Report and Reaction: Vancouver Whitecaps keep playoff hopes alive but need late Waston heroics to secure all three points against San Jose

Report and Reaction: Vancouver Whitecaps keep playoff hopes alive but need late Waston heroics to secure all three points against San Jose

It may have been a lot tighter than it should have been, but in the end Vancouver Whitecaps were able to claim all three points against San Jose for the second straight week, beating them 2-1 at BC Place on Saturday evening. And boy, did they need that win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

A first half goal from wunderkind Alphonso Davies opened the scoring for the ‘Caps, who looked completely in control against an Earthquakes side that was simply lacking the killer attacking instinct that saw them hit four past conference leadings FC Dallas on Wednesday night.

Nicolas Mezquida’s goal late in the second would become the winner as Vako made things interesting in the 90th minute, firing the visitor’s to within one and breaking up that rarity of things, a Whitecaps clean sheet.

And it could have been even worse for the ‘Caps had Kendall Waston’s late lunge blocked what would have surely been a dramatic, and playoff ending, second goal for the Quakes in the dying seconds.

A massive block and a massive let off, keeping Vancouver on the outside looking in, but still very much in touch with those above them in the standings.

It was a lively opening quarter of an hour for the Whitecaps as they controlled the ball and applied enough pressure to create a number of near chances.

Their best in that period came in the 15th minute when an unbalanced Kei Kamara took a strike from just inside the box sending the ball over the bar.

The work paid in the 22nd minute when Davies completed a give and go with Yordy Reyna by slotting the ball past Andrew Tarbell for the opener.

Throughout the remainder of the first half the ‘Caps had a number of chances to get a second, slicing through the Earthquakes midfield on several occasions, but the final pass just wasn’t there making them settle for the one goal lead going into the break.

The second half started with the visitors controlling the play but it was Vancouver who looked to have the ability to go up by two. Cristian Techera came close, but was unable to get on the end of a cross from birthday boy Kamara, missing it by inches.

Techera was able to get his foot to the ball in the 64th minute when Reyna sent him in alone on the keeper but he released his shot as he met the keeper, sending the ball wide of the net.

They were finally able to get a cushion in the 78th minute when second half sub Mezquida received a pass just outside the box and then sent a curling shot to the far post just over the outstretched hands of Tarbell.

That goal would prove vital in the 90th minute as San Jose made things interesting when Vako found himself with the ball in the box and his shot deflected off Waston, getting past Marinovic.

It almost got worse at in the dying moments when a long throw in got to Jahmir Hyka at the far post but Waston was able to slide in and block the attempt securing all three points for the Caps.

While the Whitecaps got what they badly needed, there has to be some disappointment among everyone tied to the team that they were unable to secure an elusive clean sheet.

Another negative coming out of this match was the yellow card earned by Reyna, which due to accumulation means the on fire attacker will miss their next match against the Sounders. A big loss for a massive match.

With the victory the ‘Caps were able to jump past LA Galaxy into seventh spot, a point behind both their Cascadian rivals, but having played a match more.

They will now enjoy the international break off before returning to BC Place on September 15th to play one of those rivals, Seattle Sounders. The must win matches keep coming.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 San Jose Earthquakes

ATT: 22,120 (sell-out)

VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Aaron Maund, Brett Levis; Cristian Techera (Nicolas Mezquda 71), Aly Ghazal, Russell Teibert, Alphonso Davies; Kei Kamara (Erik Hurtado 81), Yordy Reyna (Brek Shea 90) [Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Sean Franklin, Efraín Juárez, Felipe]

SAN JOSE: Andrew Tarbell; Nick Lima, Guram Kashia, Florian Jungwirth, Joel Qwiberg (Shea Salinas 67); Magnus Eriksson, Aníbal Godoy (Jahmir Hyka 81), Luis Felipe Fernandes (Jackson Yueill 58), Valeri Qazaishvili; Danny Hoesen, Chris Wondolowski [Substitutes not used: Matt Bersano, Yeferson Quintana, Dominic Oduro, Jimmy Ockford]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

