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Mad Max: Late penalty save sinks FC Dallas, preserves 1-0 win for Caps

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MLS: FC Dallas at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It was more of an adventure than the Caps (or their fans) wanted, but Vancouver earned a 1-0 win over FC Dallas at BC Place Saturday on the back of a vital Max Crepeau penalty save in stoppage time.

The late penalty, given after Patrick Metcalfe pulled at Jader Obrian on an aerial challenge, was FC Dallas’ main threat of the match. The Caps were unlucky that Brian White’s first half header was their lone goal of the match.

Vanni Sartini went with a galaxy brain take on the 5-3-2, with Jake Nerwinski slotting in as a centerback and Bruno Gaspar and Cristian Dajome at wingback. Leo Owusu made his first start in some time, sitting next to Russell Teibert in the midfield. And this was the first time Brian White and Lucas Cavallini started alongside each other up top. With a busy week of matches for the Caps, it was perhaps a (strange) way of getting some roster rotation in place.

The Caps had an energetic and productive start but lacked the clear cut chances to go along with it. That changed in the 19th minute, when Teibert (!) whipped in an excellent cross that caught Jimmy Maurer in no man’s land. Brian White happily took advantage of the keeper’s error to head home.

The Caps let FC Dallas back into things, though while they gave up a fair amount of possession but the shots almost entirely came from outside the box and/or didn’t threaten Max Crepeau. Cava nearly converted a chance very similar to the one White scored from but Maurer was equal to this one. Still, the Caps entered the break good value for their lead.

The second half was much of the same — a cagey affair, with the Caps holding the upper hand despite some dangerous FC Dallas counters. The away side seemingly had grabbed a point when VAR correctly deemed Metcalfe conceded the penalty but the substitute Franco Jara scuffed his shot and it was a fairly comfortable save for Crepeau. Not good for my blood pressure but the three points still count all the same.

Major Takeaways

  • The move to start Leo Owusu was a bit of a surprise but he put in a Caio Alexandre-esque type of performance, something the team has been missing since the Brazilian sustained a long term injury. Not getting thrown haphazardly in the middle of a match gave him a more defined role and he was intent on more progressive passes (not something we always associate with Leo). Put in a decent defensive shift to boot.
  • Cava looked better but man there were a lot of crosses where you have to think a sharper Tanque does better or drifts into the right space to create a chance for himself. He’s getting closer to getting back on the scoresheet, though.
  • Yeah, I was wrong on the Brian White deal and am happy to eat my words. He performed like what we usually expect from Cava and I thought his presence gave his counterpart at striker the space and ability to move about and do more of what he does best. His confidence is showing and will hopefully continue to flourish.
  • I know this isn’t my team ... but why would you not have your in-form, national team capped young forward take a vital penalty versus a forward who has fallen out of favor and who hasn’t lived up to his DP tag.
  • That being said, while Ricardo Pepi looked dangerous throughout the night, it was some nice defensive work by all three members of the backline to mostly confine his chances to low percentage shots from outside the box. There were a couple, more global slip ups defensively, but the three centerbacks always seemed to recover to snuff out danger.
  • Max Crepeau is a god among men.
  • Patrick Metcalfe probably shouldn’t check social media after that one. He was generally fine up until the penalty but oof ... that’s not a mistake you can make in the 90th minute. I don’t think he should be permanently affixed to the bench or fired into the sun but I also am not sure my heart can take him playing at wingback again this season.

Personal Thoughts

These are the matches a playoff team probably puts to bed long before the 93rd minute but this was still a pretty comfortable effort, right up until the whole penalty debacle. Sartini deserves credit for milking the best out of a pretty strange starting XI and some of his decisions looked pretty darn good in hindsight: the two striker look was productive, Owusu was excellent and even Nerwinski and Teibert looked solid.

Ryan Gauld was quietly influential with eight (8!) key passes. Now that other teams know how influential he is, Gauld has to work harder to directly influence matches but the defensive attention he draws opens up a lot of space for his teammates, notable Cristian Dajome, who looked good again at wingback.

Ultimately, the Caps did what they had to do and even got to rest some key players ahead of a long, grueling midweek trip to Houston. Dallas had some looks, primarily off counter attacks or other chances to get the Caps out of their shape but the midfield deserves credit for doing a lot of dirty work — and what they didn’t get to, the backline was able to handle.

A deserved three points — and how often this season have we been able to say that?

Man of the Match

The obvious answer is Max Crepeau, whose stop on Jara’s (admittedly suboptimal) penalty saved the day for the Caps. The reaction from the players tells you all you need to know about who they think was the MVP — and who are we to argue?

If we were to posit another couple of names here, it would have to be the two central midfielders. While a Teibert/Owusu midfield initially filled me with fear, it was an excellent performance from both. Owusu put together the performance we have been waiting for from him and made a number of really smart, progressive passes. His defensive work was strong as well.

And Teibert could get a spot here just for his inch perfect assist but he also completed 90% of his passes, batted 100% on his long balls and had a number of interceptions and blocks to boot. The backline deserves an honorable mention but it was the midfield who likely defied expectations more than anyone else.