For the Vancouver Whitecaps and their fans, it has been too long. Ups, downs, and all arounds were plenty over the past year and a half, but the separation between the team and the fanbase was something no one wanted. As many gripes that can be said about the team and its performances, one can’t help but feel a little empty when the players have been behind a screen for over a year. Now, whether the Whitecaps like it or not, the team is at its full strength. They have found their number 10, they are back home, and more importantly, they have the fans to back them. For many reasons it was an emotional game, and who better to have the honor of being the Whitecaps’ first opponent back home than the Runner’s Up of the CONCACAF Champions league last season. Sure, their form this season hasn’t quite been up to its giant-killing self that it was last season continentally, but if anything a hard fought match against this side would prove to the Whitecaps faithful and the players themselves that things get better.
- Possession. Not good at all. At the start, it seemed like the magic of BC Place was in full effects, as the Whitecaps were on their toes and cutting out many of LAFC’s passes. This attentiveness led to a couple of good chances and it looked like the attacking trio would be receiving a reward for their hard work. Unfortunately, after the 20th minute, it all unravelled for the team from Vancouver. The Whitecaps maybe had one or two good chances in the half after that but it was almost all in LAFC’s hands. Their was a nervousness and a lack of ideas in the team that either led to a giveaway or a ball blasted into open space. Eventually this turned into a goal at the end of the first and the Whitecaps went into the tunnel down a goal in their first home game of the season.
- The lack of ideas ties into another point of contention: the lineup. When LAFC was dominating the midfield, many may have wondered where the creator was, but the Whitecaps took the field without one. Ryan Gauld looked to be a positive influence when he took to the pitch, and so fans were assuming that it would be a romantic first start for the DP #10 in the first home game back at BC Place. Unluckily, Marc Dos Santos didn’t see it that way, and looked to work off of the inspired performances of Owusu to provide midfield coverage. While he continued the same trajectory on his performance, he was just another option on the field rather than someone creating opportunities for the ‘Caps.The halftime substitution of Gauld and Badisimo were the nail in the coffin for the Whitecaps’ original midfield setup.
- Speaking of which, the set piece change creation needs to improve. And that is solely due to the fact that Gutierrez is still out of the lineup. With the Canadian, his passes always looked to find a teammate in the box, yet there seems to be no agreed upon strategies with the free kicks of today’s squad. Corners were a shared responsibility with a couple soaring past the players and others coming too short, yet none hitting the head of a Whitecap. This should be something addressed, as the Whitecaps started so strong in terms of chances created by setpieces.
- Ryan Gauld, the man destined to change the Whitecaps’ fate. After a game where he played a part in both goals that led to a comeback victory over MLS newboys Austin FC, a start seemed to be in order, as the game became way more dynamic with him in it. Right off the bat, when he finally was allowed to get on the field, dynamic the game became. The disappointment of not giving the Scottish midfielder his first start at BC Place’s first home Whitecaps match in a year was quickly overwritten by having Gauld be the first Whitecap to score on such a momentous occasion. While the Whitecaps still looked to be on the back foot in the second half, the goal inspired a belief that maybe, just maybe, Vancouver’s favourite soccer team could have brought something more to the table.
- Maxine Crépeau is a great, great man. If it wasn’t for the Quebec native, the Whitecaps would have found themselves in a deeper hole than they were in. A consistent performer for the Whitecaps, Max definitely let his presence be felt this game with a number of stellar saves. The Whitecaps are lucky to have one of the crucial positions on the field figured out without the transfer market grinder that the rest of the lineup has looked to have gone through over the past 2 years.
Has it really been that long since February 29th, 2020? It feels like just yesterday we were parading down Robson Street, hopeful for a new season that would prove once and for all that Marc Dos Santos was truly the man in charge. I remember waiting on that team bus as all of those players came out in uniform as they were trying a new approach in improving connections within the players themselves, and importantly, the fanbase. It truly looked like a positive direction for the Whitecaps with many decisions being made top to bottom in an attempt to bring the club into a new era. Well, whether they liked it or not, a new era they sure went to- along with the rest of the world- as a viral outbreak in China soon became a worldwide pandemic. The wait for a game against Colorado suddenly turned into a wait for clear guidelines, end of lockdowns, and vaccines. Luckily, as the world learned more about the virus, things began to slowly be reintroduced into a new normal, and this, as the first home game since the first lockdown, should be seen as a victory, regardless of the result on the field.
The result on the field was luckily, favourable as well. More than that actually, as the team that needed some good spirits after a turbulent couple of years. Now more than ever, a victory over LAFC means more than any ever before.
Do you think the Whitecaps can succeed now that they are back home? Will the added pressure from the fanbase yield positive results? I’d like to hear your opinion on the team after tonight’s performance so feel free to sound off in the comments below.