could have been more effective if he were able to cycle the ball when Adnan moves up the pitch... but that means actually getting a pass or two.
He proved he could do so during a decent sequence with Adnan and Yordy Reyna just before half time, but the opportunities for Gutierrez to do so were few and far between.
David Milinkovic (4) came on for Guiterrez at 60’ and was definitely putting in an effort, but that often meant turning or dribbling into trouble after, say, a great strip of the ball. Aside from a slick give and go with Ryan Raposo that drew a yellow card off Auro, Milinkovic was limited in getting the attack going.
Lucas Cavallini - 3.5
El Tanque was all about the slide tackles early on. We could probably start calling him El Cortacésped, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
Nevertheless, Cavallini was strong in the air, made some decent backchecks when needed, and could fend off a press when isolated, but sometimes mixed impeccable skill on the ball with too heavy a touch.
I was a little worried when he disappeared between around the 18th and 35th minutes, but could never really tell if that was due to a lack of service or availability (I’m leaning towards the former). He put in a great effort to run onto the Rose punt at 48’, but unfortunately had Chris Mavinga track him down before getting low shot off at Quentin Westberg.
Tosaint Ricketts (N/A) came on for Cavallini in the 80th, but the former TFC striker wasn’t able to bring any bench magic onto the pitch.
Yordy Reyna - 4
I’m giving Reyna a bit more credit here, seeing as how by the 25th minute, he was seemingly the only Whitecap that maintained any semblance of a press against Toronto. But when he’s the only one pressing, the whole process is meaningless.
Later on Reyna had a decent back-and-forth with Cavallini that led to an off-target shot, but he too appeared to be stuck in an offensive limbo. Was he not showing enough? Was he not getting proper service?
Ryan Raposo (4) came on for Reyna in the 67th minute. He made some great hustle plays up top - a deft interception here, a “sprint to save the ball from going out” there - and had the aforementioned give-and-go’s with Bair and Milinkovic, but like Cavallini and Reyna, Raposo was operating behind too large a gap with his midfield.