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Controversial Finish: Ricketts Propels Whitecaps to Surprise Win

It was a match marred by questionable moments, but the Vancouver Whitecaps are happy to walk away with three points after a 1-0 win over TFC.

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

If not for a surprising goal in the final stages, there might not have been a whole lot to write about in this one, especially from the Vancouver Whitecaps’ point of view.

As it turned out, Tosaint Ricketts broke the deadlock for Vancouver in the 90th minute, and his team took a classic smash and grab result by a score of 1-0 over Toronto FC at BC Place. While Toronto FC and their supporters will feel hard done by, the Whitecaps certainly won’t care, as they desperately needed whatever points they could get their hands on to slowly start climbing up the Western Conference standings.

Ch-ch-ch-anges

Obviously, a lot was made of Vanni Sartini’s tactical changes going into this one. Specifically, the move away from the three/five at the back. All things considered, this seems like it worked for Vancouver. The dis-allowed goal for TFC was an obvious defensive breakdown but other than that the Caps were pretty organized against some skilled TFC attackers.

More importantly though, the change in shape benefited a couple of players in particular. After a really bad start to the year, Javain Brown had a big comeback match, not only did he look decent defensively but he was very active going forward and playing crosses into the TFC box. Ryan Gauld also showed some signs of his former self, especially in the first half (before taking a knock) and Vanni explained post-match how they’ve changed his responsibilities to create some more space for him in transition.

VAR’ed

There are still the elephant(s) in the room from this match that have to be addressed. There were three officiating decisions that had a big impact on the final result.

The first was the VAR changed penalty call that went against Vancouver. While unfortunate for Ranko, I think it was a pretty clear cut penalty, although I also understand why Ranko was not anticipating the ball being near his arm so abruptly. Good thing Hasal was there to save the day.

The second moment was a very clear mistake by the officials. Hasal make a great initial save but there was egregious ball-watching on behalf of the Whitecaps defenders which left Jayden Nelson unattended in front of goal. Hasal tries to make a play on the ball and Nelson definitely does get a piece of Hasal as he strikes the ball, but it was very clear Hasal did not have control and if anything, the contact with Hasal was on the follow through of that shot. You could tell from the post match presser that the Whitecaps knew they got away with one there, how this was called off I still don’t know.

Finally, there is the matter of Ricketts’ game-winner. This is the one where I’ll go to bat for the Whitecaps and counter the outrage of TFC supporters. I thought Tos was offside in live time, but the alternate angle that the TSN broadcast showed after the goal made it pretty clear that Ricketts was level with the last Toronto defender, or at the very least that it was too close to call after the flag was left down on the pitch. I understand there’s a heightened sensitivity after an earlier mistake, but that doesn’t make it the wrong call.

Other Musings

I was pleasantly surprised by Cody Cropper, especially how assertive he was commanding his area. That was nice to see after the scouting reports were not very good for him out of the USL. The Whitecaps might need him again if Hasal is not good to go with such a quick turnaround.

Lucas Cavallini earning himself a yellow card on a scissor challenge before he’d even touched the ball is quite something. I thought he was really quite poor until the play where he set up Tos for the game-winner.

Jake Nerwinski was still a liability defensively, but at least his weaknesses are mitigated in a back four. The midfield pivot was really bad again, although I think Berhalter can be a rotational squad player with upside so long as he doesn't have to carry all the weight in that spot.

Final Thoughts

Even though it wasn’t pretty, the Whitecaps desperately needed this and there were enough positives to make me think it’s not a guarantee they lose to Valour mid-week (lol). With another struggling opponent in San Jose coming up on the MLS schedule, this is a real opportunity for the Whitecaps to steady themselves and work out some of the kinks in this new system while collecting some valuable home points.

What did you think?