The Vancouver Whitecaps push to the playoffs continues to be like climbing a mountain with tough terrain. It’s a grind.
With teams around them in the tight Western Conference dropping points, the Whitecaps had once again the opportunity to go back into the top four. But again, they let the opportunity slip away.
It was an entertaining but tough match to watch just like Steins Gate and Steins Gate 0 but hopefully, by the end of the season, it will all be worth it in the end. But unlike the protagonist Rintarou Okabe, the Whitecaps can’t go back in time and fix things. But like Okabe, they will try again by looking forward and learning what went wrong.
What we learned
- Well, it was a fast start. The dynamic duo, Batman and Robin, Hall and Oates, Simon and Garfunkel, or whatever you want to call them, were at it again. In the second minute of the game, Ryan Gauld’s header found the head of Brian White. It had to be them. This goal wouldn’t have happened without a great run and an initial cross from Richie Laryea too.
- Unfortunately, blowing leads has been a reoccurring issue for the Whitecaps just like Q was for the crew of Starship Enterprise D. This goal cannot happen. Yohei Takaoka tried to make a simple pass to Tristan Blackmon. Well, it didn’t look simple, it looked dangerous. Blackmon decided to do his best Steven Gerrard impression and soon enough, Christian Benteke (a former Liverpool player) scored a tap-in. *Insert the Curb Your Enthusiasm Theme*
- That goal killed the momentum for the Whitecaps. That has also been a recurring theme. We’ve seen it against the Colorado Rapids and Real Salt Lake
- There was a lot of sloppiness in this game. The defending was a big part. Javain Brown, Tristan Blackmon and Ranko Veselinovic were like those turnstiles you see at airports or train stations for players such as Benteke and Theodore Ku-DiPietro.
- The passing looked off. Pedro Vite turned the ball over a few times, there was a really bad backward pass from Alessandro Schöpf in the first half and Richie Laryea tried to give Gauld a gift on a two on one but it was out of the Scotsman’s reach. (You could argue he should have passed on that play.)
- The Whitecaps got their mojo back in the second half. VAR has had a bad day (See the Tottenham vs. Liverpool match) in the soccer world but it helped Vancouver. After White was clipped in the box, VAR looked at it and awarded the penalty. No VAR controversy at BC Place on Saturday night. Otherwise, it could have gotten ugly. Oh yeah, Ryan Gauld converted the penalty. There was no doubt.
- The Whitecaps had the lead…and it’s gone. Ku-Dipietro’s shot was deflected off Sebastian Berhalter and Mateusz Klich’s volley went off Veselinovic’s shoulder and past Takaoka. You could call that a pinball goal.
- Takaoka has had only one clean sheet since May and that was on August 30 against the Chicago Fire. He hasn’t looked like the goalkeeper we saw during a 444-minute shutout streak early in the season. Takaoka has been giving up goals his early-season self would save. While he is a much better goalkeeper than Thomas Hasal and Cody Cropper were last season, the clutch factor just hasn’t been there in the last few months.
- Former Whitecap Cristian Dájome came off the bench late in the second half. It was his return to BC Place since being traded to DC United in April for $350,000 in General Allocation Money. It was also the return of former Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson who is now one of Wayne Rooney’s assistant coaches. I bet he and Rooney talk a lot about the “fine lines.”Dájome, Robinson and Erik Hurtado received a welcome-back message after warmups. They received a nice warm round of applause.
Stat of the match
White and Gauld are fun to watch that’s for sure.
What was said
Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini used a familiar word to describe his team’s performance.
“I use the same term that we used in Salt Lake, we’ve been soft,” he said. “if you’re soft like this, it’s hard to win playoff games, and today was a playoff game. We need to be stronger [and] better. If you are soft defensively, then it’s very hard offensively…It’s very hard to score even if you have four chances, it shouldn’t be easy to score for the other team. Unfortunately, we made that easy with a couple of moments.”
Sartini was asked if fatigue played a factor in the team’s poor moments.
“No one is 100%,” he said. “This is like the millionth game of the season and likely the sixth or seventh game in 20 days…not even the kit man is at 100%. But at the same time, the other team is tired too. We can’t take that as an excuse. We need to be better in certain situations.”
White agreed with the fact that they were soft.
“I think the goals concede…in a sense were self-inflicted goals,” he said. “It’s been soft. We’re clearing when we’re not clearing. We’re not alert when we need to be alert and it’s costing us points. From top to bottom, we need to address it as the season goes on and we get closer to the playoffs. We just got to fix that.”
Slip and Slide
Not sure what was up with the turf but the players on both teams were falling down like they were on a sheet of ice. Maybe the turf wasn’t watered properly after the BC Lions game the night before?
Winger turned full-back
Ryan Raposo looked decent coming off the bench. He’s genuinely a good passer and crosser but dribbling was never his strong suit. Raposo often loses the ball when he has it. I also wonder how good he would be if he had some pace.
Well that’s one way to put it
Benteke’s goal was one of the sloppiest goals I’ve seen the Whitecaps concede live. I think it might take the cake.
Sartini said after the match that he thought the foul on White in the box should have been called right away. But he was happy with VAR’s call.
Vancouver sports moment
Well, thankfully that didn’t happen because that would have been more gut-wrenching.
The Whitecaps remain sixth in the Western Conference but just two points above the playoff line and three points behind second-place Seattle Sounders. But they did get help on the out-of-town scoreboard.
The Sounders drew 0-0 with Nashville SC, Houston Dynamo and FC Dallas drew 0-0, Minnesota United and the San Jose Earthquakes drew 1-1 and the Portland Timbers and LA Galaxy drew 3-3.
It would also help if LAFC and Real Salt Lake draw 1-1 on Sunday.
Vancouver can clinch a playoff spot on Wednesday with a win over St. Louis SC. They need Minnesota United to draw or lose to LAFC and LA Galaxy to lose or draw to the Sounders.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. Pacific for that one. With three games left, against the top three teams in the Western Conference, the Whitecaps need to climb every mountain and ford every stream.