The Vancouver Whitecaps have won the Voyageurs Cup for the first time since 2015. They are the kings of Canada and will represent the country in the CONCACAF Champions League next season.
It was an intense game with an incredible atmosphere.
Starting XI thoughts
I figured this would be the lineup. However, I had Julian Gressel in for Cristian Dájome.
It looks like Gressel will be an option for the bench. But I think he should have started because of the service he can bring to Brian White and Lucas Cavallini.
It was nice to see Ranko Veselinović back in the lineup with Tristan Blackmon on the left. The two of them have probably been the Whitecaps’ best defenders all season. Both make big blocks and just clear the ball out as quickly as possible. Javain Brown did not have a good game against the Chicago Fire and it made sense to put him on the bench with Jake Nerwinski starting as the right centre back.
There was the feeling that Isaac Boehmer would once again start in goal but Cody Cropper was between the sticks for the first time since his scary collision with Brown in Cincinnati a couple of weeks ago. At the time, it didn’t look like Cropper would be ready for this game but somehow he was still standing. For Whitecaps fans, they hoped Cropper wasn’t rusty.
The lineup was expected. Head coach Vanni Sartini was going all in and he had some good options on the bench.
First half thoughts
The Whitecaps wanted it early.
Not even a minute into the game, Lucas Cavallini tested Alex Bono who made a very good save. Sartini talked about getting off to a fast start and that was good to see.
Cavallini was pressing too. He got a second attempt on Bono as he pressured one of Toronto FC’s defenders. Cavallini’s best asset is his strength. Seeing him press puts that ability to display. The Whitecaps need more of that.
Toronto FC started to turn on their pressure. Jesus Jimenez carried the ball into the box but there was some good tracking back by Raposo to stop the attack. Cropper also came up big in goal.
The Whitecaps continued to make good forward passes and Russell Teibert was even making them.
They struck first when Brian White headed in Ryan Gauld’s cross shortly after a corner. That goal was shades of the second half of last season. Believe it or not, the whole sequence would not have been without a Teibert through ball. Good things happen when he does decide to pass forward it looks like.
The Whitecaps were doing a good job of intercepting passes in the midfield. They were really closing down on Toronto’s ball carriers and forcing the play to the outside.
Blackmon was doing a good job of making clearances and there was one where he collided with Bernadeschi. Both their heads clashed but fortunately, both players were OK.
Ryan Raposo was very noticeable. He was making good runs and beating Kosi Thompson. Raposo also drew a foul and made some accurate passes and crosses. The 23-year-old has done well in the Canadian Championship this season.
He almost got one late in the half but he couldn’t get the volley to be accurate enough.
Speaking of closing down on the ball carriers in the midfield, Teibert managed to hustle and knock Lorenzo Insigne off the ball. That felt like a fever dream. Imagine telling that to someone a few weeks ago.
The Whitecaps played the half with a ton of intensity. There was some good ball movement, pace, marking and tackling. It was nice to see despite them only having 28.7% possession. But again, possession isn’t really the Whitecaps’ game.
As for the back three, they too did well. They were doing a good job of marking the TFC forwards and made some good tackles in the box and made no mistakes with the clearances. The midfield doing their jobs and the wing backs tracking back also helped.
But there was one more half to be played.
Second half thoughts
Early in the second half, the Whitecaps were continuing to do a good job of stopping the attack in the box. It was Nerwinski and Veselinović in particular who were doing that and clearing the ball. However, Jayden Nelson got Toronto’s first clear chance of the match but that went wide of the left post.
Toronto FC was moving the ball around well but they couldn’t seem to find the right pass in the box. They also couldn’t get anyone on the ends of their crosses.
Raposo continued to impress. He looked quick and was making more big blocks. It goes to show he isn’t just improving offensively but also defensively.
It looked like Toronto was on a hockey power play. They were passing, passing and passing but no shots. Pretty much a Vancouver Canucks power play from last season. That was because the Whitecaps midfield and back three were doing a good job of breaking up the passing lanes.
But Toronto did end up tying the game in the 75th minute. It was a great ball from Bernardeschi on a corner that found the head of Lukas Macnaughton. With the way, Toronto has been moving the ball that was coming.
But Whitecaps wanted to get one back quickly. A few minutes later, Andrés Cubas started the counter and Brian White burst down the pitch. He gave the ball to the subbed on Tosaint Ricketts but Alex Bono got his fingers on it.
That was an unbelievable save and the play started with a great ball from Cubas. Pretty much the entire building thought Ricketts was going to score against his old club for the second time this season.
Marcus Godinho was subbed on for Raposo and he made a nifty back-heel pass to Gauld and his cross found Gressel. Unfortunately, Gressel couldn’t keep the ball down on the volley. Godinho has made an impact for most of the season and bringing him on was a good choice.
But the game was going to penalties.
Cropper came up big by stopping Jonathan Osorio and Blackmon scored the winning penalty.
Just like the game against Cavalry FC, not a single Whitecaps player missed.
Gauld was named the game’s MVP and Raposo was named the Young Player of the Tournament.
What was said
The Whitecaps planned to celebrate long into the night and tomorrow.
“That MVP trophy can probably fit 6 or 7 beers in it, so I’m going to get started on that,” said Gauld.
This was Sartini’s first trophy as a coach.
“We said from day one that the Canadian championship was an important trophy,” he said. “We didn’t do well in the last previous years, so it means everything because it shows that we are a very good team.”
He also made a bold statement.
“If we play like this for the next 12 games, we are for sure going to the playoffs,” said Sartini.
Sartini also said Teibert had a good game and spoke about the criticism the Whitecaps captain gets online.
“He’s the one that attracts a lot of negative comments on the web, but haters are going to hate,” he said.
Stat of the night
This game saw a lot of hard tackles. It was aggressive but Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley got the game’s only card. It was a yellow.
Tweet of the night
On this night, Vancouver does indeed have the best Italian.
24,307 people saw the Whitecaps win the Canadian Championship which was the second largest in Canadian Championship history and the largest crowd in Vancouver. It was the largest Whitecaps crowd of the season and in years.
The Whitecaps return to MLS play this Saturday when they go to Music City and face Nashville SC. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. Pacific.