Photo Credit: Whitecaps Twitter Account

*This was originally posted on February 26, 2022*

It’s here, folks. The Vancouver Whitecaps season has begun and they were in Columbus to take on the Crew.

Unfortunately, it looked like the Whitecaps got an early season wake-up call as they got obliterated by the 2020 MLS Cup Champions 4-0.

Starting XI and pregame notes

Here is how the Whitecaps lined up for the match:

Via Whitecaps Twitter accountHead coach Vanni Sartini opened the season with the 3-1-4-2 formation he implemented in the preseason.It was interesting to see Michael Baldisimo as the DM and Russell Teibert more up front with Javain Brown.Deiber Caicedo was up front with Lucas Cavallini. Brian White hurt his right foot in training and wasn’t fit to start the match.According to GlobalBC’s Jay Janower, White did train on Friday and the pain and swelling was going away. However, it probably is best to rest him. The plan is to get him back to 100% for the health opener.Caio Alexandre is also out with a left foot injury. Teibert set up a club record with his 170th start and Cristian Dájome made his 300th apperance at the club level.First half thoughtsFrom the kickoff, the Crew came out buzzing. For the Whitecaps, they looked like a team that was nervous.In the eighth minute, there was some poor defending as Miguel Berry’s shot goes off Jake Nerwinski and Ranko Vesilinovic and past Thomas Hasal. There was nothing Hasal could do about that one.The Crew continued to turn it on. They were fast on the counter especially on the flanks.There was some poor marking from Javain Brown and Whitecaps debutant Tristan Blackmon as Derrick Ettiene was all alone and beat Hasal to make it 2-0 for the Crew.Vancouver had trouble creating anything and barely spent any time in Columbus’ half. When they did have the ball, they would lose it easily and the Crew would go on the counter as fast as Daredevil’s radar senses would detect an enemy. Brown and Michael Baldisimo in particular had a fough game. Brown looked really slow out there and was easily getting beat on the one-on-ones. Same goes for Baldisimo as well. While he can make good passes up the pitch (weren’t any today) he needs to work on his game defensively and today showed why.The back three of Blackmon, Ranko Vesilinovic and Jake Nerwinski were giving a lot of space for the Crew to get easy scoring chances and had trouble at times clearing the ball. Yes, there were some nice blocks from Vesilinovic but it wasn’t enough.Ryan Gauld and Dájome are guys who can make things happen but they were invisible in the first half and that is definetly due to Baldisimo, Teibert and Brown not doing a good job of defending and getting the ball up the pitch.Shots were 9-0 for the Crew in the first half.Second half thoughtsThe Whitecaps made their first change at halftime by bringing on former Crew player Sebastian Berhalter on for Baldisimo.The Whitecaps did look better in this half but it wasn’t enough.It started with some nice runs down the pitch and a shot from Dájome who shot it over the bar. It was nice to see some urgency from the Whitecaps.But then things went from bad to worse. Nerwinski grabbed ran back to stop Yaw Yeboah from getting a breakaway and grabbed his arm and got his second yellow card of the match. That obviously means a red card and Nerwinski got sent off and will miss at least the next match. It looked a little soft to me though and I think it should have just been a foul.Around the 74th minute, the Whitecaps had the most pressure in the game when Ryan Gauld nutmegged the defender and ran down the pitch and gave it to Cristián Gutiérrez who then made a nice lob pass to Gauld. All three of them made quick passes for some pressure but it ended with Cavallini’s header missing.Pedro Vite also came on for Caicedo and he and Berhalter showed some promise. Berhalter made some smart tackles and good forward passes while Vite brought some speed and energy. I would like to see them start next game.Despite the Whitecaps improvement, the Crew did lot sit back. They continued with their high pressure and fast counter attack and continued to get lots of shots.With the Whitecaps, down to ten men, they went to four defenders at the back.However, the Crew got two more goals late. In the 84th minute, the ball went off Blackmon right to Gyasi Zardes who found Luis Diaz and made it 3-0.It was 4-0 just a few minutes later when Ettiene made a nice pass to Lucas Zelarayán. Both goals were again, the result of bad defending.After five minutes of unnecessary and excruciating stoppage time, it was over. The Whitecaps ended the match with six shots and none on target while the Crew had 22 shots and seven on target. Back to the drawing board for the WhitecapsI should also mention that academy gradauate Emiliano Brienza got a few minutes. He is a talented and promising 19-year-old midfielder who was signed to the Whitecaps MLS Next Pro Squad on Friday.What was said “”The result speaks for itself,” said Sartini after the game per Alexandre-Gangue-Ruzic of Between the Sticks. “It’s a wake-up call, it’s a wake-up call that our level needs to be better, we need to be more humble and more hungry”Sartini was also asked about White’s status prior to the game.“Yesterday after training he said he didn’t feel comfortable and didn’t want to risk it,” said Sartini per Joshua Griffith of SportsTalkLine.Berhalter spoke about playing at home next week.”Yeah, I am really excited,” said Berhalter per Griffith. “Can’t wait to be in front of all the supporters for the first time”Advanced stat of the match According to the Between The Sticks Twitter account, expected goals were 1.7 for the Crew and only 0.2 for the Whitecaps. Yikes.Wrap-upThe Whitecaps fell behind early and couldn’t get get going. The attack couldn’t create much and the midfield and defence weren’t good enough.The Whitecaps have their home opener next Saturday against the defending MLS Cup Champions: New York City FC. It’s going to be another tough test. Kickoff is at 3:00 PM.