It Disney come much better than this! Well it does, but it was a highly enjoyable end to end game in Orlando on Saturday night that probably far exceeded many people’s expectations of how things were set to play out, especially after a fairly uneventful first half.
A Tommy Redding own goal had given Vancouver Whitecaps a 1-0 half time lead over Orlando City and when Brek Shea came back to haunt his former club and double the visitor’s lead, instead of it being game over, it set up an exciting back and forth that could have seen both teams add several more to the scoreline.
As it turned out, Cyle Larin’s header just past the hour mark was all that was to beat either goalkeeper and the Whitecaps came away with a gritty and huge three points on the road once again, even if it wasn’t a classic 90 minute display.
As expected, Carl Robinson rang the changes from Wednesday. Nine in total, but not all quite as expected. Stefan Marinovic got his second start in goal, while Aaron Maund made his Whitecaps debut in the middle of the backline. It was all change in the attack too, with all the midfielders and forwards rotated.
Any unfamiliarity was soon put aside and the ‘Caps opened the scoring nine minutes in when Kendall Waston rose to try and get on the end of an inswinging Nicolas Mezquida free kick. But Orlando defender Redding got there first, heading past Joe Bendik and into his own goal.
Thank you, Tommy Redding 😃
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 26, 2017
Take them any way you can!
It’s wasn’t a first half full of quality, but Orlando had the best of the chances for the remainder of it, many of them wasted by Carlos Rivas, who was having a nightmare out there and worrying pigeons around the whole of the city.
A goalmouth scramble in Vancouver’s box should have seen the home side level things up, but a double (possibly triple?) save from Marinovic and some frantic feet trying to clear the ball, prevented any real danger to the ‘Caps goal.
And that was to be all the goalmouth action for the rest of the half. Vancouver weren’t looking great, but they had the lead and Orlando weren’t looking that great shakes either, although you felt they’d come out in the second half a much different side.
Except they didn’t really at first, even with Larin coming in for Rivas at the half.
Orlando were pressing but that was leaving them short at the back and Vancouver punished them fully in the 53rd minute and it was a man very well known to them that did the damage.
Erik Hurtado powered forward and played the ball out to Shea, who ran in on goal and finished with a delicious chip over the advancing Bendik and into the net to double the ‘Caps advantage.
.@BrekShea chips in for the 'Caps!
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 27, 2017
If the ‘Caps had any thoughts of being home and dry, they were quickly extinguished in the 62nd when Yoshimar Yotun was set free on the left and sent in a perfect cross for Larin to out jump Maund and head past Marinovic to give the home side some hope.
Alphonso Davies came on and added an immediate spark to the ‘Caps, almost adding a third goal in the 69th minute when he broke through but finished wildly when he should have shown much better composure.
The ‘Caps had an even better chance three minutes later when a neat Fredy Montero backheel set up Davies and a four on one break. Davies headed into the box and squared to Montero but the Colombian agonisingly couldn’t get an outstretched leg on the ball and direct in the crucial comfort goal.
Another scramble in the ‘Caps box almost led to an Orlando equaliser but again a double save from Marinovic, the second a kick away, and some frantic blocking saw the ball finally deflected out for a corner and the home side scratching their heads as to how that didn’t end up in the back of the net.
The game was now end to end, with each side piling forward at every opportunity and another break by Davies with eight minutes to go saw a save from Bendik and Yordy Reyna tackled before he could get a shot off the rebound.
Orlando then came to within the width of the crossbar of levelling things up four minutes later when former Whitecaps Giles Barnes rattled the woodwork with a long range strike.
Marinovic then produced a point blank stop to deny Dom Dwyer, but the striker was flagged offside, so it wouldn’t have counted anyway. Still, it showed what the Kiwi keeper is capable of.
You felt there was still at least another goal in the match but it wasn’t to come and the ‘Caps held on for a win that shoots them up to fourth in the Western Conference standings, and just three points off first place with a game in hand.
Considering the up and down nature of the performances of the team so far this season, and the feeling that they’re still not firing on anything near full cylinders, it’s a remarkable achievement.
