We joked on Twitter last weekend that imagine what this Whitecaps side is going to be like without Alphonso Davies, after his excellent goal in the loss to D.C. United. Saturday gave the first indication of what the post Phonzie era might look like in Vancouver, and it’s even more terrifying than we feared.
Post Alphonsolyptic. It’s like post apocalyptic, just more bleak.
The Whitecaps weren’t at the races in their first Cascadia derby of the season at CenturyLink Filed in Seattle on Saturday afternoon. There was simply no huff, and even less puff, from a ‘Caps side that offered nothing to threaten a poor Sounders side at any point over the 90 minutes.
When Nicolas Lodeiro slotted home a 5th minute penalty, after Doneil Henry had handled a corner into the box, I said to the Radio Cascadia guys beside me in the press box that we may as well just pack all our stuff up at that point as it already felt game over.
That’s the look and the vibe this Whitecaps side have given off this past month. A period that’s now seen them lose five of their six matches across all competitions, with no signs that the rot will stop any time soon.
Lodeiro doubled the Sounders lead in the 31st minute with a comical goal that sums up the Whitecaps to a tee right now. Another goal lost to the edge of the box, the Uruguayan hit a fierce swerver that had Stefan Marinovic going the wrong way, getting a flailing outstretched hand to it, and only able to look on in horror as the ball slowly trickled over the line, with no Whitecaps defender making any forlorn attempt to get to the ball.
It was horrible goalkeeping as the Kiwi played his first MLS match in over two months. Maybe that concussion hasn’t quite healed yet, but to even let Lodeiro get a shot off in the first place is part of where the Whitecaps defence have fallen apart this season, as they keep up their two goals against average.
It looked like Vancouver were going to get an undeserved lifeline right on the stroke of half time when Chad Marshall was adjudged to have use his arm to control the ball in the box. Referee Chris Penso pointed to the spot, but headed over to VAR, realised the ball came off the Sounders’ shoulder, and reversed the decision.
And that was the first half. The Whitecaps couldn’t catch a break and Marinovic couldn’t catch a shot. Two down, and it looked as if the team had simply checked out. There was no spark and no urgency, yet again, but added to it this time was no shape, with Efrain Juarez all over the pitch, including a brief stint up top with Kei Kamara!
Sometimes they come out with a fire up them in the second half, but not this week, with sub Nico Mezquida having the ‘Caps best chance but without really threatening to ripple the Sounders net.
Marinovic came up with a save to deny Seattle new boy, DP Raul Ruidiaz, just past the hour mark, but both teams seemed to know the match was already over and the pace and action dropped steadily.
If Vancouver harboured any faint hopes of a dramatic late comeback, they were well and truly extinguished when Juarez saw red with 13 minutes remaining. After getting booked for a frustration-laden tackle from behind, he charged at the referee, bumping his chest with the official, and seeing an immediate straight red card.
An absolutely unacceptable, selfish, and costly reaction from the Mexican. Heat of the moment, red mist, passion, call it what you like, but he’s going to find himself with a long road back to the starting line-up after another lack of discipline for a Whitecaps team that have lost the plot too many times this year.
Carl Robinson said afterwards that he was “sick of it” in terms of the indisicipline, a feeling matched by the rest of us watching too. A tough message now needs to be sent to all of the squad, and don’t be surprised if you see some names shipped out before the transfer window closes next month.
And don’t even get me started on the subs today again.
For now, the ‘Caps remain 8th in the West after the 2-0 derby day defeat. They slip to 9th in points per game, with Minnesota leapfrogging them ahead of their match on Sunday. With the Loons heading to BC Place next Saturday, another loss and Vancouver’s season may well be done.
Something has to change. Something is – Davies is leaving. It’s what happens next that will shape the next few years of the club. Right now, we’re a team that make poor sides look like world beaters, while beating ouselves.
