At first glance, tonight’s game doesn’t seem all too bad. A 0-1 loss to improve on a 0-3 loss? Doesn’t look too shabby. The Whitecaps looked to stop the momentum for Eastern Conference favorites Toronto FC and win back naysayers after an ‘embarrassing’ loss in the fixture prior. And today’s match left a lot to be desired.
The ‘Caps came out with a 5-3-2, a formation that fans are familiar with, although today it held a new name on the starting lineup: Patrick Metcalfe.
An interesting choice, made even more so by the absence of starter/super sub Yordy Reyna not even being on the team sheet, which was revealed to have been to due to disciplinary action. One could take it as an isolated incident but it’s hard not to read into it deeper and see it as players lashing out against their team (Especially if it was due to Yordy arriving late.). It’s a worrying thought which I will touch upon briefly at the end, but for now let’s get to the actual match report itself.
Toronto showed their intent by giving a rare start to Canadian Liam Fraser, who is often put on the backburner in favor of playing captain Michael Bradley or Marky Delgado. Lucky for him, Delgado was nursing a strain that Toronto did not want to aggravate so the American started on the bench.
The game started much like the last, with Toronto maintaining possession of the ball and Cavallini showing a lot of the bite that made the Whitecaps break their transfer record for him. Unfortunately the rest of the team was not able to do as much.
It was the same dull affair from the Whitecaps, with admittedly tighter defending than last week but still terrible on possession and attacking chances. The two strikers looked lively at times, with Ricketts using his speed to chase the ball and Cavallini using his body and skill to try to create plays, but the lack of attacking awareness from their teammates caused most of these events to result in a turnover or ball out of play.
Much credit must be given to Thomas Hasal, and whoever the Whitecaps have as their keeper coach, as he was undoubtedly showing why he is a deserving number 2 to the ‘Caps’ 2019 Player of the Year Maxime Crepeau. Hasal’s distribution leaves a lot to be desired at times, but the young keeper has the reflexes to rival even that of experienced veterans, coming up for multiple saves that could have put the game beyond doubt earlier on. He was a shining light in an otherwise dull performance from the rest of the team.
A Richie Laryea strike gave Toronto the advantage in the fifteenth minute and after that Toronto seemed to pump the brakes and play in a more relaxed fashion. The Whitecaps, not able to capitalize were forced to watch the Toronto players pass the ball right in front of them between two or three players and snuff out any attacks that they were even able to muster. The most that the Whitecaps made out of this period was a Teibert steal on the aforementioned Liam Fraser than ended in a pass to onside Cavallini, who was quickly brought down by, again, Liam Fraser in a tactical foul that resulted in the young Canadian receiving a yellow card, which Teibert tried to appeal as a red to the ref.
The game was not inspiring from either side as compared to the previous fixture in which Toronto at least looked to be burying the game beyond all doubt through the 90 minutes. So much so that there was no added time to the first half.
As the game resumed, the Whitecaps began to take positive strides in attack, getting more bodies in the middle third but their inability to unlock Toronto’s box made chance after change evaporate as quickly as they came. An attacking change came in the form of subbing on Dajome and Raposo for Nerwinski and Owusu respectively, but the problems of the team plagued these subs just as well. Adnan began bombing up the field as he usually does, finding himself more central than in many games prior, yet nothing came of it, having shots either not be on target or passes miss their desired receiver.
Again, the only reason the ‘Caps’ looked this good was because Toronto wasn’t pressing with their usual intensity and letting the caps get their opportunities out. This ended up working in the Whitecaps’ favor, as they managed to get two more shots in than in the previous game. Unfortunately, their shots on target were the same this game as they were the last, with only a single shot being threatening.
Teibert made a positive run halfway through the second half, but as soon as he got forward, along with any ‘Cap, Toronto collapsed back with their 11 players, choking up any potential attack. Toronto had a good chance on a corner taken by Pozuelo which Hasal whiffed on, but the ensuing header went just wide, keeping the Whitecaps’ hope alive by a thread.
Milinkovic came in for Ricketts in the 78th minute, but again, it was too little too late. Adnan was able to draw a foul in one of his midfield runs but his free kick was caught by Westberg and provided the last clear goal threat the Whitecaps had in the game. The final sub of the game was Theo Bair for Veselinovic with only a little over a minute of regular game still left to play and as one can see by the scoreline, he did not add the much needed spark that the Whitecaps needed.
This game was not pretty to look at, it was the standard frustrating Whitecaps performance and a below par performance from the usually strong Toronto FC. They have little to worry about for their next couple of games, and they look to be the shoe-in for the team reaching the final of the Voyageur’s Cup.
Vancouver is another story. After many months and promises of change, it seems that the team is playing the same tactics, even with the vastly improved crop of new players. From last year, to the beginning of the season, to the MLS is back tournament, to the resumption of the regular season, the team seems to be unwilling to move from their low-possession style of play which one would hesitate to call counter-attacking due to there not being any end product to justify it as such. This 0-1 loss is a misleading result, as sure, they lost by less and at a glance that’s an improvement, but the game was still not a fun watch for anyone looking to see an inspiring team play. With many fans feeling disenfranchised and apathetic towards the state of the team at the moment, one can only imagine how the players themselves are feeling coming day in day out to games that are probably not much fun to play.
There is not as much discord as there was during the end of Carl Robinson’s tenure as ‘Caps coach but from the reactions on the field and on the bench of the many of the players, they seem frustrated. Talks of disciplinary issues and some players opting out of playing games for the team (A good number of which for very valid reason, albeit.) shows that not everything is as positive as we are being led to believe. Something is definitely missing from this team, and there needs to be sweeping change in order for this team to achieve the best it can possibly do.