Heading into the bye week for the international break, the ‘Caps are looking strong for the run in. There’s still a long way to go, but it’s hard not to get a little excited about what may lie ahead if they can find that consistency and higher level.
Can they? We’ll find out soon enough.
FINAL SCORE: Orlando City 1 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
ORLANDO: Joe Bendik; Scott Sutter, Tommy Redding, Leo Pereira, Donny Toia (Dillon Powers 57); Yoshimar Yotun, Cristian Higuita (Antonio Nocerino 84), Giles Barnes; Kaka; Dom Dwyer, Carlos Rivas (Cyle Larin 46) [Subs Not Used: Earl Edwards Jr, Jose Aja, Servando Carrasco, Tony Rocha]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Aaron Maund, Jordan Harvey; Russell Teibert, Marcel de Jong, Bernie Ibini (Yordy Reyna 75), Nicolas Mezquida (Alphonso Davies 62), Brek Shea; Erik Hurtado (Fredy Montero 66) [Subs Not Used: David Ousted, Andrew Jacobson, Mauro Rosales, Cristian Techera]
On a big win after long road trip
“It feels exhausting. I’m exhausted and I didn’t play. So every one of them in there deserves huge pat on the back because we had a travel day from hell two days ago, obviously we were a lot bit tired yesterday. We were battered and bruised after a tough game Wednesday night against our neighbors. [The players] deserve a lot of credit.”
On changes to lineup and depth of the team
“That we have got a very strong squad and we’re together. You know you see every player on that pitch fighting for each other, whether they are starting or whether they are coming off the bench – even the subs at the end. They play a big part in a team, a winning team. You’ve got to create a culture, you’ve got to create an environment. I’m so proud of every single one of them today.”
On talking to Brek Shea postgame
“No I haven’t seen him. Full credit to Brek. You know it’s not easy coming back to your club. I have done it many times. And in the first half I think he did okay but he wasn’t his usual positive self. For him to top it off with an unbelievable finish, but that’s what I know he’s about. So credit to him, you know he didn’t celebrate, which is important. The respect he has for this football club. You know it’s a proper football club here [in Orlando], you see the players they have got so much talent on show. That’s why it’s an even bigger result because of the talent they have.”
On Aaron Maund making Whitecaps debut
“He was a good solid debut today next to Kendall, who I thought was a rock as well. But whenever you go away from home every player has to step up. And if your players are performing at fives or sixes out of ten you’re not going to win. If they perform at sevens, eights and nines, which my players did today, you’re going to grind results out. Yes, we could play better. Yes, we could be better in transition. We had some transitional moments where we had easy chances. We had to dodge a few bullets from them – they hit the crossbar with Giles [Barnes] and things like that. You’re going to have to do it. But unbelievable character.”
On a few new player appearances
“Stef [Marinovic] was great. David [Ousted] was brilliant on Wednesday night against Seattle, Stef came up huge. And I knew whoever I picked today would have to makes saves and be brave. And you know they’ve got Dom Dwyer they’ve got Cyle Larin. Coming on he gets a goal, which made it a little bit nervous, but we didn’t go under. And that’s why I’m proud of them because in a tough environment, intense environment like this. You getting battles from the supporters which is great. But it makes it even more special.”
On message to players heading into a break
“Forget about football. Forget about football for five days, and then come back in next Friday and we go again. Because we have got an important run.”
On tonight’s experience
“I was just overwhelmed. It’s a place that I’ve only been for two years but it felt like forever. I love the fans, the city and the organization. It sucked when I left but I’m in a new home, I’m happy and like I said I was happy to be back.”
On his thoughts while scoring the goal
“Nothing, I just play to score and to win. I was just happy for a good goal and to help my team to victory.”
On if he thinks they will make the playoffs
“I just take it one game at a time and I think my team does too. Obviously, we want to make the playoffs and go from there.”
On team getting points on the road
“Yeah, three games and hard games and I think we got a result in each game. So, it’s a big shoutout to the staff and the players and everyone above.”
On Orlando City fans respecting his goal
“Yeah, like I said, this was a home for me. I was happy here. The other side of my family is from here and, I don’t know, I respect them and I hope they respect me.”
