Did last week’s win against Real Salt Lake signal a turn around in fortunes for Vancouver Whitecaps or did it just paper over the cracks? That was one of the questions heading into Saturday’s match in Minnesota, and although we may not have had a definitive answer, it was another game which left the ‘Caps fanbase feeling dejected and demoralised.
A 60th minute goal from Miguel Ibarra was enough to see ten-man Minnesota United make it three defeats in four matches for Vancouver, and although the Whitecaps had some great chances of their own, poor finishing, the woodwork, and some great goalkeeping by Bobby Shuttleworth kept them at bay.
The Whitecaps had chances to put the game to bed by half time, and considering they were already facing a vastly depleted home side, losing all three points to a team that played 40 minutes with ten men is another low this season for Vancouver.
Lining up in a 4-4-2 for the first time this season, Carl Robinson made four changes from last week’s win over RSL. Two were enforced, with Cristian Techera suspended and Jordon Mutch out with another hamstring injury, while Russell Teibert and Brek Shea dropped to the bench.
The ‘Caps kept the same back four as last week, meaning second straight starts for Brett Levis and Sean Franklin after great performances against RSL. Felipe came back in to the team, along with Alphonso Davies, Bernie Ibini, and Nicolas Mezquida, who had done well after coming on as a sub last week.
It was surprising not see Teibert continue after doing so well beside Aly Ghazal last week, and also having Reyna on the bench, considering how well he’d linked up with Anthony Blondell previously, was another head scratcher.
The first real action came six minutes in as Shuttleworth was forced to parry away a fierce low long ranger from Blondell.
Shuttleworth was called into action again two minutes later after Blondell got onto the end of a long ball over the top, cut inside, and forced the Minnesota keeper to turn the ball around post with a fingertip save.
The ‘Caps kept the pressure on from the resultant corner and Kendall Waston really should have opened the scoring when he met it unmarked but headed straight at the legs of Shuttleworth on the line, who didn’t know much about it but the ball stayed out.
Both teams showed some flashes of danger in the following minutes, with Davies looking like he had the pace to give Jerome Thiesson a torrid time up that left wing, and he was linking up well with Levis.
It was a hot and windy day in Minnesota and that aided a cross-come-shot from Levis that took a change of direction and crashed off the post, with Shuttleworth beaten all ends up.
Vancouver were looking by far the more dangerous team, knocking the ball around well, and breaking quickly. But Minnesota still had a danger of their own and had a chance to poke the ball home after a goalmouth scramble in the 34th minute when Stefan Marinovic spilled a low cross into the ‘Caps box.
Blondell had a fairly tame shot on goal to close out the half, and the action had certainly dipped by the time the half time whistle came.
The second half was delayed while they tried to fix a hole in what was to be Marinovic’s goal. Would it be needed? We soon found out.
Minnesota started the half lively and Thiesson whipped a dangerous ball across Vancouver’s goal five minutes in, with no takers. As the home side kept the move alive, rookie Mason Toye inexplicably threw an elbow into the gut of Waston and saw an immediate red card.
— GolazoJuice (@GolazoJuice) May 5, 2018
Absolutely bizarre and no excuse from Toye. Shocking stuff.
The Whitecaps now found themselves in an unusual situation – they actually had more men on the pitch than the opposition. But could they do anything with it or would this be too alien for them to know what to do with it? We soon found out.
The ten men of Minnesota quickly showed that being down a man, with an already depleted side, wasn’t going to stop them, and they opened the scoring on the hour mark after a move that saw great attacking play and poor defending combine for the perfect storm.
Alexi Gomez broke up the left, getting the better of Franklin, and whipped in a delicious low cross to the back post. Levis was caught out badly, watching the ball and not the run of Ibarra who flew in to meet the ball, and although Marinovic pulled off a great initial save, the midfielder followed in and tucked away the rebound.
1-0 to the ten men and terrible from the Whitecaps.
If at first you don't succeed
— Minnesota United FC (@MNUFC) May 5, 2018
Robinson reacted by making an attacking double substitution, bringing on Reyna and a fit again Kei Kamara, as they desperately tried to get themselves back into this one.
Reyna almost made an immediate impact, just firing over after a quick attack from a Minnesota giveaway.
The home side responded immediately when Darwin Quintero did well to square a ball to Ibson in front of goal but the ‘Caps defence managed to poke the ball away before the Brazilian could pull the trigger on what would be a killer second.
Reyna came even closer to finding his first goal of the season when he crashed a fierce strike off the Minnesota bar with 20 minutes to go.
Four minutes later and Kamara was given a great opportunity to fire the ‘Caps back level, getting onto a Waston header but blasting wildly over. Moments later Kamara got another chance, heading over a great Levis cross.
