The Vancouver Whitecaps are still winless on the season and so are the Los Angeles Galaxy. Both teams earned a hard-earned point in a game that could’ve gone either way.
For the Whitecaps, finishing and defensive issues still lingered but you can’t fault their effort. The Galaxy had Chicharito and Douglas Costa out with injuries. It could’ve been worse!
This game embodied Tyler Myers energy: Chaos.
Starting XI and Thoughts
There wasn’t much surprise. Sure, Ryan Gauld playing as an eight did surprise me but remember, he played there in the 5-0 win over Real España and it worked. Perhaps head coach Vanni Sartini wanted Gauld to track back and be the one who starts the attack.
What was really surprising was Brian White was playing the number 10 role Gauld usually occupies. That is weird. Sergio Córdova did a lot of tracking back so far in his time with Vancouver and it looks like Sartini wants him to be the main man up front. White’s build-up play has been excellent and perhaps the thinking was that the two can connect on the build-up but with Córdova higher up. Still, it seemed like a strange decision.
I’m not sure why Mathias Laborda didn’t get a start. He was the first signing of the offseason and he had a full preseason. So the fitness excuse can’t be used. The money was spent but not for him to sit on the bench.
Other than those, I had no other issues with the lineup.
First half thoughts
LA Galaxy was dominating on possession early into the game. The Whitecaps were doing a good job of taking the ball away but they kept losing the ball as quickly as they got it.
Raheem Edwards got the Galaxy’s biggest chance in the early stages of the game when he snuck by the Whitecaps’ defence on the left side. However, Yohei Takaoka made the easy save. It also looked like Vancouver was defending with a 4-4-2, which was interesting.
The Whitecaps got the breakthrough. They were winning fouls and corners in the LA Galaxy’s half and Tristan Blackmon managed to head in Julian Gressel’s free kick. That is four assists in all competitions for Gressel, three in MLS play. The Whitecaps traded for him for moments like this. It was also a very good header from Blackmon. As Steven Caldwell said on the TSN broadcast (Before you yell at me about it, I will get Apple TV’s MLS Season’s Pass soon.) it looked like a tough header for Blackmon to pull off. It looked like Blackmon was heading it the other way but he managed to put the ball in the net.
Takaoka had to rise to the occasion shortly after. Dejan Joveljić, the 23-year-old Serbian striker led a quick Galaxy attack down the right side but Takaoka made the save. It looked like the ball would deflect into the net but Takaoka scooped it off the line. That was an incredible save and he made it look easy.
The Galaxy’s goalkeeper Jonathan Bond apparently hurt his shoulder when he collided with Dájome and Edwards trying to go after the ball just over 20 minutes into the game. As a result, Bond had to come on for backup goalkeeper Jonathan Klinsmann. One Jonathan for another. Let’s hope it is not too serious for Bond and hopefully, he’ll report for duty sooner rather than later.
The Whitecaps, unfortunately, fell asleep when defending the Galaxy’s transition as Riqui Puig beat Takaoka with a decent finish. However, the goal does not count as Joveljić was clearly offside. You thought wrong dude, the Whitecaps were still leading.
The Galaxy were dangerous on the wing and needed to mind those areas. LA looked very fast on the wings. While Gauld and Raposo are good at tracking back, they aren’t the fastest. Vancouver dodged a bullet with the offside call but VAR can’t stop the attack on the wings because the Galaxy in those areas were as fast as a Top Gun: Maverick fighter jet.
The Galaxy’s pressing was a problem for the Whitecaps. Fortunately, they were missing their shots. Blackmon was having himself a good half. Not just the goal, but he was making some big blocks and clearances against a scary Galaxy press.
Córdova seemed to have hurt his hamstring and he had to come off for Pedro Vite with White moving back to the main guy up front That sucks for Córdova. He was slowly starting to find his rhythm and was called up for international duty with Venezuela next week. Let’s hope the injury isn’t too serious.
But the Galaxy kept closing in. The Whitecaps were close to breaking but Martín Cáceres’s header was cleared off the line by Gressel. He’s known for his offensive qualities but sometimes we can see his defensive aspects shine.
“So afraid, slip and fall and I die” as Fleetwood Mac put it. As the half entered 10 (!) minutes of stoppage time, that is how Whitecaps fans were feeling I assume.