On making Whitecaps debut
“It feels great. It’s something that I have been looking forward to it ever since I found out about the trade. Just to get in there with the guys and that first battle, and I thought our team did really really well.”
On how important it was to get this win
“It’s important. Right now, points are so valuable on this home stretch. With the traveling, I thought our mentality was great, I thought that our fight was great, and the way we came together, especially at the end was pretty phenomenal.”
On the partnership with Kendall Waston
“I thought it went pretty smoothly. We knew we had to talk a lot, communicate a lot, especially with the whole back four, three in front of us, the ‘keeper. There were a lot of changes that were made. Communication was key tonight. And I think it was definitely something to build off of down the stretch.”
On the goal in the opening 10 minutes
“It was just a great ball, just a great ball in, from Nico [Mezquida]. And those are tough for ‘keepers. It’s just one of those ones that are tough to judge, and it went in our favor.”
On what the ceiling is for this team
“The ceiling is as high as we want it to be. The group is really really close, so it makes it easy for guys like me to come in and try to make an impact. And the feeling in the locker room right now is that we can go as far as we want to go, which is all the way. So we are excited.”
On now having four off days in a row
“I’m going to move all my things back, over to Vancouver. You know, gotta make all those moves.”
“I come in here thinking to myself I don’t want to give general comments, but I will say the effort the guys are putting forward in the last five or six games now is second to none. The belief that they have, the willingness that they have to work to the bitter end is fantastic and I can’t be more thankful for that. But for whatever reason it seems that it’s bad luck after bad luck after bad luck. To go through a game tonight where we gave them both goals and then weren’t able to finish one of the plethora of chances we had is difficult. Really, really mentally and emotionally difficult time for us.”
On the message to the team
“I basically said exactly what I just said to you guys. A little bit of a loss for words because I just never have felt like I’ve been in such an unlucky situation. We just can’t seem to get anything to go our way. I feel like if we could get something to go our way right now we could get a lot of good results because we’re performing well. We’re playing well. But the struggle continues.”
On improved chemistry between players
“I would say that the match from a tactical point of view played out more similar to what our objective is when we’re at home, in particular that we dominate the game. I still think that we were a little rushed at some times to try to serve balls – hopeful balls – into the box when I think there’s a few better situations and a few better decisions that could be made in the attacking third so that we’re not looking at a scoreline like we are right now and we’re not looking at a stat sheet that says we crossed the ball in there a thousand times. But two giant center backs. In my eyes, as I said, the effort of the players is fantastic but there’s still improvement that needs to happen if we’re going to get to where we want to get to.”
On improving attacking form
“Keep shooting. I think some of the shots in the first half were clearly wayward and wild. Those shots need to be reined in so that we’re making players make blocks, we’re making goalkeeper make saves. It’s difficult. It’s a confidence issue now. Very much a confidence issue in the players to feel like we can score goals, to feel like we can finish the chances that we’re creating.”
On elevating Tommy Redding and Léo Pereira’s mentality
“For those players in particular they need to look at these experiences as learning experiences, developmental tools, because you need to go through difficult times. You need to make mistakes to correct those in the future. Those two players in particular need to look at the game tonight very critically and see what they may have done much better to help us.”
On starting Carlos Rivas
“I was looking for a little bit more mobility. I liked the combination of having Carlos, who wants to drop into the midfield a little bit more and into some wide spaces with a target forward and really wanted to get Dom [Dwyer] his first start at home. Really thought that combination was the right one for tonight, but what I found in the first half was that we’d have Dom making diagonal runs outside the box and looking to play the ball into the box and there was nobody there. That’s why the change was made at halftime. It was a tactical adjustment, it wasn’t anything necessarily to do with Carlos’ play. It was just I thought the game was affording us, was opportunities to get into wide spaces pretty easily to make crosses. But we needed more numbers in the box. Cyle [Larin], you know he’s always going to be in and around the penalty box.”
