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Post Match: Silver Linings in Minnesota

Whitecaps Draw at the Death

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Minnesota United FC Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports

FseThings are starting to look a little frustrating recently for the Vancouver Whitecaps, Champions League success aside. With no wins in the league after four games, the goodwill of Vanni Sartini is starting to run out. The tactics are stale, the play uninspiring, and there looks to be no clear direction to where the team is going. Coming into the match with Minnesota this looked to be the same case. With some players taking their time in getting going, and a DP striker now out for the foreseeable future, the situation was looking a little dire heading into the Loons’ home ground. On a night where the superstars of the Canadian national team were playing at the same time, one would be inclined to choose the team with the potential to score lots of goals.

The lineup which Sartini chose was a little rotated, with Cubas away on national duty leaving a hole in the midfield that any one on the team would be hard pressed to fill. Not an ideal place for the ‘Caps to be, but somehow they made it work.

With Gauld and White now moved into their natural positions, it looked like something clicked with the rest of the team. Right off the bat the Whitecaps came out striking, with White now in a more familiar position allowing him to showcase his true abilities as a number nine. Some strong shots made it interesting enough for people to guess this would not be like the typical Whitecaps affair. Somehow, everything clicked for the team in Vancouver and they played a game unlike they had before, with perfect counter attacking play and a midfield that focused more on distribution of the ball than just stopping the opponents’ attacks. Whether it be through the underestimation of the team or the Whitecaps having done their homework on Minnesota, the American team just couldn’t break down the team that took the field on Saturday.

Unfortunately the Whitecaps were let down by something that has been a recurring issue this season, as lax man marking in the box allowed for the hosts to get a goal up on Vancouver. The Whitecaps were essentially being punished as they could only muster one shot on target during the first half. The scramble to get something back after conceding led to Gauld attempting a shot that went wide but the Whitecaps were forced to go into the dressing room in a losing position.

Now, that halftime team talk must have been one of the ages, because although the Whitecaps were playing good the first half, the second was basically a commanding performance. Many of the problems which the Whitecaps have long suffered with suddenly became what they were good at, as they controlled majority of possession and got off over twice as many passes as Minnesota did. To add to this, the Whitecaps were not shy about shooting on net, probably the biggest hindrance the team has faced this season - and all of Sartini’s changes made an impact to the game. Shots from White, Dajome, and Schopf came dangerously close to tying up the game for Vancouver but Clint Irwin was up to the challenge on the day.

It appeared that although the Whitecaps had performed above everyone’s expectations, this game would be settled as a draw. That is, at least, until a certain academy prospect now scored a second important goal for the team and for his career. Simon Becher impressed in the CCL, and being put on as a sub in regular play, looked to add to his tally for the MLS. A different sort of striker than the Whitecaps are used to (Something I’ve noted in games prior), his agility and positioning is something to be lauded. At the death of the game, Becher gets on the end of a Vite cross to tie the game up for Vancouver and silence the home fans in Minnesota. Not to overstate his quality but it appears the Becher has a drive to perform and puts himself in positions to create an impact for the team. His stellar recent performances call into question whether a DP striker was necessary if they had him waiting in the wings this entire time.

Overall, the Whitecaps played a good game but struggled to put it in the back of the net (As often happens). Luckily, a player who has dug them out of this before looks to be a local answer to a much maligned problem - and hopefully this run of form becomes consistency.