The Vancouver Whitecaps dropped their first match in the month of May this past Sunday against Charlotte FC by a score of 2-1. In a stretch of matches that has already been very challenging to evaluate, things were made even more difficult by the decimation of the Whitecaps squad due to health and safety protocols going into this one. Ultimately, I don’t know how much there is to takeaway from such weird circumstances, but here are three themes that stood out to me from this weekend in Carolina.
Age is just a Number
It was funny how story-lines converged in this match. While 17-year-old Max Anchor was thrust into a starting position in goal, the notable absences from the squad also saw 34-year-old Tosaint Ricketts earn an unusual start up front for the Whitecaps.
I have to give credit to Tos where credit is due, he’s been full value in the minutes he’s played for the Whitecaps so far this season. Also, to see the late-game super-sub score a goal so early on was a particularly entertaining subversion of our expectations.
2 - Tosaint Ricketts goal at 1:48 was the fastest from kickoff for @WhitecapsFC since March 2017 (E. Hurtado).— OptaJack⚽️ (@OptaJack) May 22, 2022
Ricketts previous 17 @MLS goals (incl. playoffs) were scored in the 37th minute or later, including 15 after halftime. Shine. pic.twitter.com/9lS9m3FTCz
Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the pitch, I think it’s fair to say that Anchor did about everything you could have asked of him being thrown into the deep end as much as he was.
I do wonder if three at the back was the best choice to start the match in light of Anchor’s obvious lack of experience, and it felt like the Whitecaps could have done a little more early to help him settle into the match - but that does nothing to take away from his performance.
Yes, the circumstances were exceptional, but you can’t ignore just how bad the Vancouver Whitecaps have been on the road so far this season.
The Whitecaps are yet to pick up a single point through six road games this year, with a record of 0-0-6. Despite the fact the roster was depleted, there’s little excuse for holding less than 40% possession against a team in Charlotte that didn’t offer much in the midfield. Leonard Owusu, who played 45 minutes for Vancouver, had just six touches and three completed passes. I’m not even sure how that’s possible to be honest.
Regardless of individual performances, the mindset Vancouver employs in road games needs some serious adjustment. While the Whitecaps did look dangerous at times when they got moving in transition, it didn't happen nearly enough to produce more than a goal. The Whitecaps have actually been respectable on the road defensively in terms of expected goals, even if they don’t pass the eye test. More importantly though, Vancouver has created just 3.8 xG over their six games outside BC Place this year, the worst of any team in MLS.
Call in the Cavalry
The big question going forward is how many of the missing players the Vancouver Whitecaps will be able to get back for their midweek Canadian Championship match at Spruce Meadows against Cavalry FC.
Unlike the match with Valour, the Whitecaps will have to deal with the hostile confines of an opposing team’s stadium, and until Vancouver can overcome this obstacle I’m not entirely convinced their Canadian Championship demons are behind them. Hopefully the the surface will be looking a bit better than last time these two teams played in Calgary.
What did you think of this weekend’s contest and how are you feeling going into Cavalry midweek?