A Four-Nil Thrashing: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto match analysis

A Four-Nil Thrashing: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Toronto match analysis

That’s what we call a statement win.

On Saturday night, fans in BC Place were treated to a spectacle as Vancouver Whitecaps shipped four past a despondent Toronto FC to put them top of the Western Conference. With only a couple of shaky moments across the 90, Vanni Sartini and his men put on a clinic that is bound to turn heads and put the ‘Caps on notice.

Coming Into A League of Their Own

Come the final whistle, it was a tall task for anyone to really pick out who the Man of the Match was. That is how good the team played. Brian White made a return to the lineup after his concussion protocol break and almost immediately impacted the game after dispossessing former ‘Cap Deybi Flores and slotting it past Johnson to open the scoring inside five minutes.

Players like Mathias Laborda and Alessandro Schopf have been in rejuvenated form this year, which was exemplified in their performances against Toronto. Laborda was a rock at the back alongside debutant Bjorn Inge Utvik, and rarely allowed TFC to threaten Takaoka’s net. Schopf was arguably the best player on the pitch in his unusual wingback position. Not only did he get another goal contribution by assisting Fafa Picault’s goal, but he was solid defensively, protecting the wide and central areas in transition, and driving down the pitch when counter attacking.

“It doesn’t matter where I play, I always try to help the team the best possible way,” said Schopf on the joy he’s finding on the wing. “I’m defending out wide, and also sometimes if we have the ball I also drive out wide, so I try to create from there. Today, and in the last games, I think I did very well and I helped the team and it’s all about the team because, I think we play together very well, so it’s also easier for me to create something, to get chances in front of the goal, to get shots on target, to get some repetitions like in the offence and today we scored four goals so it was very good, our attacking was very good. Hopefully we can continue it.”

Ryan Gauld got a highlight-reel goal in another commanding performance by the skipper, making him the first Whitecaps player to get 25 goals and 25 assists in the MLS era. Picault has cemented his place in the starting XI by scoring, miraculously jumping highest to get yet another headed goal. Even Ranko Veselinovic got in on the action, scoring his first goal of the season to loop it over Sean Johnson’s head.

And while not everyone was perfect, with Pedro Vite and Ali Ahmed having uncharacteristically quiet games, and while the opposition was not of the highest caliber, this victory shows the true quality that the Whitecaps have all across the pitch. If they can get everyone on the same page, and everyone firing on all cylinders, then this team has the capability to go very far this season.

Commanding Both Halves

While there was plenty of confidence going into half-time with a 2-0 lead, many Whitecaps fans were still a little hesitant to celebrate too early, especially after what happened last weekend against the Timbers. While the Whitecaps have shown moments of quality spanning a whole half of a match, they have struggled to keep the pedal to the metal for all 90 minutes, allowing other teams to come back into the game.

Yet this week, against yet another rival, the Whitecaps showed no signs of wavering. Their strong result was blessed a little by Deandre Kerr hitting the post twice and Takaoka saving Veselinovic’s bacon in the first half, but they limited Toronto to only those big chances even in the second half. The defence was resolute, with Utvik making good on his debut with some solid structure, good passes, and patient play.

It was the time between the start of the second half and the third goal where we are more used to seeing the Whitecaps falter, but in this match they held firm and got rewarded for their focus and organization by snapping up two more goals in the last 10 minutes of the match. And it’s something that Vanni Sartini couldn’t be happier about, while also recognizing that his team still has some little things that can be worked upon.

“I think that we outplayed them for the entire game, so that was never in discussion,” remarked Sartini on his team’s dominant display. “What we did much better in the second half at the beginning… it was like having a clear plan. I told the guys, the two chances, because TFC had two chances in the first half, only because we were doing those mistakes or not being humble when we won the ball back. We were trying to win the ball back and trying to play immediately into traffic, and then they have the counter and one time it hit Yohei, the post, and then went out, and one time we gave the ball back and they almost scored.

“We need to be very, very humble. If they come with 15 players, because we are winning 2-0, 15 players pressing us and we win the ball back, if we have the possibility we play, not kick the ball long and we go. We go short and we go, and that was the right way to do it also because in the space we were killing them. It was a beauty of a game, to be honest.”

The second half performance in particular should boost Whitecaps fans, as it shows that the team can win games in a thorough fashion. They will need to be able to do that on a more consistent basis should they want to continue to fight at the top of the Western Conference, a place that they have rarely even been in the last 14 years.

‘Caps on Top Of The World

This win against Toronto has now put the Whitecaps at the very top of the Western conference with 13 points in six games. Only the games against Charlotte and Real Salt Lake have they really ever looked second best, and their hard work has been rewarded by commanding that top spot in the West. Nevertheless, the season is young and the games are plenty. Whitecaps have a long way to go before they can consider themselves Supporters Shield favorites, but that does not mean that it’s then a pipe dream.

Their performances have reflected a drastic growth in this team, one that comes at both sides of the pitch. This year, they’ve been able to tally in the goals while simultaneously keeping goals out of their end. And for Vanni Sartini, ever the romantic, it’s a position that he has dreamed about occupying with this team, but he knows it’s going to be tough to keep it.

“It’s beautiful. I was actually thinking about quitting my job and resigning so I can say that we were first when I was there!” joked Sartini about his team’s current position in the Conference. “There is a lot of games to play in a lot of time, but it’s amazing to be there. It’s amazing to be on top of the standings also because we deserve it. We played very well every game and we are doing really well, but at the same time, we realized that the harder things are coming.”

Because now we are no longer just the nice Canadian kids, we are now the team that is at the top, and everyone is probably going to look at us in a different outlook. And in order to be on top… you need to win every game so it’s going to be extremely hard. So what we will do is enjoy tonight, enjoy tomorrow, and then from Monday night, Tuesday morning we are going to start thinking about the Galaxy, because it’s going to be extremely hard and we’ll to keep playing well.”

That battle against Galaxy next weekend will be critical in terms of the early swing of positions in the Western Conference, as they will be looking for a swift return to form after falling to arch-rivals LAFC on Saturday. They have plenty of dangerous players of their own that can threaten and punish, so Sartini will have to ensure that the team is laser-focused once again. And you never know, if the ‘Caps can keep their resolute away form and turn BC Place into a fortress, maybe Sartini can keep the ‘Caps on the summit of Western conference, just like the whitecaps on top of the mountain.

Authored by: Felipe Vallejo

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