After a long and torturous six months, soccer has finally returned to BC Place for the first time since the break. The biggest difference between now and the match on February 29th is the notable lack of fans. Tonight was the last chance for a slowly sinking Vancouver team to pick themselves back and possibly rescue their faint hopes of reaching Canadian glory through the Voyageur’s Cup. Did they manage to do so? Let’s go over how they did.
Marc Dos Santos lined up his side like this:
Another tinkered formation from the ‘Caps’ coach this time brought Theo Bair and Erik Godoy through the revolving door of players while also deploying Milinkovic in a number 10 role. (A position far from his preferred, and in which he has not shown the spark that he has while on the wing.)
As is par for the course with the ‘Caps, they began the first ten minutes with around thirty percent possession while allowing Toronto to take shots on them. Hasal showed his class in multiple saves and interceptions, but that is expected from the Whitecaps’ one major positive this season.
A play around the quarter hour mark saw Ali Adnan do what he does best and whip a cross to a well positioned Cavallini for his first goal of the season. Vancouver’s number nine looked comfortable with proper service and demonstrated the class that allowed him to prosper on the national team and in Mexico.
This break in the natural order seemed to shake Toronto and they scrambled to try to regain the control which they exert on teams throughout the season. Not even ten minutes later, Toronto equalized through Osorio and and the Whitecaps crashed back down to Earth, but with newfound hope now that they had scored in their first match since their tie against Chicago.
Two corners proved fruitless for Vancouver, while an Ali Adnan free kick sailed over the bar. Toronto was much more methodical in their attack and managed to take advantage of Whitecaps turnovers.
A Pablo Piatti rocket near the half almost spelled doom for Vancouver but Thomas Hasal stretched his hand to stop it in what has become a routine job for him.
The first half overall showed promise as the team looked a lot more in sync and way more organized than they looked in most of their games this season.
The positivity of their play carried through to the beginning of the second and a free kick was awarded to which Adnan and Milinkovic stepped up to. Much like the first, the kick did not hit the net, rather it rebounded to an open Michael Baldisimo who seems to be fulfilling his promise that he’s shown by smashing a contender for Whitecaps’ Goal of the Year to put the Whitecaps back ahead.
Alejandro Pozuelo looked to even up the score and was denied by Hasal for his 5th save of the night, many of which looked highlight-reel worthy.
Pozuelo did eventually sour the mood of the Whitecaps party by putting a header in to even the score.
Another free kick showed that the Whitecaps had been practicing their setpieces in practice, as Nerwinski, who subbed in for a gassed Godoy, scored his 2nd goal of the season much to the joy of the home team.
Toronto looked messy in the game and caused a scare when a collision during an attack caused Hasal to stay down for what seemed like an extended amount of time, leaving many to wonder whether the Whitecaps would have to find another replacement for their replacement keeper. Luckily, this was not to be the case as Hasal picked himself up and was able to continue.
Toronto’s onslaught in the last ten minutes were not enough to cause the more defensively sound ‘Caps’ to flounder and the Whitecaps were able to get their first home victory of the season.
Overall, this game was a welcome change after a run of three torrid and uninspired games, and it seemed like the floodgates opened up for Vancouver after a barren spell of no goals in four games. The team that stepped out on the pitch today is miles ahead in confidence and drive than the one seen in the eastern half of Canada and shows the grit that this team needs to succeed. The team’s play still leaves a lot to be desired, but the fact that the team seems to be addressing their problems, along with the insurgence of young homegrown talent could be setting the stage for the Whitecaps to be finishing the season far from where many thought they would finish.