Cue hydration break!
Both teams were pushing now for the next goal and it was the third Vancouver sub, Brek Shea, who came close to getting it in the 82nd minute, but he could only look on as Shuttleworth produced the save of the afternoon, and one of the season, to acrobatically turn the ball away from his curling strike.
83' Shea curles one, unreal stop by Shuttleworth.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) May 5, 2018
As the game entered six minutes of stoppage time, the Whitecaps looked desperate, but they couldn’t break down a solid Minnesota defence and time and their hopes ticked away to another disappointing defeat.
The ‘Caps certainly created the better chances but three things that have haunted them all season came back to bite them on the bum, as Robinson is always keen to throw out there: the inability to take their opportunities, some terrible defensive play, and the lack of any impactful delivery, especially on set pieces.
Vancouver outshot Minnesota 19 to 4. You simply have to do better with that, especially against ten men. Although the Whitecaps came away from the match with the better of the possession (57.6% to 42.4%), the majority of that came after the sending off, as they let the home side control the ball in the first.
Where to the ‘Caps go from here? You can easily write this one off as a game where the team played well at times but simply didn’t take their chances. In many ways, this is true, but it does just feel like an underlying trend that they need to fix quickly.
At least they kept 11 men on the pitch this week. Baby steps.
FINAL SCORE: Minnesota United 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
MINNESOTA: Bobby Shuttleworth; Eric Miller (Carter Manley 82), Michael Boxall, Francisco Calvo, Jerome Thiesson; Rasmus Schuller, Ibson, Miguel Ibarra (Wyatt Omsberg 77), Darwin Quintero, Alexi Gomez (Collin Martin 78); Mason Toye [Subs Not Used: Matthew Lampson, Harrison Heath, Frantz Pangop, Maximiano]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinović; Sean Franklin, Kendall Waston, José Aja, Brett Levis; Bernie Ibini (Brek Shea 70), Felipe, Aly Ghazal, Alphonso Davies; Nicolás Mezquida (Yordy Reyna 63), Anthony Blondell (Kei Kamara 63) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Efraín Juárez, Jake Nerwinski, Russell Teibert]
On the defeat to MNUFC
I’m super disappointed, because I don’t think we got what we deserve. I thought we kept them at bay for 90 minutes really and limited them to a number of shots. We missed a number of chances. A lapse of concentration cost us at the end with the back post, with the young boy. Sometimes in football, that happens. When you give a team something to hold on to, it gets difficult. We kept knocking on the door, unfortunately we missed a couple of chances. We have to take the defeat on the chin.
On the first-half performance
I thought they were excellent in the first half. I thought we just missed the lack of quality in the final third, without giving too much away at the back end of the pitch. I think the second half was the same again when it came to the tempo of the way we played. They went down 10 men, but we started the game very well in the second half. When you give a goal to a team down to 10 men, it’s very hard because they block up areas and they did that. Credit to them, because they didn’t give anything away. On another day, we can score four or five goals.
On the goal from Miguel Ibarra
If you switch off on the back post, you get caught sometimes. It was a lack of concentration, but there won’t be any shouting or ranting. The boy (Brett Levis) had a very good game. I thought he was excellent — he supplied a great cross for Kei [Kamara], who should have scored. You want chances and when you create chances and don’t take them, it’s unfortunate that we gave one up on the other end.
On the 4-4-2 formation
I thought they were good. I thought they did everything I wanted them to do, except for score a goal and obviously concede goal on the other end. I’m proud of the way they played and committed to the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted or thought we could get.
On Kei Kamara’s return
Yes, I’m sure Kei is happy and disappointed. On another day he could have had a hat trick. I think the chances that fell for him were his bread and butter. So, he’ll be disappointed, but it’s important he’s back for the group.
On upcoming home stand
It’s about the next game. People have their ideas, views and opinions, but my boys were great today performance wise. They executed in every aspect of the game, except for putting the ball in the back of the net. We’ll regroup this week and will look forward to the next game.
On the result
It’s disappointing and sad to lose the game. I feel like we played a good game with just a bit of bad luck today.
On missed chances
We had many chances to finish. It was just the last touch or just our luck. We’re going to get this one back next week.
On the 4-4-2 formation
I think it was good and we were in good shape. It wasn’t a problem at all. When we were man down we matched control, moved the game, played from side to side, and created more chances.
On the result
It’s obviously a disappointing result, especially with them going down to 10 men. I think we created enough chances to definitely win the game. We’ll have to go back to the training pitch and work on that.
