The Vancouver Whitecaps ground out a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. If you were neutral this was probably a mind-numbingly dull experience. Though if you are a Whitecaps partisan, desperate for something to feel good about after a poor start to the season. it was probably a very stressful experience. This was far from a perfect performance but there were absolutely some things to feel good about in this one from a Whitecaps perspective.
The first half was not so bad. In the 2021 playoffs, SKC’s game plan was based around exploiting the space behind Vancouver’s fullbacks when they pressed high up the pitch. But that never really got going. Javain Brown has been caught out a lot this season and Ryan Raposo was making his first start as a wing-back so you would think they would be ripe for the picking. But neither player was ever really exposed. SKC’s wingers, normally the main source of danger, struggled to make any headway against Vancouver’s back three. Vancouver even hemmed SKC in their own end on a couple of occasions. But the Whitecaps lacked a cutting edge. The front three of Gauld, White, and Caicedo showed some energy but each seemed a little out of sync. This maybe isn’t surprising considering this was their first time playing together and White and Gauld have both battled injuries. The ‘Caps had a bit of trouble building up quickly through the midfield. Teibert and Berhalter were not bad necessarily but neither is all that likely to unlock a set defence. The game was screaming for the sadly unavailable Caio Alexandre.
In the second half things opened up slightly. Ryan Gauld was a little more involved with a headed chance and a pass to Caicedo whose shot from a dangerous area was blocked. The Whitecaps changed things up with Pedro Vite, Lucas Cavallini, and Michael Baldisimo entering the match. All three showed some good energy, even if they displayed some of their trademark foibles. It was a great ball in behind from Baldisimo that created Ryan Raposo’s long-awaited first professional goal and Cavallini’s bustling that created the space. The rest of the way Hasal had to be alert on a couple of chances but SKC did not create anything extremely dangerous. But one big concern for Vancouver will be the late-game injuries to Tristan Blackmon and Javain Brown. Brown, who had his best game of the season by far, pulled up lame and Tristan Blackmon clashed heads with Ranko Veselinovic. There are options available to replace Brown but Blackmon would be a huge loss. Is it possible to give someone a calf transplant? Erik Godoy would like to know.
Vancouver struggled to break down SKC but they managed to get a gutsy result and showed some strong defensive play. If they can beat Portland next week they will be undefeated at home and only one game back of being .500. But as always, the most important word is “if.”