Unfortunately for the Vancouver Whitecaps, their run of home form came to an end on Saturday night at BC Place with a 3-2 loss to the visiting Portland Timbers.
It was a match that gradually gained momentum throughout, as the first half was mostly a cautious affair spent in patient build-up and possession. Yet, by the time we got to the final minutes, it was a wide-open free for all, which certainly made for an entertaining watch.
The match had a bit of everything, and at the end of the day, it did feel a bit unkind for the Whitecaps to walk away without a point. However, there were some shocking moments and decisions that opened the door for this result, and the Timbers, opportunistic as ever, were happy to take advantage.
All that being said, let’s dive into the grades.
Thomas Hasal (4.0)
I don’t have a ton to say about Hasal, although, it’s never a good look to allow three goals on just four shots on target. If I want to nitpick, perhaps he could have played a bit more upright on the third Timbers goal. Honestly though, defensive lapses were a much bigger issue.
Florian Jungwirth (3.5)
Obviously, there was the one big swing and a miss by Flo that most of you probably have etched in your minds. More than that though, the German looked uncomfortable 1v1 throughout the match and it feels like this formation maybe just asks too much of him defensively in space. In comparison to his opposite wide-centreback, he was also far more limited in possession.
Ranko Veselinovic (6.0)
Individually, I thought Ranko was very good once again, and is having a stellar season so far. The one thing that does lack in his game at times is his ability to organize those around him, and I felt like that showed up at times Saturday night, although I don’t think that should rest entirely on his shoulders.
Cristian Gutierrez (5.5)
This might be a controversial grade because Guti did not have a great night defensively, but he was very good on the ball, especially when he combined with Raposo to kick start the Whitecaps in possession. The simple fact is that Guti just isn’t a great defender, but he’s one of the Whitecaps’ best players in possession and they really need him on the pitch. It’s a tough problem, and one that Vanni Sartini has yet to fully solve.
Sebastian Berhalter (6.5)
After a couple loose passes early on, Berhalter was very good, especially switching play. He’s also far more comfortable than Teibert combining with the wing backs and making dangerous runs in and around the box. I really liked what I saw, and Seb should undoubtedly remain a starter in this midfield.
Russell Teibert (3.0)
I’m not going to be saying anything I haven’t said before here. What’s been most disappointing about Rusty this season is how easily he’s been dribbled past defensively, because I didn't find that to be a problem in past seasons. I think that the aggressive pressing nature of the Whitecaps off the ball just doesn't suit Teibert’s passive style, and it’s been really obvious so far this year. Get Vite in the starting lineup ASAP.
Also, I couldn’t help but include a Teibert backwards pass clip.
Cristian Dajome (3.5)
Maybe this is a hot take but I thought Dajome was very poor. The technique on his goal was sublime, but outside of that moment it was a real struggle. You could see the quality of attack drop off for Vancouver in the first half when they moved Dajome onto Gutierrez’s side of the pitch and I thought that, especially in the first forty-five, Raposo looked far better at the wing back spot. I’ve been saying it all year, but I think that wing back simply asks too much of Dajo in and around his own box. He was far too aggressive against Loria (who was already out of control) on the penalty call, and his intervention (or lack thereof) on the third Portland goal was mystifying. I’m not sure where he’s going after the ball deflects off his leg. As I’ll talk about in a bit with Deiber, I’d still like to see Dajome in that false nine spot. I think he’s a better fit up front.
Ryan Raposo (6.0)
I thought the Whitecaps got 60 minutes of very good play out of Raposo, especially as he was trying to follow up his first ever start and goal at BC Place. There were a few prime examples in the first half of Gutierrez and Raposo combining in what I have to imagine is exactly how Vanni Sartini wants his wing backs to play in buildup. It felt like Raposo was always seeking out Ryan Gauld, and that’s probably a good strategy for this Vancouver team. Equally, because Raposo is such a good presser of the ball defensively, he rarely leaves himself in tough spots tracking back.
Ryan Gauld (6.0)
There may not have been a ton of highlight reel plays, but it felt like Gauld was back on form against Portland. Every time he was on the ball and around the area, he put Portland’s defenders under threat. As Brian White ramps up to full speed, I think there’s a lot more to be had out of that duo.
Deiber Caicedo (4.0)
I always appreciate Caicedo’s effort level, and taking advantage of poor throw-in defending is perfect evidence of that, but I can’t help but feel like Caicedo leaves something on the table as a second forward for Vancouver. A lot of what Sartini is asking of his front two in this system is to hold up the ball, and that’s probably one of the Colombian's biggest weaknesses as a forward. He also does not have great awareness in and around the box. There were a number of times where if he’d made a different run, or been in a different spot, he may have been a better option for a pass. Especially early in the match, it looked like White and Gauld were playing around him at times.
As an example, it’s a small detail, but if Caicedo makes a more diagonal run on this play, he may have been an option for a pass from Raposo. Meanwhile, the ensuing turnover led to Portland making the match 2-0 minutes later at the other end.
Brian White (5.5)
White was good and looks like he is slowly building up to last year’s form. Honestly, there’s not a lot more to say than that, it was great to see him go the full 90, and it feels like only a matter of time before he opens his 2022 account.
All three players who came off the bench had a real positive impact as Vancouver threw everything they could at Portland in the final minutes. I’d like to see a Raposo-Brown wing back pairing next weekend in Montreal as I think that matches both current form and the best of what Sartini wants from his wing backs at the moment. Blackmon looked solid as always, especially on the ball, and Vite has made it pretty clear that he should be a starter in the midfield. At the very least, Vite is capable enough as a defender to make it worth the “risk” of taking Teibert out of the starting XI. I could also see the merits of Vite playing up top alongside White, if Vanni thinks that’s a better tactical fit.
How did you feel about the 3-2 loss to Portland, and what did you think of how I saw the match. In particular, I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts about Dajome and Caicedo. On to the next!