Saturday night at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Los Angeles FC by a score of 1-0. It was newcomer Andres Cubas who wrote the story-book ending with an 89th minute goal from outside the area which found the side-netting past former Whitecaps keeper, Maxime Crepeau.
Vancouver’s home form remains remarkable under Vanni Sartini, as the Portland Timbers are the only team over the course of his tenure that have been able to come to BC Place and secure all three points. LAFC has been red-hot this season, as they’ve clearly been the best team in MLS, and yet Vancouver was able to dictate their preferred style of play on their home pitch, frustrating Los Angeles and deservedly finding a goal inside the last 15 minutes, where it felt like the Whitecaps played some of their best football of the season.
Ryan Raposo and Marcus Godinho remain crucial to the way Vanni Sartini wants his team to play and both had standout showings against some of LAFC’s gifted attacking players, even if the visitors didn’t have their full host of weapons available after a midweek fixture against FC Dallas. Ryan Gauld also had a return to form, pushing closer to the kind of showings we saw from him on a week to week basis at the end of 2021.
Equally though, the Whitecaps were good enough to overcome a couple less than stellar performances. Lucas Cavallini, who’s been brilliant most of this season, had an off night. He struggled to stay out of the book and it’s clear that the chemistry between him and Brian White up front still needs some work. Tristan Blackmon was also less than at his best. In particular, his passing out of the back was uncharacteristically sloppy, and it appeared as though he and Ranko Veselinovic had their wires crossed on a few occasions.
None of this sunk the Whitecaps though, as Javain Brown and Ranko were full value for Vancouver in the back three, and the Whitecaps found a terrific creative spark off the bench in Pedro Vite, something that felt like it was a long time coming. Speaking of Vite, I think we have to give some credit to Vanni Sartini for calling his number when he did. It was a big moment to ask Vite to be ready for and it looked like the youngster was motivated by his time out of the lineup. Hopefully, this creates a foundation to see more of Vite in the future, especially in the continued absence of Deiber Caicedo.
Bringing things full circle, it almost goes without saying that Andres Cubas was immense in this match, even before the goal. He creates a roadblock in the midfield other teams have to play around, something the Whitecaps haven’t been able to do for years now. In particular, Cubas was able to prevent Chicho Arango from getting comfortable on the ball in dangerous areas, and this really helped the Whitecaps stymie LAFC’s attack on most occasions.
This leaves the Whitecaps in a place that they’ll undoubtedly be happy with. The club had two goals this season: winning the Canadian Championship and making the playoffs. Currently, they are in a position where there’s a good chance they could do both. In particular, the fact they were able to go head to head with a top team in MLS and play a style of football that suited them is a big step in the right direction.
Vancouver seems to be finding a tactical identity that actually gets the most out of their best players, which sounds simple, but is obviously easier said than done. Oh, and having three designated players on the pitch at the same time is very helpful, what a concept! In all seriousness, there’s a lot of reasons to be hopeful about what this Whitecaps team could do over the rest of the summer and into the fall, so long as they can continue to build on this model they have been crafting over the past couple months.
What did you think of the big win over LAFC? Let me know in the comments!