FINAL SCORE: Seattle Sounders 2 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
SEATTLE: Stefan Frei; Kelvin Leerdam (Jordy Delem 85), Kim Kee-hee, Chad Marshall, Nouhou; Gustav Svensson, Cristian Roldan; Harry Shipp, Nicolás Lodeiro, Víctor Rodríguez (Osvaldo Alonso 45+2); Will Bruin (Raúl Ruidíaz 61) [Substitutes not used: Bryan Meredith, Clint Dempsey, Roman Torres, Waylon Francis]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Doneil Henry, Marcel de Jong; Efraín Juárez, Felipe, Jordon Mutch (Russell Teibert 70); Yordy Reyna (Aly Ghazal 81), Kei Kamara, Cristian Techera (Nicolás Mezquida 59) [Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Sean Franklin, Anthony Blondell, Brek Shea]
On the match:
“We’ve had an open chat in the locker room there. The brutal assessment is we’re too soft. We give away too many soft goals. Two mistakes today in the first 20 minutes against a good team. You’re not going to win games of futbol like that so it’s disappointing. My blood is boiling at the moment, although I remain calm with yourselves. We’re not good enough to just turn it on and off when we want to, and you’ve seen that this week by the goals we’ve conceded on top of the box. Three games, three goals on the top of the box – totally soft.”
On Alphonso Davies’ status with the team:
“Alphonso got permission from the futbol club to take the weekend off. It was the same process on Wednesday night, although people didn’t know that and made assumptions that he was unable to play, which he wasn’t due to what’s going on at the moment. I think you’ll read a little bit more news in the coming day or two, but obviously it’s positive for him. He’s in Vancouver, not Seattle, because if he was, he would’ve been playing. And I think you saw we missed him.”
On how you find a replacement for someone like Davies:
“Well, those are the million dollar questions. I said to the guys that they played okay today, but okay against Seattle, a good team, is not going to win you a game. You have to play to your levels and you have to perform. When you give away a mistake – a penalty – and then we give away a second goal. Sloppy, sloppy mistake on the top of the box. Someone not blocking the ball correctly and obviously (Stefan Marinovic) has mistimed his dive with a goalkeeping error. Then you get a man sent off. I’m sick and tired of it…it’s not okay. I’m sick of playing with 10 men, but the 10 guys did not give in so that’s a credit to them, but we need to be better across the board.”
On what the message is about the lack of discipline:
“I’m sick of it. I think they’re letting themselves down, they’re letting me down, they’re letting the club down. I don’t condone it. I’ll protect them as much as I can, but I don’t know what exactly happened there. [Efrain Juarez] comes from Mexican futbol so it’s a little bit different. The referees are a little bit different and things like that, but we don’t condone that.”
On if they have the players to get the team into the playoffs:
“We’ve got good guys in there and we’ve got quality. I think it’s shown on a day we can compete, but on a number of days, we’re not competing. That’s something I need to look at with the club. If it’s not right, and I don’t feel it is, then we’ll make some moves. If we feel it’s right and we’re happy, then we won’t. The window is open now and everyone is doing a little business here or there, in or out, and we’ll take it day by day. We need an injection of something. I think we need a reality check within the club. We are who we are. I keep saying that all the time and people say you need to be better. Of course we work Monday through Friday on trying to be better. When you make mistakes, like we did today, you’re not going to win games of futbol at any level.”
On if the team needs to act drastically while the window is still open:
“I wouldn’t say drastically. We’re not a club that just makes random transactions based upon if we feel we’re desperate. We’re not desperate. If we feel we can strengthen and it’s right within the parameters we’re working with then yes, but if we don’t, then we won’t. It’s as simple as that. We’re always looking at players all over the world, but it’s whether you can or you can’t or if you do or you don’t. That group in there is giving me a lot at the moment, but I think we need a little bit more. We need to cut out the nonsense mistakes because if we don’t, we won’t win games and we won’t get to the playoffs.”
On if they’ll act now or wait on bringing in a player at midseason:
“If the right player is available, 100 percent I’d bring him in right now, but if it’s not available because of the transfer windows in Europe…people are doing their business and the window over there will be closed pretty quickly so we’re probably not competing with teams over there. We’re competing in a certain area and I know who we’d like possibly to bring in to help the group. If we can, great, if we don’t then we’ll just have to soldier on. We can’t keep going like we’re going and saying it’s okay because we’re giving away too many soft goals. When someone tells you you’re a little bit soft it’s not nice so you need to actually reset, look yourselves in the mirror, be
honest and prove people wrong. That’s what we’ve got to do at the moment.”
