The Vancouver Whitecaps got off to a rough start but managed to get back into the game. Was it an even game? Yes. Should the Whitecaps have won this game? Absolutely, especially with all the chances they had.
Starting XI and thoughts
Head coach Vanni Sartini’s lineup isn’t surprising.
What kind of is the fact that Alessandro Schöpf is starting despite dealing with a right ankle sprain. It looks like that meant he has recovered well enough to start. With him in the lineup, the Whitecaps’ three midfield hasn’t changed so far this season. Schöpf, Andrés Cubas and Julian Gressel have been the engine for the Whitecaps so far this season.
Mathias Laborda played as a right-back last game against Real España and looked surprisingly good. Sartini said he will play at right-back for the foreseeable future but on Saturday, Javain Brown took his place which was interesting.
Brown has gotten burned a few times early in the season but he has looked decent. He has shown he can make progressive passes up the pitch.
Ranko Veselinović and Tristan Blackmon were once again paired up. The partnership worked last season and against Real España. Blackmon is good with the ball on his feet and Veselinović is great at clearances.
Brian White scored on Wednesday and it isn’t surprising that he gets the start. It is good to boost his confidence and it looks like Sartini wants to see if he can get a goal streak started. However, Sergio Córdova should be expected to come off the bench early in the second half.
The Whitecaps’ new Designated Player showed flashes of the player he can be. He was roaming around looking for scoring chances and even tracking back to start the attack. There is a reason why Córdova’s defensive stats are so high.
Ryan Gauld and Cristian Dájome made up the two number 10s. Both players were all over the pitch against Real España. Dájome had plenty of chances in that game and somehow didn’t score. It seems like he is back to his old self early in the season. He looks way more fluid and creative up the pitch.
Could this lineup hold off FC Dallas especially their attacking three of Paul Arriola, Jesus Ferreira and Alan Velasco?
First half thoughts
The Whitecaps started the game well with some quick passes. But it was FC Dallas who got on the board first. They did it in the fifth minute.
Sebastien Ibeagha got on the end of Nkosi Tafari’s cross and headed it past Yohei Takaoka. Defending headers have been a problem for the Whitecaps early in the season and they have given up headed goals in all three MLS games this season. Two centre-backs combining for a goal is as rare as getting a Wacky Watch in Mario Party 3.
The nerves started to kick in. Blackmon, who failed to get his head on Ibeagha’s goal made a bad pass and FC Dallas went on the counter. Fortunately, Takaoka made the save this time. Once again, the Whitecaps were faltering when they get caught napping even for a few seconds.
But Vancouver was determined to get back in it. The counter was something they were cooking with. White almost fooled everyone at BC Place by thinking he scored but he hit the side netting in the 12th minute.
Dallas is a team that likes to keep the ball and wants it back very quickly. Early on, they were frustrating the Whitecaps with their possession and Vancouver was making some poor giveaways in the midfield.
White was looking for a goal. He managed to get an attempt from Brown’s cross despite failing to get a header, but Maarten Paes had to make his toughest save of the game to that point.
As the 20th minute approached, the Whitecaps started to calm down and find their pressure game. However, FC Dallas was doing a very good job of clogging up the middle and made sure of blocking out passing and shooting lines in the middle. Vancouver was doing a decent job of crossing and passing from the wings.
They were still looking to turn zero into one.
Aeriel duels were a problem. Not just on the goal but it looked like FC Dallas was winning nearly every header.
Set pieces are also causing Whitecaps fans to have heart attacks. It was nearly 2-0 but FC Dallas hit the bar from the corner.
But Vancouver made it a game when Brown’s header was headed off Veselinović’s head and found The Flying Scotsman AKA Ryan Gauld but it went off Arriola and into the net. Too bad the fans couldn’t chant the opposing player’s name for the own goal this time.
White was again determined to score but he had a tough time trying to get on the end of passes and crosses. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the height to reach them.
White did get on a header in the box from a great ball from Gressel but Paes displayed some great reaction. That was the half.
Again, with the middle clogged up, the sides, especially on the right as they were getting a lot of passes and crosses from there.
Overall, the Whitecaps responded well after going down early but they needed a big second half in a very tight game.
Second half thoughts
Sartini made a substitution by taking Dájome off for Córdova. So the Whitecaps were going all in with two strikers upfront.
