The Vancouver Whitecaps fought hard for 80 minutes but eventually fell to the L.A. Galaxy in a 3-1 loss.

It was a difficult match from the get-go, with the Galaxy dominating early possession but ultimately failing to have anything to show for it in the first half. And while the second half could arguably be said to be better for the Whitecaps, the visitors punished the home side in quick succession to take the game away.

“I am really, really, really, really, really, really hurt by the way that we lost,” head coach Vanni Sartini said after the match. “I think it’s a massive learning opportunity for us.”

Sartini opted to place in-form Austrian Alessandro Schöpf in the middle alongside Andres Cubas. Schöpf’s recent success has been found in the wing-back position, which was filled by Ryan Raposo this match.

Tristan Blackmon also drew back into the back 3. Bjørn Inge Utvik picked up a minor knock during training, which meant the American centre-back regained his spot.

And given the Galaxy’s difficulty in keeping the ball out of their net this season, the front three of Brian White, Ryan Gauld and Fafà Picault were the logical choice for the attack.

For the first 15 minutes, this was not the Whitecaps team fans have become accustomed to. They were hemmed into their half, could not string a sequence of passes together and had single digits in possession percentage.

And it got worse from there. Picault went down injured in the 13th minute. He seemed well enough to continue, but a minute later, he was back down.

Pedro Vite was called in to replace the Haitian national, which brought a whole bunch of changes to Sartini’s game plan.

The Whitecaps did slowly play themselves into the half. White had a trio of chances, the best ones of the half, but both sides ended up in the locker room with nothing to show for their efforts.

“We were very good and very organized to drop,” Sartini said of the first half pressure mounted by the Galaxy. “We had a first half where they had 80 per cent of the possession, but the two biggest chances were our chances.”

White continued his efforts in the second half. A brilliant ball from Ahmed unlocked the striker from the Galaxy’s defence. All alone, White had time to shoot, but it was well saved by John McCarthy.

The Galaxy immediately turned the ball the other way, hitting the Whitecaps on the counter. Takaoka was able to parry the first shot but was unable to grab it.

Red-hot striker Dejan Joveljic tapped in the easy rebound to put the visitors up by one in the 57th minute.

“I think we were very unlucky,” the head coach said of the first goal.

But White kept at it for the Whitecaps. He almost put in a ball headed across the six-yard box from Sam Adekugbe, who came on at the half.

His best chance was a few minutes later. In the 61st minute, his relentless press caused McCarthy to give up the ball. White took his shot, but the goalkeeper was able to redirect it out for a corner.

And that relentlessness finally paid off. In the 77th minute, White rose high above everyone and headed in a Gauld corner to tie the match.

It was the pay-off for the sheer number of chances White had throughout the game. And it should have been the catalyst for the Whitecaps to push harder for a win.

But instead, they took their foot off the gas. And it became the Joseph Paintsil show.

“We kept playing really well, defending really well, being very, very structured, keeping the structure,” Sartini said. “And we arrived after two, three great chances to score a goal. And then, we’ve been not mature enough.”

Paintsil regained the lead in the 80th minute for the Galaxy. A beautiful killer pass from Riqui Puig split the Whitecaps’ defence and gave the pacey attacker all the room he needed.

Two minutes later, Paintsil chased down a loose ball to the left of the 18-yard box. His cross to Diego Fagundez seemed to fool everyone as the visitors added another to seal the win.

The Whitecaps continued to fight, but the game was done. It was the Galaxy who took the win and with it, the top spot in the West.

“It’s a knife in my heart. It’s the worst way that we could lose because it’s all our fault. We need to know that it’s all our fault,” Sartini said of the match.

Back on the road

The Whitecaps managed six points in four matches over their homestand. Sartini said it was “not enough.”

“In order to make the playoff and be sure, we need to make, we need to average two points per game at home. And so far, we’ve had seven points in five games.”

But Sartini also noted it is early in the season. And lessons imposed on the team are lessons learned.

“If we need to be us, we need to maintain our identity for 90 minutes. And the defensive structure is the most important thing. I know you get excited for the goals, for the dribbles, the crosses, but without defensive organization, defensive structure, it’s hard.”

Up next

The Whitecaps head out on the road to face the Seattle Sounders in a Cascadia clash next weekend. Kickoff is on April 20 at 7:30 p.m.