The Vancouver Whitecaps found their form and then some in a 5-0 routing against Real CD España to take a dominating lead in their Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League matchup.
Previewing the starting XI
No change to head coach Vanni Sartini’s formation as he opted for the 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree yet again. It has shown sparks of what it can accomplish, especially with the extra man in the midfield. However, the Whitecaps have not found consistency with it yet.
Sergio Córdova was on the teamsheet with his first start of the season. The height of the Venezuelan striker was something that would be relied on to hold the ball and link in his attacking midfielders.
Ryan Raposo also got his first start, the first start of any Canadian player on the roster. Playing in another new position at left-back, Whitecap fans would get their first look at his new defensive abilities.
It was a strong lineup for a midseason week and one that showed the importance of the Whitecaps have played the CONCACAF Champions League. However, with no wins in any competition this season so far, a strong lineup would be demanded.
The first half
For such a strong lineup by the Whitecaps, it was Real España creating the early chances. Yohei Takaoka came up big in the eighth minute with a low save from the late man into the 18-yard box. Earlier, Takaoka came off his line to stop a good challenge, but it also left his team scrambling to cover the rebound.
Gauld had Vancouver’s first opportunity in the 17th minute. But he squandered the change, hitting the ball awkwardly and losing power on the attempt.
But for all of Real España’s counter-attacking, it was the Whitecaps who scored first in the 21st minute. Tristan Blackmon got his first goal at B.C. Place off a well-executed corner. Pedro Vite played the ball short to Gressel. The pinpoint cross found the centre-back’s head floating past Luis López.
As the match passed the half-hour mark, the Whitecaps settled, helped out significantly by the goal. Real España tried to stretch out Vancouver during the Honduran side’s attack, but the home side kept to their shape.
Cristian Dájome had a chance to double the lead in the 41st minute. He made Lopez work for the save as he hit the ball hard from Laborda’s cross. Only a minute later the Colombian had a header that sailed just wide.
Similar to their first two matches of the season, the Whitecaps found themselves playing positive football and being a goal up. But they had to ensure they did not fall into the trappings of the second half and lose their concentration.
The second half
The Whitecaps, hopefully learning their lesson from earlier matches, started strong in the second half.
Dájome’s cross in the 53rd minute found a streaking Gressel who had his shot stopped. Córdova followed through on the rebound only for it to be parried away. Dájome had another opportunity a couple of minutes later, but it was wide.
But the pressure was there. The Whitecaps, feeling the noise of a growing crowd, kept at it. In the first 10 minutes, there were three clear chances by the home side. Lopez had to work to keep his team in the match.
And their constant onslaught finally paid off. Raposo held up the ball and cut in from his position at left-back, running along the edge of the 18-yard box. His shot from the top of the box was hard and low, beating Lopez at the near post to double the lead in the 60th minute.
A third goal was quickly added in the 64th minute, an own goal off of Devron Garcia. The cross from Dájome was intercepted by the Honduran midfielder but directed in error into his own net.
They were not finished. Vite added a fourth goal in the 70th minute. The play was started by Brian White, who was recently subbed for Córdova. He played the ball to Gauld who quickly moved it into the path of the streaking Vite.
Not to be outdone, White added a fifth goal in the 78th minute. The relief in getting this first goal of the season was easy to see.
The home side kept up the pressure, almost finding a sixth. But they would have to settle with a 5-0 win heading into the second leg in Honduras in a week.
What was said
Sartini said he was happy with the success of how the team focused for this match. He maintained they were “clinical” in their first two matches and that this game showed they are progressing in the right direction.
“I’m very happy but the work is not finished…qualification is not yet reached but it is much better to go there [Hondoras] with a five-goal advantage.”
The head coach said Raposo was the Man of the Match.
” I’m happy,” he said. “We worked a lot with him in the offseason in his new position as a fullback…I told him to not cut inside…but he did and maybe I should shut up next time.”
For his part, Raposo said he was happy with his contribution. He discussed his new role as left-back, saying that he felt comfortable there.
“I need to trust myself going for the challenge and have more confidence in myself doing that.”
A representative from Real España said they had a player collapse after the match, a result of the 22-hour flight to Vancouver [through Dallas and Orlando] as well as the cooler conditions.
Tweet of the Match
Stat of the Match
The Whitecaps posted a 90 per cent passing accuracy. In particular, Gauld had 39 completed passes for 91 per cent.