The Vancouver Whitecaps started well, but they could not hold on for the win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as they drew 2-2 with the Colorado Rapids to end their seven-match road trip.
Playing from leading, tied and losing positions throughout the match, the Whitecaps finish the road trip with a 3W-2D-2L record, totaling 11 points out of a possible 21.
“We said that we wanted to make more than one point per game in this seven games,” head coach Vanni Sartini said. “We made it 11 points, so I think we did a good job. And we need to win at home.”
Whether the scarcity of fans in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park or the altitude affected the players, the match started out quite lacklustre. Neither side was pushing hard, save for a single attacking player pressing the defending ball carrier.
But the Whitecaps found a way, and all it took was a well-placed set piece. Ryan Gauld took a corner kick in the 11th minute, sending it high into the 18-yard box. Tristan Blackmon sent it back into the middle of the box where Mathías Laborda poked his foot out and sent it behind the wanting William Yarbrough.
It was Laborda’s first MLS goal.
“I think [Laborda’s] grown a lot because he’s a very good player. He’s a very good defender. He can play, win duels in the air, 1v1…He’s a player we can rely on,” Sartini said.
Brian White almost added another a couple of minutes later with an unmarked header in the six-yard box. But Yarbrough was able to palm it away, albeit with a bit of hesitation.
The Whitecaps played out the rest of the first half without much difficulty. There was little attack on the part of the Rapids. The visitors were calm, but they kept looking for the second.
It almost came just before the halftime whistle. Gauld carried the ball at speed through the middle of the park. His pass to the left found Ali Ahmed who crossed it back into the 18-yard box in a dangerous position.
Ritchie Laryea was all alone, but his left-foot touch failed him as he sliced the ball high and over the net.
Sartini said the team was not good in the first half.
“It’s not a matter of concentration. It’s just a matter of taking the other team away from our box as much as we can and also being not tired, like we were today. We were destroyed.”
Colorado responded in the second with a couple of substitutions. It worked as Diego Rubio got the ball through traffic near the edge of the six-yard box. His first shot was mishit, but the second was strong, getting behind Laborda and Yohei Takaoka.
The tying goal came just two minutes into the second half.
And the switch in domination was easily apparent. Colorado kept pushing the Whitecaps into their own end, looking for the go-ahead goal. The Whitecaps, sensing the home side on the ascendancy, switched to a back 3, pushing Laryea and Sam Adekugbe into wingback positions.
The change in tactics did not give the hoped response. Instead, the Rapids found their second goal, a corner kick directed in by Cole Bassett in the 67th minute.
The Whitecaps would tie it up again in the 78th minute off another corner. Reminiscent of his goal in the previous match, White got high over his defender to head the corner into the back of the net.
With just over 10 minutes left to play, it was anyone’s game, and it felt as though more goals were likely.
Alessandro Schöpf, coming on as part of a three-man substitution around the 70-minute mark, almost grabbed a winner in stoppage time. However, Yarbrough made the save, parrying it away for the corner.
Sartini said the seven-match road trip “has taken a toll.”
“At the end, I think a tie is a fair result. But again, I didn’t like the performance of the team.”
Wear and tear
Gauld came off before the hour mark with a left foot contusion.
“He wasn’t able to run,” Sartini said. “I think that turnaround is that quick in that it’s a big question mark to see if he’s going to be available for D.C. We’ll see. If he’s ready to go, he’ll go for sure.”
The Whitecaps may be at home for their next match, but it’s still a quick turnaround. They play D.C. United this Saturday, Sept. 30. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.