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Report Card: Vancouver’s Hellish Trip to the City of Angels

This one sure didn’t feel like a 2 AM hamburger.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Los Angeles FC Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The International Break could not have come at a better time, as the Vancouver Whitecaps dropped to 0-1-4 on the season following Sunday night’s 3-1 loss to top-of-the-table LAFC. Vancouver’s positive play from kickoff generated an early lead, but loose defending, both in the flow of play and on set pieces, undermined that early ambition.

The early positive play from the Whitecaps Sunday night demonstrates how the club is capable of running with the best. They just need to find ways to not let themselves become so disconcerted during a match.

Keep in mind, we’re still only four games into the season and our ideal starting eleven still remains to be seen. I mean, in 2021 the Whitecaps did not look like a playoff-caliber team until after the season was half-over. Nevertheless, this upcoming break from MLS play will be crucial for team needing an early reset, so that it and its fanbase are not continuing to hope that things will get better once we’re into the twilight of the summer.

Thomas Hasal - 7

Big saves from Hasal helped keep the scoreline from getting out of hand. The fingertip push off the bouncing header from Jose Cifuentes at 16’, the smother on a low header from an all-alone Hollingshead at 48’, and the near post punch of a Carlos Vela shot at 69’ were all phenomenal stops.

As for the goals, it was only the first where I thought Hasal could have done better. His reaction to the header came far too late; I don’t think he raised his arm to stop the ball until after it was in the net. On the second and third goals respectively, there was only so much Hasal could do once the defense broke down in front of him, or when a shot gets rifled on the volley through a sea of legs.

Jake Nerwinski - 3

Nerwinski looked panicked, though I can’t say it was always a result of his own actions. He received far too many suicide passbacks to corral (usually from one central midfielder in particular). Perhaps they wouldn’t have been as problematic if he were a bit more composed. In any case, his absolute undressing by Kwadwo Opoku in the build up to Vela’s goal was groan-inducing. Nerwinski must need arch support, because he sure looked flat-footed. Subbed for Ryan Raposo at 74’

Ranko Veselinovic - 4

If I’m being honest, I thought he looked like an awkward bundle of nerves. Ranko gets all the credit for leading the club in interceptions and clearances, but watching him try to make passes Sunday night gave me all sorts of anxiety.

He took an early yellow card born out of his own poor touch and would rely too heavily on his strong foot to pass in situations where its range and accuracy were greatly limited. And when he wasn’t passing under duress? He usually made it look like he was.

Tristan Blackmon - 7

Looked solid throughout the match on his side of the backline and, to top it off, was able to bag a goal against his old club. Blackmon should be stapled to the lineup card at this point.

Marcus Godinho - 4.5

I thought Godinho played well, but one area that could use a little improvement was his decision-making near the opposing penalty area. Defensively, I thought he looked fine, but Godinho needed a few more sparks of creativity in order to help out on offense. Was subbed for Cristian Gutierrez at 61’.

Sebastian Berhalter - 6

Kept things simple when the ball was at his feet, made smart runs when it wasn’t, and got stuck in when going at players defensively, rather than sit back and use his positioning to try to shepherd an opposing attacker. Yes, he got absolutely trucked by Hollingshead on the opening goal, but if you have to play zonal marking on set pieces, I’d be inclined to not have someone under 5’10’” be the player in the center of it all. I’m blaming the tactics on that one.

Russell Teibert - 2

I’ll keep this simple: even his backwards passing, Teibert’s usual bread and butter, was shocking. Subbed for Leo Owusu at 80’.

Javain Brown - 4

Like Godinho, Brown played well but was lacking offensively whenever he could get down the pitch. His passes meant to generate offense needed to be better.

Cristian Dajome - 3.5

The effort was decent, though LAFC never looked thoroughly menaced by his presence. Maybe it was as simple as a lack of cohesion with Brown Sunday night.

But the decision-making? Woof. Dajome cannot and should not live down his decision to shoot when on that early 2-on-1 counterattack. Not for the next little while, anyway.

You have the opportunity to extend your lead while playing away to a dangerous opponent by laying the ball to a wide open teammate where the closest defender to him is the one bearing down on you, and you opt to carry the ball into a tight-angled shot? Yeesh. Subbed for Deiber Caicedo at 74’.

Pedro Vite - 5

Good touch and good presence. Vite needs to be more authoritative when waiting for a pass, by creating space for himself that the defender can’t invade. Once the ball was won, however, his ambitious play and clever passes made Vite dangerous. It’s a shame he was looking as gassed as he was by the end of the match.

Lucas Cavallini - 6

Overall, I thought Cavallini played well, but it’ll never stop looking weird to see him drop into wider areas on the pitch as though he’s meant to be rotating with the wider attackers. I’d love to see him stay more central and continue to be a shit-disturber for centerbacks like Mbacke and Jesus Murillo, even if Cavallini sometimes looks too interested in exacting revenge. It’s as though he’s ready and willing to try to live in people’s heads, but loses interest when it isn’t rent free. Like Vite, Cava probably could have used a sub later on.

Substitutes

I thought each looked good, but not great, in their limited time on the pitch. Cristian Gutierrez was a certainly a quicker, more dangerous version of the player he replaced, though ultimately had to play deeper once Ryan Raposo was brought in. Deiber Caicedo was a necessary spark of energy that was robbed of a goal late by Doneil Henry. If there’s someone who needs to get the ball out of his feet quickly, it’s Ryan Raposo, but his free kick at 81’ was solid. Leo Owusu’s late appearance was mostly to help guide the match to the whistle, but I would have preferred to see him start beside Berhalter.

What were your thoughts on the match? How would you have rated the Whitecaps on the evening? Let us know in the comments!