On if today’s result changes how he prioritizes Wednesday against Montreal:
“The game on Wednesday is not changed by what we’ve done today. I’ve got in my mind what I’m doing in Montreal anyway irrelevant of the result today. I know people said you made 11 changes on Wednesday, but what they didn’t realize is that prior to that we went to D.C. United, it was a long travel day and that was always happening. You’ll see on Wednesday this was always going to happen as well. We’re taking it seriously and we want to try and advance, but I’m sure Montreal wants to as well. We need to concentrate on that game and need to get a result
because we want to go through to a final. We also need to get ourselves back on track for the playoffs because every team goes through a run. We’re having it at the moment – the last four or five games haven’t been good enough with one win. We’ve got to regroup, be honest, be open, move forward, smile and get back to work. That’s the reality of futbol.”
On the mood of team:
“I think this is important thing to always be truthful to ourselves and always be honest. We know it is not good enough. We as the leaders as the team, we need to do better. I always look in the mirror first for myself and [then] for the others. I know I can do more for this team, I need to do more. It just hurts. Especially to this period that we have not won. As I said it is easy to come here and talk about reset and all those things but if you don’t win the game it doesn’t matter…It is important tonight that we go home to our families, but we look in the mirror, because the problem is not formation, the problem is not the coaches, the problem is us. We step on the field, we go. It is our faces, it is our job to put the energy level at the highest we can. It is our job to help each other. It is our job to make a difference on the field. It is not about pointing fingers, it is about us
that goes on the field and everyone as a player.”
On if the feeling in the team is that the squad can make the playoffs:
“Yes, we are good enough. Right now we are good enough individually. We have good players individually but we need to get back to playing with, for each other, to help each other and it starts with myself, it starts for everyone. We are going to turn it around because we are men here, we are not kids, we are not babies. We need to get back to work and of course get to the final of the Canadian Cup. More than anything now it is for the fans, it is for this club because at some point everyone is going to be gone, but the club, the city, this team is always going to stay around. We need to do for everyone that believes in this club and who has been supporting the club.”
On the match:
“Yeah, we didn’t want to lose. I think we planned to come and win and make a good game, but it is difficult losing and losing and we tried to see what we can do to grab some points either home or away. Mistakes that we make, other things punish us. I think we just have to try to have a perfect game, to don’t commit, no mistakes so we can win.”
On your thoughts on playing without Alphonso Davies and possibly not having him in the future:
“Well you know obviously he is a great player, but this is about a team, not individuals. I think if we would have won we would not be talking about Alphonso. Now the reality is that everyone needs to step up and try to just win.”
On the benefit of a positive result at home:
“I think the psychological gain was just winning. I mean, the scoreline, yes, that’s great. Stef [Frei] deserved it. The defense played well. All of that is minor. I think just getting the three points today was the intention and that’s the positive. You’ve got two wins and two draws in the last four games, and you start to build momentum. So, that’s what was important.”
On Víctor Rodríguez’s injury status:
“[It was] a right hamstring injury. We’ll assess him next week.”
On Raúl Ruidíaz’s debut:
“It was good. [The] kid defended well. He’s a talented player. He’s good on the ball, you guys saw his technical ability is very clean. His ability in certain moments to play and connect passes is stylistically like Liga MX, so that helped us in this particular game. He’s goal dangerous, some of of his movement in the box – even though he didn’t get the ball – was good. So, overall, very pleased with the way his debut started.”
On the team’s luck turning around:
“I always say that I’ve learned from a lot of my coaches, mentors. But one always comes to mind: Jimmy Gabriel. He always said that your luck always balances off at the end of the year, so I’d much rather that statement actually come true. So, let’s hope it continues. But you also make your own luck. I think the guys went out there today and performed at a high level. Vancouver is desperate for points. They rested a lot of guys for the midweek game, so they were prepared for the match. [The first half] VAR call, that’s exactly what it’s intended for because Chad [Marshall] knew. You saw right away, when it hit Chad he was like, ‘No, it hit me here.’ So the ref calls that penalty with no VAR, then they get a penalty and a chance to score. So, VAR did its job. As far as Nico’s [Lodeiro] shots are concerned, I can say against LAFC in the home opener, shot from distance and the ball moves. Nico’s ball was moving, so I wouldn’t say that’s luck. I would say that’s a guy hitting the ball and it was able to move twice, and it caught Marinovic by surprise.”