White seems to benefit with another striker at his side so it will be interesting to see what happens.
Gauld managed to find space to receive Schöpf’s passes but his shot was centimetres wide of the right post. Close, but no cigar.
Brown was making some good crosses down the right. One found White, but he looked like me playing soccer, his first touch failed him. That has been a common theme for White. He often seems to unfortunately mess things up just before he can shoot.
Brown even manage to outwit Velasco by doing a fancy move around him like he was the Millennium Falcon flying through asteroids.
FC Dallas was playing for the point. They took off Sebastian Lletget and Arriola and they moved the ball around with about five players.
It looked like the two-striker option didn’t work so White came off for Vite in the 70th minute. Looks like the Christmas Tree formation was back in action.
Córdova was starting to use his roaming ability in the box but the best place for him to be near the far post. He nearly got on the end of a Gressel cross but the Dallas defenders cleared it in the nick of time.
The Whitecaps were doing a great job on the counters and Córdova was a big part of that due to his ability to win the ball. Say what you want about him but so far, he is fun to watch.
Dallas players were dropping like flies. Sure some calls were justifiable but some were just ridiculous and the fact they couldn’t stand for more than a minute.
In the 83rd minute Raposo and Gressel were taken off for Laborda and Ali Ahmed and the Whitecaps switched to a back five. It looks like they too were playing for a point, which wasn’t ideal.
Ahmed came on and made a lunging tackle to prevent FC Dallas from going on the counter. This kid’s progression is something to watch, I’m telling you.
They nearly had it.
Veselinović of all people made a quick cross in the box and the ball its way near the right post but Córdova couldn’t get a foot on it.
That was it and the points were shared. The Whitecaps managed to get their first point of the season but it felt like it should have been more.
What was said
It was clear Sartini was frustrated with not getting three points
“We should be pissed, we should be angry, we should be frustrated,” said Sartini. “If we are OK with the point, that’s the wrong mentality…we should have 5 points at the moment and we have only 1.”
The Whitecaps’ head coach believed that his team should have been more clinical.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say we dominated the game,” he said, “Both teams were good but we should have scored more goals.”
Gressel echoed that statement.
“The game opened up in the second half…I wish we put one away,” he said.
He also believes that this is a sign of better things to come from White and Cordova.
“The goals will come for those guys,” said Gressel.
Brown was asked about the struggles on aerial duels and zonal marking as well as trying to work under Sartini’s system.
“We just stick to what coach wants us to do and stick to it,” he said.
Whitecaps fans, especially the ones in the building, were not happy with the number of fouls the Whitecaps were getting from referee Marcos DeOliveira. Sartini was asked about the officiating and he tried his best to not be too on the nose. (Not like Fred VanVleet.)
“Refs aren’t perfect they are only human…but the game management could have been better,” he said. “They can’t say that was a foul and ignore another foul.”
I guess he was trying to get fined. Sartini probably learned from his old friend and former Whitecaps head coach Marc Dos Santos who was fined for his comments about referee Allen Chapman back in May of 2021.
Stat of the match
The xG remained low for both teams. It was 0.31 for the Whitecaps and 0.31 for FC Dallas according to FotMob. That is unusual given that both the goals were from open play. That is just as unusual as seeing an MK1 SkyTrain on the Millennium Line.
Tweet of the match
Support women’s soccer and women’s sports. Not just today but every day.
It was also nice to see legends in Canadian women’s soccer at BC Place. Those in the building included Whitecaps general manager of women’s soccer Stephanie Labbe, and Canadian women’s national team head coach Bev Priestman.
The Whitecaps will travel to San Pedro Sula, Honduras to play the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League round of 16 matchup against Real España which takes place on Wednesday. Kickoff is at 3:00 pm Pacific and you can watch on OneSoccer.
I should note that the player that collapsed in the locker room after the first leg is doing OK and was a guest of the Whitecaps against FC Dallas.
Real España also got their league game postponed due to travel issues so they also won’t be all well rested as they have been stranded in Dallas since Thursday. That really sucks.
After that, the Whitecaps travel to Los Angeles to face the Galaxy on Saturday. Kickoff for that one is at 7:30 pm Pacific and you can watch on Apple TV’s MLS Season’s Pass and that game will also be shown on TSN.