On Yoshimar Yotún
“I think you see in some of the passes that he plays and some of the vision that he has that he’s a high, high quality player. It takes time to mesh into teams but I think he’s doing a really nice job tonight. I think tonight he lost the ball probably a few more times than we expected, and especially when we put him at the left back position, but we were obviously trying to be aggressive and he was trying to make aggressive decisions with the ball so this is what sometimes has to happen when you’re chasing a game.”
On Cyle Larin – Dom Dwyer partnership
“Again, I think the combination for me is still a little bit of a question mark. This is what happens when you bring a new player in the middle of the season. He’s brand new to the team, he’s played under a different tactical shape his entire professional career, now we’re asking him to play with two strikers and I think over the first couple of games they played together they were taking up some of the same runs and taking up some of the same spaces. I was interested to see what a different combination would look like. But tonight I think in the second half they showed that they can play well together.”
On Dillon Powers
“I thought he had some pretty positive moments. Again, another player that’s never played in this tactical system that’s trying to find his way a little bit about what exactly is expected of him and how high he needs to be or how low he needs to be. I thought there was some occasions, especially in the second half, we’re going to need those midfielders in those positions to take up high positions and be aggressive with their decisions.”
On Josh Saunders’ injury
“Yes, Earl [Edwards, Jr.] will be spending the rest of the season with us. Josh injured his neck a while ago actually and has been struggling through a ton of pain just to try to provide for us. He would get through the training sessions then get home and have to deal with massive amounts of pain every single night. It came to decision time where he had to do what was best for his existence right now as well as for his life in the future.”
On the performance
“It’s a lot of effort. A lot of heart. And to just get punish with these tiny mistakes. Last week, Cyle [Larin] runs with a guy on a free kick and then heads it away, it hits the side of a guy’s head and goes in the back of the net. This week, Tommy [Redding] makes a challenge early on, wins the ball, but can’t get enough on it and I can’t make the save. So, I’m really disappointed.”
On what the team needs to do to turn things around
“I mean, trying to take games at home here. If you look at these games, the start of these games, there’s only one team really putting the pressure on and both of them one small error and we’re punished for it. That’s the game and the grand scheme of it, but at some point, you gotta think it’s gotta go our way a little bit.”
On performance of Tommy Redding and Léo Pereira
“I think they’re doing a good job. I mean they played two, three games this year. They’re tight to the attackers when we’re on the attack. They’re practically defending and they’re getting punished on small errors. It’s hard, it’s really hard on the two of them, but you can do nothing but just try to keep them up.“
On creating more opportunities but in a loss
“It’s a game that is very difficult to explain. We controlled the game, but they had two chances and finished them. They scored on the counter and they scored on the set piece. It’s difficult for us but that’s how the game went down.”
On what the team is missing
“I think we showed today that we can create attacking opportunities, we created many opportunities today and were on top of Vancouver the entire game. It is difficult to explain, you can see the team has improved. I have played three games with the team and I feel the team has performed well. Today was a difficult loss at home and now we have to go get the results on the road. It’s obviously more difficult for us but we have to find a way to do it. I think the team has been performing well on the field and we just have to find and manage a way to win.”
On switching to left back
“I have played many years in my career as a left back. I was a midfielder and I’ve played as a left back so I’m capable of doing it and I have played there many times in my career.”
On assist to Cyle Larin
“I know my teammates are always going to be there in the box so you try to put the ball near them where they are going to be. We were able to get the goal but unfortunately that wasn’t enough for the win.”
On differences when Cyle Larin left the game
“Cyle [Larin] is a striker that plays in the box and finishes the chances. I think he’s a great player. He’s different from Carlos [Rivas], they have some differences but I think he’s a great player.”
On no home wins since May
“It’s difficult not winning but we’re strong, we’re going to get through this and whatever we need to solve we’ll talk about it and we’re going to get better.”
On being comfortable with forwards
“I’m very happy with each one of my players. I’ve been here for less than a month so we will get to know each other slowly. I’m trying to take advantage of my time during training to prepare and get comfortable with Cyle [Larin] and Dom’s [Dwyer’s] movements, and we will slowly start to get better. Kaká always plays in the middle so when I play on the right it’s easier to find him. Today we played really well but the result wasn’t what we were looking for.”