It feels a bit early to be saying that any match is a must win game when it’s only June 1st and you’re not even halfway through the season, but that’s exactly what Vancouver Whitecaps trip to Colorado Rapids felt like on Friday night.
The Rapids have not looked like a good team this season and they were on a six game losing streak heading in to this one. Having dropped 11 from 21 points at home this season, and on a run of four straight draws, if the Whitecaps were going to get back to winning way, then a team like the Rapids was the ideal opponent. And so it proved.
All the goals came in the first half with Cristian Techera and Yordy Reyna firing Vancouver into a two goal lead before Colorado pulled one back four minutes before half from Edgar Castillo, despite threatening little before that. The second went back and forth but few serious chances were created and despite an odd heart flutter along the way, the Whitecaps held on for the 2-1 win and extended their unbeaten streak to five matches in the process.
Carl Robinson rang the changes again this week and if you had six in the rotation pool then please claim your prize from reception. Those changes included a complete switch of the back four, with Brek Shea getting a surprising start at left back.
Techera was looking lively from the off, buoyed by last week’s hat-trick and a birthday yesterday, and the Bug show some nice twists and turns in the box after running on to a beautifully weighted Shea long ball before firing into the side netting five minutes in.
The Whitecaps were looking the far more dangerous side and they got the breakthrough in the 17th minute.
Efrain Juarez did well to counter quickly, setting up Reyna who headed towards goal before setting up Techera in the box. The diminutive Uruguayan took a nice touch to cut inside and make room for himself before continuing his rich vein of goalscoring form by blasting past Tim Howard.
This man (bug) is on fire 🔥
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) June 2, 2018
Both teams had half chances before Alphonso Davies had a strong run at the shaky looking Colorado defence in the 36th minute and forcing a leg save out of Howard.
The Rapids backline was being torn apart on their right side, with Davies’ pace causing problems from Hudson’s three at the back formation, so it was no surprise when it finally produced the goods six minutes before half time.
The young winger powered into the box once more and his cross was dealt with horribly by Colorado. The ball pinged about before falling to Reyna who volleyed home from just inside the box with the aid of a deflection.
Reyna's first road goal in Major League Soccer.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) June 2, 2018
Always dangerous to say with this Whitecaps side, but you felt that second goal would see them home and dry. The home side had a different idea though and pulled a goal back in the 41st minute with a cracking long range strike from Castillo. Even a VAR review for a handball in the build up by Johan Blomberg couldn’t deny that one, and the game was somehow back on.
Colorado had a penalty shout for a handball of their own two minutes later when Sam Nicholson drilled the ball into the side of Shea, but, correctly, there was no review.
The Rapids kept the pressure on from the subsequent corner and Castillo had another fierce strike that was blocked in front of goal.
The second half went from end to end with the closed Colorado coming to levelling was through a Doneil Henry clearance that went just past the post. Anthony Blondell had the ‘Caps best chance in the early stages of the half, forcing an easy save out of Howard at his near post.
There was a lot of huffing and puffing from both teams, but very little of attacking threat to write home about. That should have changed in the 78th minute when substitute Shkëlzen Gashi got on the end of a poor attempted headed clearance from Henry at the back post, but pulled his effort across goal and wide, when he should have tied things up.
A massive let off for Vancouver, who weren’t really under any real threat of giving up their lead and to be fair, they weren’t for the remainder of the match, seeing it out quite comfortably to take all three points.
A deserved, if not a dominant, victory and what a difference a win can make to a narrative. The Whitecaps headed into this in a draw rut, with four straight. They leave it unbeaten in five with seven points taken in that spell and having climbed back into the playoff places (albeit not on points per game).
It still doesn’t feel that this team is playing well, but they’re doing enough to keep in the mix and that’s all you can ask for when a team’s not firing on all cylinders. If they can tighten some aspects up and string a few wins together, all of a sudden the team are back to being in contention for a playoff spot. It’s a weird league.
FINAL SCORE: Colorado Rapids 1 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
COLORADO: Tim Howard; Deklan Wynne, Axel Sjoberg (Danny Wilson 46), Tommy Smith; Sam Nicholson, Enzo Martinez (Shkëlzen Gashi 71), Johan Blomberg (Dillon Serna 62), Jack Price, Édgar Castillo; Yannick Boli, Dominique Badji [Substitutes not used: Zac MacMath, Bismark Boateng, Michael Azira, Jack McBean]
VANCOUVER Brian Rowe; Jake Nerwinski, José Aja, Doneil Henry, Brek Shea; Cristian Techera (Aly Ghazal 76), Felipe, Efraín Juárez, Alphonso Davies; Yordy Reyna (Brett Levis 89), Anthony Blondell (Kei Kamara 66) [Substitutes not used: Sean Melvin, Nicolás Mezquida, Aaron Maund, Russell Teibert]
On the match tonight…
“It was a very entertaining match end to end, but probably a little bit too open for both manager’s liking. There were lots of chances, obviously three goals. There were lots of blocks and missed chances. It was a very tough game but we are obviously delighted in there. The guys in my locker room put a lot of effort in and if you put the work in you get rewarded.”