On the first-half play
I think we started very well in the first starting 45. We created a number of opportunities, but we didn’t manage to put any in the back of the next. It was the same sort of issue in the second half.
On upcoming home games
The home stand is very important to us. I think being back at home we see how strong we are and we’ll definitely will make the most of that opportunity at home.
On the team’s resolve against Vancouver Whitecaps
I thought it was a monumental effort considering how long we played with a man down. The team that we played, they’re probably the biggest team in the league. I thought the players, every single one of them, put themselves on the line so many times. We went through it ourselves against Atlanta here. It’s difficult when everybody packs it in. I was really pleased with some of our first half play. I thought some of our attacking play and combination play was excellent. And then Bobby [Shuttleworth] came up with an incredible save. It was two or three feet outside the post, so it is going in the top corner. For him to get his hand on it was incredible save. He has done that the last couple weeks when we needed him. Overall, I am incredibly proud of the players. It was a really big result for us and hopefully we keep this momentum going.
On the red card issued to Mason Toye
I have not seen it. I will have to see it again. They did not show a replay in the stadium.
On readjusting after the red card
The hard part is when you have Darwin [Quintero], who wants to play with the ball all of the time and he doesn’t have the outlet to go in behind. Everything that you play is short and you invite people to come and pressure more. I thought some of our play and [Miguel Ibarra] and Alexi Gómez had a great start. They put some great balls into the box and looked dangerous on the counterattack. They put in a great shift when we needed them when we were defending like we did. Because of their sheer size we changed the shape and went to a 5-3-1 and said if you can get it wide but we will try to defend the box. We did that terrifically. Had we not changed there, I think they still would have got enough to balls into the box and just by sheer size they would have gotten something. It turned out OK in the end.
On the effects of Toye’s suspension
Obviously with [Abu] Danladi and Christian [Ramirez’s] situations it is not ideal. But we will be in tomorrow and we’ll assess from there and decide what we want to do.
On the message to Toye
He’s silly, a silly boy. I don’t know if he is doing it or what he is doing, but if he has he could have cost his teammates. He will learn his lesson. If two or three people are fit maybe he doesn’t play the next game and he loses his spot. So, it’s silly. If he elbowed him, he deserved to get the red card and if he did we will have a chat about that.
On Miguel Ibarra
I thought his effort was incredible again today. To make the effort to get to the back post like he did with a man down was terrific. It was a good first effort and he followed it up, which was great. It was great play from both wide men. Alexi put a great ball across the six-yard box. He invited Miggy to get there and he got there. Really pleased with him. I don’t think there is anybody today that we can be disappointed with.
On what has changed for Ibarra
I think the competition for places is the biggest motivation for any coach. If you can’t get a game it generally livens everybody up. He has waited patiently for his chance and he has taken it. He will keep his place if he keeps playing like that. But we are getting more and more competition for places. That is the nature of what it is for. That is why you have a strong squad — to make sure that if you are in the team you have to play well to keep your place. He’s doing that at this moment.
On Eric Miller’s debut performance
I was really pleased with Eric. He is what he is. He is steady, does not do anything crazy or silly, knows his role, knows what his role is for the team and he will get better for that. Obviously, it is his first one. He will probably think he’s had a stroke in the morning when he wakes up. He’ll be better for the game, for the 90 minutes, because it is his first one.
On Francisco Calvo and his performance
He wears his heart on his sleeve. He has been a little bit disappointed with himself. He’s made a couple mistakes that have cost us at times. I thought him defending the goal today was exceptional. When look at it, [Kendall] Waston is up there, [Anthony] Blondell is in there, Kei Kamara is in there and Brek Shea. I think the smallest one of them is 6’4” and they were putting good quality deliveries into the box. Our center backs were magnificent and put on an incredibly display on today of defending the goal. And being in the right spots to defend the goal.
On the backline’s state of mind prior to the match
After the warmup the staff was really pleased with the way they had warmed up and thought there was a lot of confidence and determination in the group. That is coming from them sensing we are getting better. The squad is getting stronger and we need to build on that. Obviously, we are in a little bit of a hole at the moment in terms of injuries. Were we talking about this four weeks ago saying how well everything was going we would have no injuries, no muscular injuries, and then four weeks later we have 11 people down. But it has been a great day.
On getting the first clean sheet of the season
Shutouts are always good. Trust me, I should know. It is something every team strives for. You have a chance. How many times have you heard me say this season if we keep conceding two quick goals we aren’t going to win too many games? I did say to the team at half time that I felt if we could keep a clean sheet we would win the game.
On Bobby Shuttleworth’s performance in goal
He has come up massive with two big saves the last two weeks. That is the sign of a goalkeeper that you need — when he saves you a couple of points or he wins you a game. He saved us two points today.
