The Vancouver Whitecaps managed a 2-0 road win against F.C Dallas. For the first 60 minutes, it was a textbook road performance with the ‘Caps limiting Dallas to poor shots and turning their own breaks into dangerous chances. The last 30 minutes were less good but the first 60 minutes were good enough to leave us all feeling hopeful.
The first half went just about perfect for the Whitecaps. They scored an early goal through a quick break and then proceeded to largely frustrate Dallas. Andres Cubas was key to this. He did not necessarily make a lot of tackles but the way he closed down opposing players so quickly meant that they never had any space to make things happen. Despite having almost 65% possession in the first half Dallas managed just four shots which totaled 0.14 xG. Vancouver looked reasonably dangerous on counters and managed to draw a couple of yellow cards, one of which maybe should have been red, and create a couple of chances. They doubled their lead with a fantastic Deiber Caicedo free-kick just before halftime.
The second half got off to a reasonable start with the Whitecaps once again jamming up the works and preventing Dallas from creating anything particularly dangerous. The Tristan Blackmon and Andres Cubas were subbed off, presumably as both are still finding fitness, and replaced by Florian Jungwirth and Jake Nerwinski. Then things got pretty ugly. In the last 30 minutes, Dallas generated about 5 times the expected goals they did in the first 60 (this is not a facetious exaggeration they really did). Jungwirth did not have the same ability to cover ground as Cubas, and his interventions were often lacking. This meant that the back three had very little cover from Dallas’ rampages forward. Still, though, the backline managed to bend but not break and secure a 2-0 road win. The Whitecaps will have to consider themselves a bit fortunate but the first 60 minutes seem to offer a nice platform on which to build something.
Since the end of last season, I have been harping on the idea that the Whitecaps need to do a better job of finding low-cost depth players who are effective (easier said than done, I know). This game seems like another strong data point for that argument. The nature of MLS’ roster rules is such that there will always be some drop-off between first-team players and reserves. But the way the game instantly changed when Cubas and Blackmon left the pitch was astonishing. The Whitecaps chose to stay loyal to a lot of mediocre players in the name of keeping the group together and I think that has really come back to bite them.
Coming up the Whitecaps have a Canadian championship final against York United. Considering York are 6th in CPL and the Whitecaps are hosting the game, that should be a winnable game. Then they have three home games, two of which are against teams that are struggling. So there’s a decent chance that by mid-July the team will be comfortably in a playoff spot and in the Canadian Championship final. After a terrible start to the year that would feel pretty good. But as always it’s the Whitecaps and you can’t really rely on them to make the most of situations like this.