On the importance of getting a win tonight…
“It was nice to win. We’ve been drawing too many games. There have been points we’ve been throwing away. The league is very tight, you can go on a winning run or a losing run or a drawing run at any stage. You’ve got to make the key differences at certain times which gain you points. What we’ve done is we’ve given away too many goals recently, but we’ve scored a lot. It’s fun to watch if you’re a fan, but obviously it drives managers mad. We went into the game today knowing that they were a little bit wounded, but they’re a good team. They’ve got great players and a great coach in Anthony. We knew that they would create opportunities but we also knew that they would give opportunities up. Then it comes down to the tactical gameplan of each manager. We took our chances early on in the game and we thought if we got our noses in front, we might be able to hang on. And that’s certainly what we did.”
On the performance of his backline…
“It was terrific, absolutely terrific… It’s a brand new back four from last week. We conceded the one goal, which I think was avoidable without a bad-headed clearance, and credit to the guys for hanging in there.”
On the attacking play of Techera and Reyna these past few games…
“Very exciting. We’ve created a boatload of chances and not scored as many goals we would like, but when we’ve got the Bug, and we’ve got Yordy, and we’ve got Phonzie… when you’ve got those three young attacking players, they’re delightful to watch at times, they’re exciting to watch at times, but they’re sometimes frustrating and they give simple passes away, just because of their keenness and their naivety. But they were terrific, all three of them today.”
Thoughts on the match…
“It was good. It was never going to be easy on the road. We stuck to our gameplan. We were compact, we defended well. We knew we could play, but sometimes it wasn’t possible. It was a good result to get here. Beating the team and getting my debut for the club. I just want to give everything and I’m very happy to get this win to bring in momentum into our game on Saturday against Orlando.”
How did it feel to finally be out there for the Whitecaps?…
“It’s been a long time coming. Sometimes frustrating, sometimes I think I was ready a lot before that. I give it [to the coaches here and Ottawa] for giving me the confidence to play and to continue to trust the process. I just want to continue to take my rehabilitation seriously and trust my process and continue to go.”
How fulfilling was it to come back in a win and on the road…
“It’s definitely fulfilling, but this is just one game. It’s a long season. It comes down to consistency. Gelling as a team, and the more comfortable we get, I’m telling you, this team has a lot of quality. We got a good win on the road. It wasn’t easy, but we showed a lot of character today.”
On what he saw on the goal by Edgar Castillo…
“It got us back in the game, in a half once again where I thought we created, we sort of had them under a lot of pressure. It was deserved, the goal, we deserved to get back into the game, and it was a good finish in the end.”
On Johan Blomberg’s return…
“Well I think we all saw it, down that right-hand side we caused them a lot of problems, especially in the whole game really, but in the first half, I don’t know how many crosses and final balls came in from that side, it was a lot, and that’s what he gives you, he gives you a lot of energy, he’s attack-minded and it’s good that he’s back.”
Did he switch team to 4-4-2 for a spell of the game this week?…
“No, no change. There was no change to what we did. We wanted our wingbacks to be a bit more positive. Everyone gets caught up in systems. Every game we’ve played this year at some stage we’re a 4-4-2, without the ball at times we’re a 4-4-2, in possession definitely, but that’s been the same every game.”
What was behind giving up both goals?…
“We didn’t deal well with the counter attack. Look, when you’re on a run like this, it’s almost like I probably sound like a broken record and I’m sure it’s frustrating to some people, and we’re frustrated. We’re disappointed, but at the same time, as disappointed as we are, I feel very calm in knowing that this will turn. We’ve seen enough evidence in these games. I don’t know how many crosses tonight that we had, how many final crosses in the box, so it’s going to turn. I feel calm about that, but we’re not happy about the situation of course.”
On his goal…
“To tell the truth, I didn’t wait for it at all, it was a rebound that I got from Johan [Blomberg] and I hit it how it was and it was a goal that makes it 2-1 and puts us a goal under. Yes it was a goal, but it didn’t signify anything because we did not get three points.”
On if the chances being created bring confidence…
“Yes, we are getting closer and closer now, but it is not there, we keep getting there and getting there but we don’t score, that’s what we keep missing in games.”
On what is missing in the final third…
“I think for all of the attacking players, we all have a role to play that we are not really executing right now, as 9’s we need to get to the end of crosses, be more of a threat in the box, our wingbacks need to be crossing the ball more, putting them in better areas, the 8’s need to be in positions where they can be threatening too, so I don’t think it’s necessarily one thing, I think it’s honestly all the attacking positions need to kind of pull their weight and start giving more. “
On tonight’s performance…
“We’re extremely frustrated. We’ve had enough crosses in the box and chances to win two games tonight so it’s extremely frustrating. We’ve got to dust ourselves down, keep working hard, and we know the results will turn when we get that first win and we’ll go on a very good run.”
On why his team has struggled to finish on so many chances…
“I don’t know. It’s hard to put your finger on it. That’s the hardest thing in the game to put the ball in the net, but as long as we’re creating the chances, it’s not too disheartening. We would be more worried if we weren’t creating any chances at all.”
On how his team can stay positive during this losing streak…
“We’ve just got to stick together and keep each other’s moral high. Obviously, it’s tough after losing seven games on the bounce, but we’ve got a few good characters in the group that will hopefully keep everyone in high spirits.”