On whether he felt a buzz in the crowd:
“Well, I felt a buzz in the locker room all week in training. You have to give all the credit to the players. They’re the ones that haven’t given up. They’re the ones that aren’t finished yet. They’re the ones that put the hard work in. I have to remind them every now and again that all the hard work they do shouldn’t go to waste. But, it’s all on them. That’s where the buzz came from — that’s where the buzz starts, anyway. And certainly the crowd feeds off the team, and the team feeds off the crowd.”
On the team’s recent run of form:
“Well, I think we put ourselves in such a hole that every point is critical, whether it’s one in Atlanta or three points at home. Every point that we can collect is vital for us to make the playoffs. So, what it does, again, over the course of the four games, starting with the win in Colorado, it just gives you some momentum. And it gives the guys more belief that they can persevere under what has been a challenging season. It hasn’t been easy so far. And so they’ve overcome many obstacles to put themselves in a position where, if we can win a couple more games, then maybe we really have a legitimate chance of catching teams and making the playoffs again.”
On Gustav Svensson playing 90 minutes after returning from the World Cup:
“That’s a tricky one as well, it’s actually a really good question. Lots of guys come back from the World Cup mentally exhausted. It’s a big deal, it’s a big event. And certainly when I spoke to Gustav, he echoed some of those comments. He was physically and mentally challenged by the World Cup, but he came back and had a very good performance for the Seattle Sounders, and sometimes that’s challenging. I thought he played well. I thought he played steady, simple. That’s the best way to start if you’re coming back off something like returning from the World Cup and a big event.”
On going to the left on the penalty:
“I needed to change because I think the keeper knows me. So sometimes I shoot to different sides.”
On Ruidíaz coming on:
“The team feels happy because we won, Raúl played, we got a clean sheet, we won in front of our fans. We need confidence. He’s a very good player, and he helps our team, so today was a great day for our team.”
On his physical health:
“I feel good. I play 90 minutes always, I say thank you to the team because they help a lot every game. Now we have to look forward.”
RAÚL RUIDÍAZ (THROUGH TRANSLATOR)
On the crowd’s ovation when he came on:
“It was a very good feeling to have all these people coming and making the noise they made. I knew there were going to be a lot of people at this game. It filled me up with motivation.”
On the competition:
“It’s hard, and tough, and difficult. It’s going to demand me to be 100% all the time so I can achieve the goals I want and for the team.”
On the long wait to playing at home:
“It was a long wait, yes. Thankfully I was able to make my debut today, but I want to continue to work very hard so I can keep having these opportunities in the future.”
On being back on the pitch:
“I’m glad to be back today. I was tired at the end of the day. It was hot on the pitch, but I’m happy we were able to control the game and play at the tempo we wanted to play. It was a big plus for our team. They were not dangerous, it made my game a little bit easier.”
On getting the home shutout:
“Especially for [Frei] it’s very important, for the goalkeeper and the defense. But now I just want to win games, that is the most important thing now. I want to take it game by game. If we win 2-1 I would be happy too.”
On Ruidíaz’s entrance:
“I think everyone could hear how excited the fans were when he came on. It’s a new signing, everybody needs to get adjusted to him on the pitch. We try to learn as much at training as we can about him. I know he likes to shoot a lot. I hope he can take it into the games. I have to say we have three good strikers with [Bruin] and [Dempsey] also so it’s on to the coaches to decide who plays.”
On Lodeiro’s performance:
“I think for the team, it’s always easier when Nico has a good game. He’s the guy who gives us the best chances to win the games with his through passes and the chances he brings. I think it’s very important when he feels good, the whole team can follow his game and Nico played a good game, two goals, very good.”