On how Darwin Quintero has re-shaped the attack
The most important thing is that we know if we can get him the ball in and around the final third he has incredible vision, a great first touch and makes things happen. All of our best combination play in the first half all came through him. He was involved in all of it, whether it be out on the right or the left. He has been a terrific pickup for us. I think that once everybody is fit and well and we know how to use him and he knows what he’s working with, what the strengths of the other players are, I think he will be a great piece for us.
On how he feels going into Wednesday with injuries
We will re-assess about what we are going to do. We have an abundance of players in midfield and I would think we would make one or two changes for the game. We don’t get back until late Thursday and have another big game on Saturday. We will have a better idea after training tomorrow of how everybody feels and how we are. We will probably take every fit player to LA and then we’ll see where we are from there.
On if he believes the current form at home is sustainable
Yes, I do. Even last year I thought it was sustainable and we’re a better team than we were this time last year.
On his goal
I think it started from our half. We were able to get it out from there. We switched the field and I see Alexi [Gómez] go one-on-one. [The coaches] have been telling me since the season started, make sure you get to the back post. I had already done that against Portland Timbers, which was called back. My instinct was don’t be offside on this one. The goalkeeper made a great save on the first one, but I just needed to bottle it up.
On playing with Alexi Gómez
This is probably the first time I have seen him play a game. I mean, you can just tell already that he’s great. You give him the ball one-vs.-one and he’s good technically. He’s got a left foot that’s just going to put the ball into the area where you can finish. He’s going to help us out a lot on offense.
On the team’s resolve to defend for 40 minutes with a man down
I think we were just committed. Make sure we don’t give them any easy outlets to get in and make sure to force them out. And just make sure we’re man-marking inside the box, because that’s been a big problem. I think we did a great job at it today. I mean our defenders … I don’t think anything was going to go in today. Bobby came up big. That was big for us.
On the emotions of this game after being on the opposite side of the result against Atlanta
It was a really emotional game. We wanted the win real bad. We’ve been saying we want three points here at home every time we play. I think just getting those three points was big for us.
On if he is getting into a groove or just maintaining his form
No, I think I’m getting better every game. I mean, my confidence right now is really up there. I know I didn’t have a good year last year. So, starting in the offseason I was just making sure I worked. Christian [Ramirez] really helped get really fit in the offseason. So, doing that in California and coming back early and making sure I was fit. And now the hard work is paying off.
On the responsibility that’s fallen to him due to injuries
There’s a lot. But I’m pretty sure we’re going to have people to step up. We have confidence in every single one of them. Right now, we’re short at forward but hopefully one of them gets healthy and is ready for the next game.
On playing his first game in his home state
Yeah, super exciting to come home and play. And then obviously, win. More importantly. Super exciting to win a game. Huge three points. I think in the past, this team hasn’t won a lot of games like that, which is good. Obviously in Colorado, I’m pretty used to going in the bunker sometimes, digging in. So that was something that was good comfort for me, to just be able to do that here. Bring that to the Loons.
On what the week was like for him after he found out about the trade
It’s been super, super hectic. I told a couple people the other day. It’s nice when you get traded, that night, you can sleep in your parents’ house. It makes things a little bit easier. And then honestly, there’s so much stuff to do and there’s so much logistical planning you gotta do that playing soccer is the easiest part. It’s easy to just come out here to play with the guys. It’s a super talented group with a lot of quality, so it’s super easy to come here and do my job.
On major adjustments moving to Minnesota in comparison to Colorado
Yeah, for sure. And obviously I had some injuries in Colorado, so it wasn’t like full-on training for a long time. The good thing is I was training at altitude. They play a dynamic style there, so I was fit from that. And then I just think the adrenaline got me through. But honestly, it’s a good group of guys that make it easy to play with them. So, I was trying just not to mess up and let those guys do their thing.
On his matchup against Brek Shea
It’s always tough when a national team guy or a former national team guy comes in and plays against you. But, I thought for the most part I did alright. He’s a super dynamic guy, so he’s going to get service, he’s going to do his thing. Just try to win the ball as much as possible and do what you can.
On cramping up and being subbed
Yeah, just a little calf cramp. It was a little hot out there today. I forgot how hot it gets here during the summer.
On his family and friends at the match
A pretty decent amount. It was super nice. So, Cassie, my fiancé was supposed to fly home for the — she was actually already in Minnesota, just unintentionally, before I got traded — and then she was supposed to fly home today, this morning, but her — my future father-in-law — ended up flying last night and then he drove 12 hours through the night to get back here for the game. So, it’s super special to be able to have those kinds of people around you and have that support system.
