Despite getting themselves in a position to make things interesting in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semi-final, Vancouver Whitecaps were dispatched by Mexican side Tigres 2-1 on the night, and 4-1 on aggregate.
It couldn’t have started any better for the underdogs with a goal from Brek Shea three minutes in, taking advantage of a poor clearance by keeper Nahuel Guzman, to fire home through a crowd of players, giving the ‘Caps an early lead and hopes off pulling off the unlikely upset.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 6, 2017
But when Shea went down with what looked like a knee injury two minutes later, ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson was forced to rethink his gameplan.
The ‘Caps held onto the lead going into the break and came close to doubling it in the first minute of the second half, but Guzman made a massive save off of Christian Bolanos from in close.
That miss would prove costly and seemed to light a fire under Tigres, and the Mexican giants tied up the score just after the hour mark as Andre-Pierre Gignac perfectly placed his shot from outside the box over the outstretched arms of David Ousted into the top corner of the net.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 6, 2017
With Vancouver pushing for the go ahead goal, and in need of three more for victory, the visitors would end their hopes in the 84th minute when substitute Damian Alvarez finished off a counterattack within a minute of coming on, to punch the Mexican side’s ticket to the final and a meeting with fellow Liga MX side Pachuca.
The elimination of the Whitecaps means they will now put their full concentration on the MLS season with a visit to Utah on Saturday to take on a struggling Real Salt Lake.
It’s a match that almost guarantees changes to the starters, but the ‘Caps will be hoping they can build on the experience and performances they’ve put in during their two year cup run to get their season fully going.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 -2 Tigres UANL [2 – 4 on aggregate]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Sheanon Williams (Kyle Greig 77), Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Matias Laba, Andrew Jacobson (Tony Tchani 61), Cristian Techera, Christian Bolanos, Brek Shea (Alphonso Davies 10); Fredy Montero [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Marcel de Jong, Russell Teibert, Nicolas Mezquida]
TIGRES: Nahuel Guzman; Luis Rodriguez, Hugo Ayala, Juninho (Francisco Meza 86), Jorge Torres Nilo; Ismael Sosa (Damian Alvarez 83), Jesus Duenas, Guido Pizarro, Javier Aquino; Eduardo Vargas (Lucas Zelarayan 78), Andre-Pierre Gignac [Subs Not Used: Enrique Palos, Jose Francisco Torres, Alberto Acosta, Jonathan Espericueta]
On emotions from the game:
“Mixed. I think you have to look at the two games overall. I think in the first leg, in the first half it was nil-nil. We had one or two clear chances and didn’t take them, and they scored two goals. And the first half of the second leg, we’re one-nil up, we have another chance with Bola at the start of the second half and we don’t take it. When you play against good teams – and Tigres are a top, top team with top, top players, and a top coach – you have to make those defining moments and take them chances. Unfortunately we didn’t, so we have to accept it. We’ll take the experience, because it’s a great experience playing against a good team and good players, and we’ll bottle it and go again for next time. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that locker room there. This two-year journey, we’ve never been in this territory before. We’ve gone toe-to-toe , and we’ve just come up a little bit short. So we have to be honest about it, and I will, and we will. But we’ll use that as motivation for our next time.”
Update on Brek Shea:
“It doesn’t look good, to be fair, and it’s a blow for us because he obviously got his goal and we were hoping Brek would have an impact on the game, and he certainly did at the start. It probably looks like it might be a couple of weeks, which is unfortunate, because I’ve got Yordy [Reyna] and Erik [Hurtado] in the same boat.”
On Gignac’s goal:
“Brilliant, wasn’t it. Great goal. Sometimes you’ve got to hold your hands up and say what a fantastic goal that was, and I will today. If you’re beaten by a mistake, it does wind me up, or a lack of concentration. But when you’re beaten by a moment of brilliance by a top player, and a top person as well; after the game I said ‘what a goal that was’. But it’s not luck, he’s done it week in, week out, time and time out. Great goal that, I enjoyed watching that unfortunately, but we’re on the wrong end of it today.”
On Tigres defending Alphonso Davies:
“You always talk about the top end of the pitch, and you talk about Gignac and Vargas. Let’s not forget about the back four and Pizarro in front of them, they’re top players. And when they do things correctly, the simple things correctly, and they’re switched on for 94 minutes, it’s hard to break them down. That’s why when you get your chances, you have to take them, and unfortunately over the two legs we weren’t able to take our chances at key moments. But I’ve got to give all that group in there credit. Unbelievable support we had here today, on a wet Wednesday night. We tried to make it uncomfortable for Tigres, and we did, but obviously the quality shone through.”
