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Comeback Caps again: Depleted Vancouver grab draw against FC Cincinnati

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at FC Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

A depleted Caps earned a midweek draw, deadlocking with FC Cincinnati 1-1 Wednesday night at TQL Stadium, with heroics from Isaac Boehmer and Cristian Dajome helping to share the spoils.

The point likely will be welcomed by Vanni Sartini, given a long midweek jaunt, with the Caps content to sit back and soak up pressure for much of the game.

A bruised and battered Caps side meant rotation was necessary. Tristan Blackmon and Erik Godoy returned to the lineup, slotting in alongside Javain Brown for the team’s strongest possible backline. Cristian Dajome and Ryan Raposo were the wingbacks once again and Florian Jungwirth returned to his experimental defensive midfielder role alongside Russell Teibert. Ryan Gauld, Pedro Vite and Lucas Cavallini were the attacking three.

The match opened with a bang. A well-orchestrated break for FC Cincinnati after a comfortable spell of possession opened the scoring immediately. Alvaro Barreal played a lovely one-two with Brenner, waltzed by a pair of Caps defenders and beat Cody Cropper at the near post, with the keeper not seeming to see the shot until too late.

It was a near instantaneous response, however. The goal had scarcely been announced at TQL Stadium when Cristian Dajome capitalized on a missed FC Cinci clearance to slide in a perfect cross, polished off by Ryan Gauld crashing the net. It was Gauld’s third goal of the season but his first since early June.

Things settled down a bit after that, though Cincinnati had the vast majority of the possession going forward. The Caps were content with their now typical posture, playing narrowly in a bid to force the opposition out wide.

Lucas Cavallini came the closest to getting the Caps a second goal. A nicely whipped corner found its way to Cava’s feet and he blasted it towards goal, but right at Roman Celentano, who pushed it off the upright to deny the striker a goal.

It was Cincinnati who did find that second goal. Initially it seemed like the home side was overmatched when they broke after a misplaced Pedro Vite first touch in the attacking third. But Brenner angled his way through the defense, absorbing attention away from Brendan Vazquez, who had a simple finish to put FCC up 2-1.

The Caps’ injury luck (or lack thereof) continued into this match. A vicious collision knocked out both Brown and Cropper, with the netminder taking out his teammate while going to claim a cross. Brown was immediately subbed off for Jake Nerwinski, as he seemed to take the brunt of the impact. Cropper lasted until halftime but was taken off for Isaac Boehmer.

A mostly sedate start to the second half was spiced up with a penalty shout for Cincinnati, with Brenner clipped on the edge of the box. VAR passed on requesting a second opinion from the match official, Pierre Luce Lauziere. To my eye it looked to be narrowly outside the box, for what its worth.

Cinci had 62% possession for the match, a stat that indicated the level of control they imposed in the second half. Truth be told, they should have had the match buried midway through the second half.

Part of the reason they didn’t was because of Isaac Boehmer, who made the most of his debut. First he composed himself to snag a wayward cross that deflected off Bremer and right back at him. Then, in the 72nd minute, he denied Barreal off a pacey direct free kick, pushing the ball over the bar.

His heroics helped set up the equalizer. Sergio Santos rolled a shot right to Boehmer and he wisely recycled the ball back into play quickly. While a through ball to substitute Tos Ricketts seemed to initially evade him, Tos launched in a nice pass to find an unmarked Dajome, who made no mistake.

Cincinnati attempted to grab a late winner but their last throws of the dice couldn’t quite come together.

Personal takeaways

  • It is unclear what has galvanized Cristian Dajome. Maybe it is the injury to his countryman, Deiber Caicedo. Maybe it’s the thrust of a playoff chase. But Dajome was excellent in this one, a rare match where he put in a strong two-way performance at wingback. Not only did he create a goal and bag one of his own but he was able to hang with the attacker on whichever side he was asked to play on.
  • At some point we need to explore the possibility this team is cursed. Entering the match down nine players is one thing but having your first choice backline last a half hour only to have to bring on your third choice keeper? Here’s hoping both Brown and Cropper have a speedy recovery but, man, this is getting frustrating.
  • A tough night for Cavallini, who just was never really properly engaged by the attack. The one clear cut chance that fell to him was well saved and another two-on-one was neutralized when he didn’t pull the trigger on a shot, a routine problem for him. Getting him on the same page as Ryan Gauld remains a mystery.
  • Gauld, however, had a better night and one hopes the goal will help restore his confidence, given he hasn’t had an open play tally in some time. That seemed to kick into gear already — he seemed more inclined to shoot the ball than he has in the past. Three key passes was decidedly Gauld-like as well.
  • Obligatory reference to the Caps scoring after Russell Teibert exited the match. Depth at that position isn’t great but surely we can give someone else a run out on the weekend, right? That being said — credit to Vanni for nailing the subs, with Tos Ricketts really adding a spark in addition to Caio Alexandre.
  • Make no mistakes, folks, this is a valuable point. This FC Cincinnati team isn’t your 2021 FCC (or your 2020 team, or your 2019 team ...) and have a very real shot at making the playoffs. Moreover, they’ve been in very good form, had the benefit of playing at home without the need for a cross country trip and aren’t quite as battered as the Caps are.

The final expected goal tallies were comparable, indicating a draw was a pretty fair result. This is one situation where I’ll take a point and live to fight another day (hopefully).

Man of the Match

Dajome is the obvious choice but the Caps don’t get in a position to earn a draw without Isaac Boehmer and he made a couple truly impressive saves, despite being called upon unexpectedly.

The extent of Cropper’s injury is unclear but Boehmer put in a very encouraging performance and showed a quiet confidence in goal, something Cropper hasn’t quite had in recent matches. Credit to Cropper for attempting to stay in the game but kudos are in order for Boehmer stepping up when called upon.