CARL ROBINSON

On the match:

“More important than the points was the performance, I thought they [the players] were excellent, we played positively, with a smile on our face with lots of good football up until the 91st minute and then, as Vancouver Whitecaps do, we make it interesting for ourselves and we have to put our bodies on the line in the end, but a good all-round performance”

On playing more aggressively than in San Jose:

“Again listen, no two halves of football are the same. Sometimes people think it’s an excuse but if you look at football all over the world, every team that you play has a period of play. San Jose had their period in the first half last week. We had our period and we scored one more goal than them. Today I thought we were terrific for 45 minutes but we were only one goal ahead, they were probably the better team for 10 or 15 minutes at the start of the second half. We got a little bit lazy in our decision making in the final third. I think we let them off the hook too often and obviously we got the second goal, which was a great strike from Nico. It shows if you practice and you’re willing to commit the work, you’ll get the reward because anyone who’s been at training, and most of you guys and ladies have, you’ll see he does that every day. I need to kick him off the training field but that’s why he does it.”

On not converting chances:

“Yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment, I think in the first half in San Jose last week we were totally off it, we weren’t willing to compete and didn’t want to get around people, we wanted to play. The game is pretty simple, it’s two sides with the ball and without the ball. When you’ve got the ball, you’ve got to keep the ball, and when you don’t have the ball you’ve got to go hunting, got to try and win the ball, we didn’t do that well enough. Today we did. We put pressure on – they’ve got two good midfielder players, we know that – one’s played in a World Cup and one’s a fantastic young player but our two in there today were on top of their form as well, Rusty and Aly. When we won the ball then we were looking for our transitions with Yordy, who again I thought was terrific and then our wide players and Kei.”

On Brett Levis going the full 90 minutes:

“Yeah, very pleasing, I said to him at the end of the game, I’ve give him a big hug because he can do it but he’s got to believe he can do. I think sometimes it’s in people’s heads, people will believe what they want to believe sometimes. I’ve got full faith with him, it was a good decision to play him today I thought both full-backs were excellent and they get on really well, so whether he was man of the match, I think there were five, six, seven players that could be man of the match today which shows we performed well.”

STEFAN MARINOVIC

On conceding late in the match:

“I’m pretty disappointed because we dominated that whole game for 90 minutes and then to concede right at the end there was unnecessary.”

On staying focused throughout the match:

“I stay focused the whole match, I don’t see any point in relaxing, like you said they do have those chances and I’m hopefully there for the one I can save, unfortunately it’s just one of those ones that rebounds into the goal so I’m a bit disappointed but I’m very happy with the win.”

On defensive performance:

“I think our defence performed very well, but unfortunately it’s cliché but it’s a team effort you don’t just defend with four players and a goalkeeper, you defend all together and for the first 90 minutes 11 players were standing behind the ball, our work rate was incredible, some of our best work without the ball I’ve seen from us in a long time.”

BRETT LEVIS

On playing 90 minutes, how you feeling?

“Tired. But I am super happy with the result, I’ve been struggling with cramping but more importantly we won the game and it’s huge going into the break with a win like this and we are six unbeaten so we get to enjoy the break. Good luck to all the international guys and we got to come back and continue to make a playoff push.”

On what needs to happen for the playoff push:

“I think it’s going to take exactly what we did tonight and that’s determination, grit and blocking potential goals when we need to, like we saw Kendall in the 90th minute to block that and it just shows what it means to him and us as a team. A lot of times it’s going to come down to that, even though you are down 2-0 you get one goal scored against you, and a lot of teams will fold and you saw exactly what we did to San Jose when they were on the opposite end of it. We just got to continue to grind out wins and get points, especially at home.”

On winning man of the match and his confidence:

“I think it’s going to do a lot for my confidence. It comes back to comfort and the more you play the calmer you are and the man of the match is just a bonus on top. Again, I am so happy with the win and three points before the break and we are six unbeaten.”

