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Report Card: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake

Time to Flip the Script

MLS: Real Salt Lake at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Whitecaps were coming into Sunday’s game as a team without a proper head coach. It was a time of questions and held breath, as there were many arguments about whether it was the players or the coach that was holding the team back from being a successful franchise in Major League Soccer. While that debate may rage on until the end of time, the players did enough to state their case in a 4-1 drubbing of Real Salt Lake. The Whitecaps played a dynamic high press style, that looked to get the most out of every player in every position. Of course, not everyone played at the same level, so I did my best to fairly rate them. Take a look at the ratings below:

Maxime Crepeau: 7.0

Maxime Crepeau was on his game today. His score would have been much higher had the unfortunate 90th minute consolation goal not taken away the potential clean sheet. Maxime being on his game is nothing exceptional at this point, but rarely has the team been playing to his level- or an even higher level.

Bruno Gaspar: 6.0

Gaspar was the defender that was the most disappointing on the night, as the opportunity to demonstrate a new side to his game due to lack of restrictions from a coach resulted in nothing special. In a match where his opposite teammate shone, Gaspar looked well below the level that the 2021 draft pick was at today, putting into question the state of his loan deal come the end of the season.

Ranko Veselinovic: 7.0

Ranko played a good game. He was where he needed to be to keep an almost clean sheet the entire game. There wasn’t anything that stood out completely about his game today, but that could be considered a good thing. Solid defensive duty that didn’t overstep boundaries, just effectively got the job done.

Florian Jungwirth: 8.0

On his first start, Jungwirth proved that while moving effectively in silence is good, it’s okay to draw attention to yourself once in a while. His defending on the day was inspired, with him lunging in the way of many strikes and becoming a wall that RSL could not penetrate. It was a confident display of agility and experience that the Whitecaps were lacking with previous defensive options and the faith in the ex-San Jose defender paid off completely. That is not to mention that he also managed to bag a goal himself in the Whitecaps’ largest margin of victory this season. Overall a stellar display, which is hopefully the start of good things to come.

Javain Brown: 8.0

The standout player this game, Brown showed that he was the bargain of the 2021 MLS Superdraft as his play today was leagues ahead of many of the veterans found in the RSL roster. Precise in positioning, a step in front of others, and some efficient passing made Brown a nightmare to play against, and the Jamaican international continued to grow with confidence as every minute wore on in the game. This was probably Brown’s best game as it looks like the originally unfancied choice at right back has now leapfrogged a longtime MLS player and a defender with European pedigree to claim his spot on the starting eleven.

Russell Teibert: 6.0

Teibert did what Teibert does best when the Whitecaps have a positive game: He became a gear of the well oiled machine. While not contributing much directly, Rusty did his job at linking plays together and staying in position which allowed for the flow of attack and defense to smoothly transition between each other.

Janio Bikel: 7.0

Like Crepeau, Bikel rarely has an off game for the Whitecaps, and today was no exception. Playing at his defensively astute level, Bikel intercepted passes, distributed the ball, and snuffed out attacks long before they had a chance to become a threat to the back line. Bikel is the key to the Whitecaps midfield, and today proves how a team on its best form would benefit from a player like him on their side.

Leonard Owusu: 6.5

Owusu continues his rise back into the starting lineup. The Ghanian was agile today, showing the promise that many ‘Caps fans were sold on when he was brought in at the start of the previous season. Without any restrictions on him, Owusu could potentially reach the performance that the underlying stats at his old teams seemed to indicate. He makes a strong argument to why he should continue to start for games to come, and if performances like this continue, it’d be hard to argue against him.

Cristian Dajome: 7.5

Finding himself paired up with Ryan Gauld under Brian White in the now-infamous Christmas tree formation, Dajome had another strong display that shows why the Colombian finds himself top of the goalscoring charts. While not on the scoresheet himself, he was showing attacking danger in a free-flowing attack that RSL was not able to contain. Being used at striker at multiple points this season, Dajome was as equally comfortable playing down the middle as he was playing on the wing, which allowed for a more dynamic attack not seen in a long time.

Ryan Gauld: 8.5

Once again, Gauld proved to be the smartest Whitecaps acquisition in a long time. What else can be said about his impact on the team? An average game from the Scottish midfielder is still a great performance from a Whitecaps standard, and luckily today he did more than that. Bagging a goal and an assist (With basically another assist as he delivered the corner leading to an own goal.), Gauld continued to demonstrate his importance to Vancouver. He has transformed how Vancouver’s attack functioned completely, with him seemingly present in any threatening move the Whitecaps create. In fact, to highlight how important he’s been, today’s goal by Brian White was the first goal since Gauld stepped on the field as a Whitecap that he wasn’t directly involve in creating. (Whether scoring, assisting, drawing penalties, or having rebounded shots tapped in.) A stellar performance for what looks to be the recipient of the team’s MVP award come the season’s close.

Brian White: 7.5

This was the quintessential Brian White performance. While not as technically gifted or as strong as Cavallini, White shook off any doubters and passed the Canadian DP’s goal tally for the season in a cool display as he looks to be the player many hoped previous sub striker Erik Hurtado was. White’s role was to provide a threat up top and score goals, both of which he did effectively. There were a couple of times where one could see his limitations on the player on the field, but White managed to handle them and work with his strengths to put an argument to potentially start in front of Cavallini. If anything, he proves that were the Whitecaps to try to find a replacement for their DP striker sometime soon, the hole left would be easily filled. Hopefully more performances like this are on the cards in the future.

Patrick Metcalfe: 4.5

Tried out in the back line, Metcalfe was put on to replace Brown, who was having an inspired game. Unfortunately, Metcalfe did not match the defender’s production and looked like a midfielder out of position rather the defender he was supposed to be. He also was directly involved in the gaffe that ruined the possibility of a clean sheet so it was going to be hard to justify a high score at the end of the game.

Tosaint Ricketts: 5.5

Ricketts was thrust back into the spotlight after becoming the backup striker following Cavallini’s absence. Like with the other subs, Ricketts wasn’t able to impact the game greatly, and in comparison to those who were already on the field, was not performing as well. Nothing terrible, just nothing noteworthy.

Deiber Caicedo: 5.5

It says a lot when an attacking-positive player such as Caicedo is left on the bench and his absence isn’t even felt. That’s not a knock on Caicedo, but more so praise of the work the rest of the Whitecaps did to make a usual top performer look average in comparison after his substitute appearance.

Marcus Godinho: 4.0

The worst performer on the night, there would be not enough data to accurately rate Godinho were it not for the two times he lost his mark near the end of the game. His shoddy defending led to RSL’s lone goal and another opportunity to be put in the box. If this is a trial to make the roster for next season, Godinho’s first performance didn’t do him any favors.

Ryan Raposo: N/A

Same for Raposo, but he didn’t do anything too well or too off, so not enough data to be given an accurate score.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Whitecaps played really well. It was the first convincing Whitecaps victory in a while. The team looked to have more of an identity in the football they were playing without a a proper coach than they did with one. While it’s unfortunate that the Marc Dos Santos era had to end prematurely, I think both the coach and the team were better off finding options more suited to each other, and today performance showed that. The Whitecaps can play that high-press attacking football that is often talked about, and it was good to see the team get not just a win, but another moral victory. While my ratings are usually pretty cynical, today I believe I gave my highest scores ever for the team collectively. Is the team riding the post-sack high? Who knows, all that is for certain is that this is a new chapter in Whitecaps history, and nothing has a bigger impact than starting off with a bang.

Disagree with any of the ratings above? Sound off in the comments with your opinion.