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Report Card: Facing Reality in Colorado

After a 3-1 loss in Colorado, the Vancouver Whitecaps are forced to look ahead to 2023.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Colorado Rapids Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night in Colorado, the Vancouver Whitecaps dropped a 3-1 contest to the Colorado Rapids which in essence ended their 2022 MLS Cup playoff hopes.

For Vanni Sartini’s team, the disappointing road defeat was emblematic of their struggles down the stretch: poor goalkeeping, error prone defensive play and a complete inability to maximize chance creation with their attacking players.

While keeping the ball out of their own net has drawn much of the criticism surrounding the team this year, the fact that Vancouver’s attacking play has regressed since the addition of Julian Gressel and Alessandro Schopf is a rather damning inditement of the current coaching staff. Over the past five matches, the Whitecaps have created more than 1.0 expected goals just once in a match, while looking at the big picture, the last time they created more than 2.0 expected goals in a match was against Toronto FC back on May 8th.

For what it is worth, I thought the Rapids were actually quite poor on Saturday, you could see why they were winless in their last six going into this one. They offered acres of space for the Whitecaps to take them on 1v1 in and around the box, yet Vancouver rarely took them up on this offer. Instead, the Whitecaps were insistent on sending early crosses into the box. Usually, this found Brian White marked by three or four Rapids defenders and with little chance to produce a goal scoring threat. To back this up statistically, the Whitecaps completed just 4 of their 24 crosses in this match. Now, crossing is generally not a super high percentage play, but what I would question is how often Whitecaps players sent in crosses knowing there was little to no chance of creating a dangerous play outside of a lucky bounce. I would have to imagine this tendency is down to coaching instruction more than it is the poor decision making of the players. At this point, one can’t help but wonder what players like Schopf and Gressel would look under different tactical direction because it simply hasn’t been working so far.

With all that being said, let’s dive into the player ratings:

Cody Cropper: Without specifically re-litigating the two goals from open play, I think it is fair to say that Hasal and Cropper have been about equally mediocre this season, often not providing the key saves this team has needed. With that in mind, there is literally zero upside to playing Cropper over Hasal. The young Canadian could develop into a starting keeper or at the very least be sold on for a decent fee while Cropper provides the club with neither of those options. 4.0

Javain Brown: It appears the back four was not the problem. While Javain did create a good amount going forward, Johnathan Lewis gave him fits down the left side in attack and twice the Whitecaps were exposed for goal creating plays as a result. 3.0

Ranko Veselinovic: The young Serbian could have avoided the PK drama by simply fouling 20 yards earlier. Other than that, it was a decent showing. 5.0

Tristan Blackmon: Personally, I would prefer Blackmon as a fullback in a back four rather than at CB. He can get a bit lost with his positioning inside his own box and is not very good in the air, you also lose some of his passing upside. Overall though, Blackmon looked solid. 5.5

Marcus Godinho: I never get tired of watching Godinho on the ball. In possession, I though he was a bright spot. Perhaps some questions could be asked of his closing down on the Rapids first goal. 5.5

Andres Cubas: He was a menace physically and had some really good battles with Diego Rubio who loves to go to ground. Without Gauld, it felt like Cubas was missing that No.1 option he always looks for the get the Whitecaps out on the break. 6.0

Russell Teibert: I didn’t notice much from him other than a comical moment where he took the ball from Vite’s feet at the edge of the box while he was lining up a shot. There’s nothing new to say really. 4.5

Alessandro Schopf: The Austrian had a couple of bright moments, and you can really tell he looks at his best with the ball at his feet. Still tough, he looks like he is mis-cast in Vanni’s system, especially given you don’t get much from him pressing or defensively. 5.0

Julian Gressel: Gressel was the poster child for speculative crosses in this match, as he was just 1 for 8 on his crossing attempts. Either Gressel needs to find another way to be dangerous, or the Caps need to get more bodies in the box. 5.0

Pedro Vite: The young attacking mid is my man of the match. He looked like the one player for the Whitecaps who was not afraid to challenge the Rapids defenders with the ball at his feet and had a number of dangerous shots and passes. 6.5

Brian White: The lone striker did a nice job capitalizing on an early Rapids error, but from then on, he was very isolated and had a lot of work to do on his own. 5.5

Luis Martins & Cristian Dajome: The Whitecaps’ early substitutions did little to push the momentum in Vancouver’s favour, though I can’t really fault Martins for the third Rapids goal, which was decent defending on his part. Dajome, meanwhile, continued his very poor season.

Leonard Owusu, Tosaint Ricketts, Ryan Raposo: I can’t say that I saw much of note from any of these three, though Raposo did have a couple of good moments on the ball, and I would have preferred to see him come on earlier as opposed to Martins.

Ok, that’s all from me. What did you think of this match and the individual performances within it? What can the Whitecaps do before the end of the season to iron out some of their attacking problems? Let me know in the comments as always.