Defence criticism as of late, how do you celebrate this defensive performance?

“I think we were tremendous, we let up one goal at the end and it was kind of a ball that popped out, we did close it down quick enough, it was deflected a few different times but I don’t think we gave them any clear cuts looks. Which is a bonus for us, our job is to keep the ball out of our net but I definitely thought we could have put them away a little bit soon, but again, we won and got three points at the end of the day.”

On Seattle match:

“I think we always look forward to those games, with our rivalry against Seattle. They have eight wins in a row and we are six unbeaten and it’s going to be a clash. But we are prepared and we are ready for it.”

On the difference in physicality this week compared to next:

“I think so, you always want to be on the front foot and a phrase that gets tossed around is make the first tackle and get the rest of the players around you. But personally, I think some of those fouls weren’t fouls but of course I am going to say that. But it happens, it’s just about being on the front foot and that’s what we discussed prior to the game and at halftime, is to continue to be on the front foot. Fouls happen, it’s part of the game, I think it was important how aggressive we were in stepping our line up and not sitting back. I thought we sat back a little bit too much in San Jose and you saw obviously a huge difference in this game.”

Plans for the break?

“I am actually going back home to Saskatoon, I haven’t been back in eight and a half months now so I am going to go watch my old university team, go to a couple camps and say hi to some kids. And just enjoy and see some of my friends that I haven’t seen in a long time. So, I am looking forward to it.”

NICOLAS MEZQUIDA

On scoring spectacular goals:

“In training we do shooting at the end of training, we stay and work on finishing and shooting. Today I had the nice opportunity to shoot because Jake made a run and it opened the space. So, it opened up and I got a second to shoot. I got a chance and had the opportunity and the ball was in the angle of the corner so I am happy for the goal.”

On the team recognizing his hard work and celebrating his goal with him as a whole:

“I felt great support and I am happy. Kendall from all the way in defence came to celebrate with me and I saw all the team together. Not just because I scored but anyone who scores and it’s an important moment. We know we are in a difficult position in the standings and we scored and took two goals over them. What I thought was the team keep together and celebrate as one but I think it’s the same with anyone who scores.”

SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES

MIKAEL STAHRE

On the match result and consolation goal:

“I’m really disappointed with the result, I think we really tried to score in the dying seconds, I can’t say that I’m super disappointed with the performance, we just weren’t sharp enough. I think the game plan went ok, I think the intention was still there, but we just weren’t sharp enough in our decisions, and that’s probably got something to do with the fact that we’ve had three games in one week.”

On team mentality:

“As you can now see we were down 2-0 here and with five minutes left we still fight, we have a good mentality in our locker room, even if we are in dead last position in our division, we still play for the club and for the fans, and for each other every single second and I’m happy with that.”

On teams struggle to find a consistent run of form this season:

“It’s a complex game right and we have had a really hard season, most of the time losing by one goal like today, we are almost there but we are going to have to travel home with nothing, it’s hard to handle this defeat for sure.”

CHRIS WONDOLOSKI

On the final result:

“It’s a disappointing result, not good enough across the board, anytime you dig yourself a hole at 2-0 it’s definitely tough to go down, it’s good to have a bit of fighting spirit and a chance there at the end, but we’re not good enough.”

On SJ’s difficult season:

“Definitely difficult, it’s a little bit, to be honest especially in this league, little plays, little things, tracking runners, making the extra pass, doing the little things better than the other team, and we’ve only done that four times this year, so I think we are right where we deserve to be.”

On what the team needs to focus on to be competitive for next season:

“I think that at times we play too individualistic and you can’t do that, you have to play team ball, you have to have your identity and play and execute the game plan, and when you go AWOL on that it hurts.”

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Steve Pandher
Authored by: Steve Pandher

AFTN Soccer Show co-host and Senior Writer

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