On the environment at TCF Bank Stadium
It’s great, man. What a supporters’ section. It’s just great. It’s honestly a pretty good place to play here for being a football stadium. It gets pretty loud. Especially that second half, when we were under for a little while, the Supporters section was able to cheer us on and give us that extra push that we needed.
On if he heard the supporters chanting “he’s one of our own”
I did not here that. But that’s pretty cool.
On if there are any guys in the locker room who have warmed up to him right away
It’s actually super nice. Brent [Kallman], played forever with him, played with Ethan [Finlay]. I played a little bit with [Alex] Kapp at Creighton. And then there’s just some other random guys throughout the league who I’ve played with. [Marc] Burch, Collen Warner. I played a lot of youth national team stuff with Collin Martin. So, it’s been, for the most part, a pretty easy transition. It’s a great locker room. The guys are super welcoming.
On how wild this match was as his very first with his hometown club
Pretty wild, for sure. Obviously going down a man is always tough. But obviously the last two years in Colorado, we’ve been a team that kind of just sat in and defended a lot. So, it’s something I’m unfortunately pretty used to at this point in time. But I think all the guys, Bobby was great today. The rest of the guys in the back line were really good. So, like I said, it just made my job really easy. Francisco is a really, really easy guy to play next to. Super high-level guy. And I thought Alexi was good too, just getting back and getting at [Sean] Franklin. I mean, those guys just made it easy for me for the most part.
On the first clean sheet of the season
Thank God, first of all. I think he’s there for the team. I think we did really well. We defended the area fantastic. And it’s not just the back four, it’s the whole team. Well, we know that if we have the clean sheet we’re going to get some points.
On Shuttleworth’s performance in goal
That’s why he is there. We have another fantastic keeper, which is Matt Lampson, but Bobby is having two huge games. Today, he was to me the best player on the field. That’s why he is there. Adrian has the confidence in him and he shows every time we need him, he’s always saving the team.
On his emotions at the end and what was going through his head when the whistle blew
My son, my son. I mean, my son is my life. So, I just remembered him right away when I finished the game and I was really excited. And I just give the jersey to a kid.
On if it’s satisfying to get a win over his former team
Not really, that was such a long time ago. So much of the personnel has changed, it’s a completely different organization from when I played with them in their expansion year.
On his mentality playing against a dynamic Vancouver team
We know they like to be direct and attack teams from the counter. The first few minutes we gave them a bit more than we should have. We let them get in behind a bit too easily. They had more of the ball in the second half when we were a man down. They do have some big targets. Wyatt [Omsberg] was amazing when he came on and Calvo won more than his fair share of balls in the air –– got to give a lot of credit to those guys. Obviously, Bobby was standing on his head for a couple of those saves. That’s what we expect from him as we see it every day in training.
On the mentality of the defence
We felt like we have been doing so much of the right things. When we have conceded goals, as a unit, we have played better than we did today. This clean sheet perhaps validates the performances from the past weeks where we may have deserved a clean sheet but haven’t quite got one. We gave them too many chances at goal and that’s something we still need to work on.
On defending centrally against Alphonso Davies
It felt fairly comfortable. Obviously, Alphonso is a great young player who is going big places. He is a handful one-on-one, but Jerry [Thiesson] did well against him in the first half. Limited his chances, he didn’t get in any dangerous crosses.
On his red card
I was getting held and grabbed a little bit, but that’s just a part of the game. I made a bad decision, I threw an elbow and I got a red card for it. It’s just a learning experience now for me and I just have to say a big thank you to the whole team. I put them in a really tough spot and they were able to pull a win out. So, that’s what we should be talking about today. I made a silly decision and we had to pay for it. But, yeah.
More on the red-card play
I’ll be honest. I was getting grabbed and pulled and I got a little frustrated and I was kinda trying to send a message. It was a rookie mistake, if you want to say it, and I’m a rookie. But, that’s something I have to work on. There’s no place for it here. So, yeah. I just gotta learn from it and move on.
On red cards across his career
No, this is my first red card in my life. It was just a bad decision, just gotta move forward.
On the attacking play in the first half
I thought all the front guys and the midfielders were combining really well. We created a couple of chances, I think we probably should’ve gotten one in the first half. But, you know, the game changed a little bit in the second half, Miguel did an amazing job of getting on the end of Alexi’s cross, stayed with it, got the rebound and scored. So, yeah. Guys kept pushing for a goal and then obviously, you know, we came up big defensively. Bobby made a great save. Yeah, this is I think our first clean sheet of the year. So, it was a great job from the boys. We move forward and now we want to keep progressing and get another three points this week.