Thoughts on a long cup run, two years in the making:
“Proud. I’m proud to be manager of this football club with this group of players, and getting to this level, and getting to this part of the tournament against a top team that now have the chance to go and win it, and I wish them all the best to go and win it. I’m sure that will be a fiery game, two-legged final. I can’t remember what I’d done last week, to be honest, so I’m not going to remember two years ago. I think it was snowing for the first day, and the game was called off. I’ll take experience from it as well, trying to pit my wits against a top coach and a top team. I think we went toe-to-toe, and as I said, sometimes you hold your hand up and you’re just beaten by a little bit of better quality, and we were today.”
On the perfect start, and almost tying it in the second half:
“The game plan going into the game, was that we didn’t want to sit back because I knew that they could probably score when they wanted to, which obviously Gignac proved me right. I wanted to get the first goal and make it a little bit nervous for them, and we did that. We got into halftime one-nil. In the second half we tried to be on the front foot again. I didn’t realize the opportunity would come so early, but it did, and the keeper made a very good save. It would have been interesting to see if we could have got the second goal, but I still had the feeling that when they wanted to step into fifth gear they could, because they’re a good team with good players. The club have been on a wonderful run and journey, and we’ll take pats on the back because those players deserve it. As I’ve said, we’ve never been in this territory before. If we want to become a top club, year in and year out, and consistent, we need to try and challenge for that all the time. It’s going to be a big challenge.”
“I think we played well today. For the majority of the game, we went toe to toe with them and was close to having the result that we wanted. It took a little bit of brilliance from them to score that 1-1 goal and kind of kill our momentum a little bit.”
On the superb Gignac goal to level things on the night:
“We obviously know he’s got that quality and he showed that today. It’s worth a CONCACAF final for them.”
On the ‘Caps two year cup run:
“It’s been historical. It’s the first time the club has been in a position like that. For us players, it’s been huge to play these kind of teams and playing in a tournament like this. We made it to the semi-finals, unfortunately it stops here, but it’s been a good opportunity for us to show that we can go toe to toe with some of the better teams in CONCACAF.”
On ability to just concentrate on the league for now:
“What it does is it probably leaves guys a little bit fresher legged. We won’t have that Tuesday/Wednesday game to look to but we’ll take the momentum we’ve created in CONCACAF and the last couple of games here, and we’ll try and bring it into MLS.”
On Shea injury hurting attack moving forward:
“It does. Unfortunately it’s part of the game these injuries. It leaves other guys in there to take their chance . We’ve said all along we believe we have a strong squad and a strong team. Guys on the outside that are coming in have to prove that.”
On what he said to pitch invader at the end that he escorted off:
“He seemed like a nice guy. We obviously don’t want too many people to run on the field, but he said he really wanted to meet me, so apparently that was his opportunity. So I just walked him off and made sure they took care of him out there.”
Thoughts on the match:
“We tried, as a group. It wasn’t the result that we wanted, but I’m proud. For 45 minutes we thought that we could get more. But this is soccer. They are a top level team, and today they proved that they can play anywhere the same way that they play at home. That’s something that we should look at after and try to do the same.”
On Gignac’s goal:
“I mean, what can I say. Golazo, as we say in Spanish. Individually they are really good, and when you give them a lot of space they will make a difference, like that goal.”
On defending well:
“Games like this, concentration has to be 100 per cent, and I guess today in that second half when we had the opportunity to score the second goal, the goalkeeper saved it and I mean it could be here, the second goal that we needed. But at the end of the day, we didn’t get the result and now we are focused on the MLS [season].”
On Brek Shea’s injury changing game plan:
“I don’t think it changed a lot. We know what kind of job he can do for the team, and Fonzie [Alphonso Davies] came and he tried to do the same. I think the team is ready to play the same way, no matter what player we have on the field.”
On Robbo’s halftime message:
“We just wanted to keep going at them. I think we had a lot of opportunities that we could have capitalized on. He was just saying to focus on keeping the clean sheet and pushing for that second goal. Come out in the second half strong because we came out strong to start the game.”
On Brek Shea:
“Yeah it was just unfortunate. It was a great start by him and getting the early goal got the crowd behind us, but soccer is a weird thing one minute you can be scoring a goal getting the momentum going and the next you’re picking up an injury. It’s unfortunate but something that we now have to come together as a team because we’re picking up a few injuries, it’ll be an opportunity for some other guys to pick up a few minutes.”
On Champions League journey/experience:
“It was a good experience for us. We played in the group stage against an MLS side in Kansas City and then had to go down to Trinidad and got a win down there in a tough environment to play in. In the knockout stages we went to Red Bulls early in the season when we weren’t maybe as sharp. Then going down to Tigres, the first leg was a crazy experience to see how passionate those fans are, so a big confidence booster for this club and something the fans should be proud of.”