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Report Card: I Needed This Result Like Another Hole in the Head

Breaking down a performance in which eleven players lost the game, but one lost the plot.

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

Who knew that the latest thumping would come so soon after their last one? And at home no less?

In a game repeatedly referred to as “must-win” in its build-up and began with some promising play from Vancouver, one demoralizing Nashville SC goal after another deflated the Whitecaps to no end. Well, two ends: the first being an absolute moment of head-stomping madness and the actual end, a 3-0 loss at the hands of a playoff chasing rival.

And now, here we are, trying to make sense of a performance where the players looked kind of OK at times despite losing by three goals, the staff will surely be looking ahead to the results of the next disciplinary meeting, and the fans are already looking at 2023.

Thomas Hasal - 3.5

Conceding three goals is never a good look, particularly when the first is a low shot from distance that you touch but can’t push wide, the second is a header you know you should have stopped when it comes straight down the middle, and the third is one you can’t help but hesitantly stare at as the ball caroms around in places that are all out of your reach.

That isn’t to say Hasal was completely at fault on all three goals; the effort and/or tactics on display should absolutely be called in to question. But these were the types of goals one thinks of when the phrase “the keeper stole us the game” gets thrown around. If Hasal can somehow keep out any one of those goals, who knows if momentum could have swung for the better.

Nevertheless, Hasal looked far more decisive after the Whitecaps went down to 10 men, and he stopped a PK after all. The game was all but over at that point, but the moment was still something to applaud.

Tristan Blackmon - 4

Overall, Blackmon kept it simple when passing out of the back by cleanly hitting his sideline outlets, but his balls to the middle of the park were either too forced or off the mark altogether. He does get credit for his offensive adventures up the pitch, however, as they were often dangerous and entertaining as hell.

Defensively, Blackmon arguably got his job done, apart from two weird errors of his own making. The yellow card he drew just before half time was unnecessary, particularly in how it came as a result of his own bad pass, and the fact that he avoided a second yellow when conceding the penalty was a minor miracle. Thankfully nothing came out of those two somewhat glaring mistakes in what was otherwise a reasonable performance, but they were the kind of incidents that could have made a bad night so much worse.

Ranko Veselinovic - 5

How often is it that Ranko looks great with his feet but gets beaten in the air? Getting outhopped on the third goal’s initial cross was uncharacteristic for the centerback, but when it came to anything on the ground, it felt like no one could beat Veselinovic in a 1v1.

And that track back to catch and strip Ethan Zubak of the ball after the striker was sprinting at Hasal for thirty or so yards? Absolutely phenomenal.

Javain Brown - 4.5

Brown’s passes up the pitch were underwhelming, but he was solid in the air and his backside support was invaluable. The yellow card he drew could have been worse in the hands of an ejection-happy referee, but that aside Brown put in an otherwise decent effort.

Ryan Raposo - 3.5

Raposo was deft in when controlling the ball, while his instincts on what to do with it after receiving a pass were generally correct, but those moments came so few and far between that he was arguably AWOL on the night. If the intent of the attack was to build from the middle to the wings, I don’t think Raposo was doing enough to make that happen.

Sebastian Berhalter - 3

Berhalter had moments where his ability to close down and react to an attacker were superb. Stealing the ball and setting up Ryan Gauld for a clear shot on net? Fantastic! But moments where he doesn’t react quick enough or, even worse, has to recover from an error? Hoo boy, he’s going to need someone to bail him out. When already on the move, Berhalter was fantastic at closing down players, but things quickly became far more problematic whenever he had to play off his back foot.

Andrés Cubas - 6

Oh man, he’s trying. Cubas attacked the attackers on defense and often kept his passing simple on offense. Maybe he needs to connect better with his attackers in front of him? That’s the first thing I can think of that maybe could be better from him, but I’d say that about anyone who’s not Vancouver’s front three.

Regarding the second goal, and keep in mind that this is a question of tactics rather than me putting any blame on Cubas, but why was hemarking Jack Maher on the second goal? Let’s put the 5’4” midfielder on the 6’3” centerback! Given that the three Whitecap defenders were positioned directly in front of Hasal when Maher made his unmarked header, I’m going to guess that goal came from a baffling decision to rely on zonal marking to defend the corner kick.

If you know for a fact that your opponent does not move at all on dead balls, sure, use zonal marking. But if they do the wise thing of moving to space? Well, you’re just going to have a bunch of people looking for someone to blame when the ball is headed in the net.

Julian Gressel - 3.5

His passes up the pitch were mildly threatening but mostly inaccurate, his runs were mostly well-intentioned but usually uneventful, and his dead balls were close but still off the mark. It was a “rough around the edges” performance for me where the right amount incisiveness, or even plain ol’ good luck, could have made a big difference.

Ryan Gauld - 6.5

Easily the Man of the Match for the Whitecaps. I thought his work rate was outstanding, even after Cavallini’s sending off where the ‘Caps were at least making a concentrated effort to ruin the shutout. To that end, Gauld continuously attempting to be involved in the offensive build-up was encouraging. If only those shots were a little narrower, or the nets a little wider.

Alessandro Schöpf - 3

Patient and calculated with the ball at his feet, even in high pressure areas, which is great, but it’s his moments before and after a possession that were a bit underwhelming.

Schöpf could be a little too low energy for someone playing under the striker and would seemingly compensate by planning what he would with the ball before actually possessing it. That’s the kind of thought process where you, say, let the ball roll through your legs before you even have a chance to play it. Boy, have I been there.

He’ll continue growing with the team, but for now Schöpf is putting out a vibe where he’s a little too anxious and that he’s over-thinking his playmaking.

Brian White - 4

White was fierce in spearheading the Whitecaps’ press early on, but Nashville sure made it difficult for him to from any kind of consistent link-up play with his midfielders. The effort was there, but unfortunately the ideal impact was not.

Substitutions

Cristian Dajome - 5

On at half for Raposo, Dajome immediately demonstrated the qualities of a particular early ‘90s WWF tag team. You know, because he was High Energy.

Dajome’s first pass, a seeing-eye rifle to Brian White, was followed up moments later with the absolute flattening of Alex Muyl. Once he reigned it in a little, Dajome looked dangerous in the attack, even after the ‘Caps went down to ten men. His passing wasn’t the crispest, but the overall effort was encouraging.

Lucas Cavallini - 0

Without question, tonight’s easiest grading. On for Berhalter at the half, Cavallini would pick up a straight red card eight minutes later after going out of his way to step on the neck/back of Muyl after shoving him to the ground. To quote Eleanor Shellstrop from The Good Place, what the fork? See you in four games, I guess.

Marcus Godinho - 4

On for Brown at 62’, Godinho would sometimes fade in and out during his time on the pitch. In spite of that drifter mentality, I thought he looked kind of menacing when the ball would eventually find his feet. Fully willing to accept that I’m the only one who thought so, however.

Incidentally, an injury time possession of Godinho’s followed by a subsequent cross that went well into the stands was emblematic of the Whitecaps’ night: things looked good until they didn’t and when they didn’t, they looked awful.

Pedro Vite - 5.5

Came in for Schöpf at 62’. Picked up a number of quality touches in and around the Nashville penalty area throughout his twenty-eight minutes. Yes, Nashville were up three goals and one player during that time, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t threatening; only the post would keep Vite him off the score sheet after a great turn-and-fire at 75’.

Tosaint Ricketts - 4.5

Onin for White at 73’. Worked hard in trying to pressure the Nashville backline as the foregone match came to a close.