Well, it happened. There was messy defending by the Whitecaps and Kevin Leerdam tucked the ball into the net. Takaoka spilled Edwards’ cross and Leerdam made him pay for his mistake. Blackmon probably should have cleared it and Brown should have done a better job of marking the former Seattle Sounders better. You could also say Takaoka should have grabbed that one and held it tight. I agree. However, that goal was just an all-around mess from the Whitecaps.
The Galaxy’s goal was coming. They were all over the Whitecaps for about 60% of the first half. LA was getting way too much space, especially on the wings. They were under siege by the Galaxy’s press after Blackmon’s goal and they needed to find ways to start up pressure of their own.
The build-up had its moments but they needed to be cleaner in the final third. The same could be said about the back as well.
Second half thoughts
Edwards and Joveljić were looking threatening again. The latter ended up missing one chance and Takaoka stopped the net. Edwards’ passing was once again tough for the Whitecaps to stop.
Vancouver looked better in the transitions but an offside and handball prevented scoring chances from happening. Their best chance up to the 57th minute was Vite’s shot on the counter-attack but it was an easy save from Klinsmann. Vite hasn’t lived up to expectations early in the season. He wasn’t as creative or clinical as he was at the near end of last season. That shot was very weak and needed power.
You can’t help but feel like your heart is going to explode every time the Galaxy counter makes a cross The crosses were coming in very easily. The Galaxy players were left on islands of their own and had some great chances but couldn’t convert.
Vite made a good run to find the ball in the box and he found White. White saw Gauld standing in front of the open goal and made the cross…but Gauld’s header went wide. It was right there. Right freakin’ there. That would have been something.
Despite LA’s pressure, Gauld was determined to make things happen. He played a great ball to White in the 74th minute but White shot it wide. He just can’t buy a goal in MLS. White needed to finish that, no excuses.
The Galaxy took the lead shortly after but Joveljić decided to play basketball before slotting it into the net. So another bullet dodged for Vancouver. There was still hope for three points.
They had plenty of chances on the counterattack. The Whitecaps were starting to look fast as Turbo the snail. Brown even had a cross fool Klinsmann and off the bar. Now that would have made the highlight reels for the right and wrong reasons.
It was good to see the pressure start to work for the Whitecaps but they needed to be the danger, not be in danger.
Both sides had chances in stoppage time but both the Galaxy and Whitecaps both get a point. Both teams also are still winless in the season.
For a team that is supposed to be pressuring and good defensively and on the counter, you would expect more than two points at this stage of the season for the Whitecaps. There was some shaky defending that left the Galaxy open and once again, chances that needed to be capitalized.
What was said
Vanni Sartini was believed it an even contest and was content with the point.
“They were the better team in the first half, we were the better team in the second half,” said the Whitecaps’ head coach.
Sartini also said Córdova would be evaluated tomorrow and is dealing with a problem with his hamstring. He also said they don’t think Córdova should go to Saudi Arabia to play with the Venezuelan national team.
I also asked Sartini why the wide areas were so exposed. Turns out, that was the plan. Now that is interesting.
Blackmon didn’t feel satisfied with the point but knew the Galaxy were a tough team to get a point against.
“We wanted the win,” he said. ” It’s a tough game with the players they have…We were able to defend decently but kept it a tie but we need to continue to fight and turn these results into wins.”
Blackmon also explained what happened on the game-tying goal.
“It’s communication between the back line, no fingers pointed,” he said.” At the end of the day, we’re talking back there even through a moment like that. Unfortunately, it ended up in the back of our net. It’s something will work on.”
Gressel talked about setting up Blackmon for the free-kick goal.
“Me and Ryan were talking about if we should shoot it or not and then how we should play it,” explained Gressel. ” We practiced it that way, to have the timing down. Clearly, it worked and it caught them off guard.”
He also talked about coming back to Vancouver and the next match in Minnesota.
“We’ll take the point and it is somewhat of a good feeling going back, (to Vancouver) it will be full steam ahead in MLS and Minnesota is a tough place,” said Gressel. “We’ll take the mentality we had today and be more clinical.”
Tweet of the match
The Whitecaps didn’t concede a goal from a set piece too! Baby steps.
Stat of the match
Cubas had himself a game. According to FotMob, he completed 44 out of 47 passes (94%) and won five out of six tackles. (83%) He is Argentinian/Paraguayan N’Golo Kante.
The Whitecaps will have a week off and their next game is in St. Paul where they will face Minnesota United. They are 2-1-0 to start the season. Kickoff is at 5:30 pm Pacific.