(Photo Credit: @WhitecapsFC/Twitter)
It’s been a tough few days for Vancouver Whitecaps. The spring in the step from the midweek win against Dallas was soon overshadowed by five players going into health and safety protocols as they faced a first ever trip to a very hot and humid Charlotte FC.
But despite all of that, the team put in a battling performance to be proud of, taking an early lead through a Tosaint Ricketts goal and then holding on for what looked like a hard-earned and well-deserved point before a gut punch winner five minutes from time from Daniel Rios gave Charlotte a 2-1 victory and all three points.
Brutal. As was the defending on that winning goal.
Vanni Sartini certainly didn’t have his problems to seek in this one, missing 11 players to injury and health and safety protocols, including all three of his first team goalkeepers. That led to the pre-contract MLS signing and short-term callup of 17-year-old Academy keeper Max Anchor, who got the start in this one after passing a morning fitness test following a quad injury, one of seven changes from the team that came away with that big midweek win at home to FC Dallas.
Despite all of these challenges, the Whitecaps were up for the fight and they took the lead just two minutes in.
Charlotte struggled to clear the ball from their final third after a couple of attempts and Cristian Dajome’s pressure forced a turnover by Christian Fuchs, which was pounced up by Ricketts and he fired home the opener.
.@WhitecapsFC only need two minutes to score.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 22, 2022
It was the perfect start for the visitors, but equally a long way still to go to see their lead out. In the end it only lasted six mintutes.
Anchor spilled a cross into the box, but the Whitecaps defence had their goalkeeper’s back and whipped the loose ball out for a Charlotte throw in. The home side kept the pressure on immediately and Karol Swiderski sent in fantastic cross which was met by Shinyashiki, who easily got the better of Dajome and headed home the equaliser past Anchor, who it has to be said should have done better as the ball got past him at his near post.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 22, 2022
Not sure how many people would have had this two goal scoreline by the 8th minute mark, and you wondered if this was going to be a goalfest. But it wasn’t.
Charlotte huffed and puffed and had some close calls, but their shooting boots deserted them and Anchor was dealing with whatever they were able to throw at him with relative ease, steadying his early nerves in the process. Sure there were a couple of potentially scary moments, but the young keeper didn’t let them fluster him and deserves so much credit for the performance he put in on his debut.
The home side had looked for a penalty when Kamil Jóźwiak went down in the box, but the referee waved away their protestations and in the end the teams headed in at the half all tied up at one.
The second half continued in similar fashion, with Charlotte creating opportunities but not having their shooting boots on or being denied by Anchor, but just when it looked like the Whitecaps would come away with a vital away point, Charlotte finally struck again, hitting what was to prove to be the matchwinner with five minutes remaining.
And once again, from a Whitecaps perspective defensively, this was a terrible goal to give up.
After failing on a couple of attempts to clear, the ball bounced around the ‘Caps box, falling to Cristian Ortiz. Falling over, Ortiz stuck out a leg directing the ball toward Rios, who capitalised on a stumble from Ranko Veselinovic, who let the ball run behind him, and the Mexican easily fired home from six yards out.
Right place, right time 🙌 pic.twitter.com/56nBNWuwIY
— Charlotte FC (@CharlotteFC) May 22, 2022
Russell Teibert had a long range stoppage time effort saved by Kristijan Kahlina, who hadn’t had a lot to do over the afternoon, but the Whitecaps couldn’t find the equaliser and Charlotte took it 2-1.
The Whitecaps will feel proud of the way they battled and the performance they put in to keep Charlotte at bay for most of the match. But they’ll equally be mightily pissed off at the way they conceded the winner. The backline continues to be a serious concern, and when Sartini’s three at the back system crashes and burns, it does so like it did here.
The Whitecaps don’t have much time to dwell on matters though as next up is the match that Sartini has cited as their most important one of the season so far, as they travel to face Cavalry FC in Canadian Championship quarter-final action. Who’ll take to the pitch in that one will be interesting to see. Let’s hope for a quieter few days in the build up to it.
FINAL SCORE: Charlotte FC 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: CLT 63.5% – VAN 36.5%
Shots: CLT 17 – VAN 11
Shots on Goal: CLT 5 – VAN 5
Saves: CLT 4 – VAN 3
Fouls: CLT 16 – VAN 3
Offsides: CLT 1 – VAN 1
Corners: CLT 8 – VAN 1
CHARLOTTE: Kristijan Kahlina; Harrison Afful, Guzmán Corujo, Christian Fuchs (Christian Makoun 51), Joseph Mora; Jordy Alcívar, Brandt Bronico, Ben Bender (Cristian Ortiz 64); Kamil Jóźwiak (Kerwin Vargas 65), Karol Swiderski (Daniel Rios 82), Andre Shinyashiki (McKinze Gaines 65) [Substitutes not used: George Marks, Derrick Jones, Alan Franco, Jaylin Lindsey]
VANCOUVER: Max Anchor; Javain Brown (Cristián Gutiérrez 66), Ranko Veselinović, Florian Jungwirth; Cristian Dájome, Sebastian Berhalter (Michael Baldisimo 88), Leonard Owusu (Russell Teibert 46), Marcus Godinho (Ryan Raposo 70); Ryan Gauld, Déiber Caicedo; Tosaint Ricketts [Substitutes not used: Nikolaos Giantsopoulos, Luís Martins, Matteo Campagna]
On the match:
“The fact that we miss 11 players, yeah, it wasn’t difficult, it was an obstacle. It was a little problem but we showed that if we go with the right mentality, anyone can play in this team. The only problem was at the end of the game, I didn’t have anybody up top, it was to make some changes and to try to do something different and maybe we could have won the game because I’d say lately, every time we put someone up top from the bench, like Brian, like Cava, they were always the guys that solved the game so that’s the only little regret I’d say.”
On Anchor’s debut:
“I think Max was amazing, he was terrific. It’s really a pity that we conceded the second goal because having his debut and taking a point on the road in this stadium, which by the way, the atmosphere is fantastic here, there’s like a lot people that are supporting the team with passion, I think it was very good, it was very good and he did what we were expecting from him and even more.”
On what he said to Anchor after the match:
“Bravo, bravo, bravo. He did fantastic, and congratulations and he has to take the jersey of this game because he’s going to play hundreds of games as a professional, but the sensation that he had today, to play for the first time, it will never present itself. So very good. Keep working. And to show that it’s not only by chance that he played today, but to try to fight for a spot in the future.”
On making his debut:
“Honestly, ever since the final whistle I’ve been trying to find words to put into perspective how much this has meant to me but honestly, it’s been crazy. I honestly don’t have the words to express the last 90 minutes and my first game, it was unbelievable.”
On the lessons from the experience:
“Just mentally always be ready and always, even if you’re not the star, even if you’re third string, fourth string, always putting the same amount of work, you gotta be ready because like I said, as of two days ago, I was just coming on the trip to train and then 15 minutes happened and then I’m the starter so you always got to be ready. Always put yourself in a position to work as hard as you can and be ready for the opportunity when it comes.”
On the support from the team:
“The team was, honestly, behind me 110%. I’m so thankful for this group. They made such a, I don’t want to say bad situation, but there was a lot of adversity with all the health and safety protocols, the injuries, they made this experience and this start so much easier with all the pressure, the nerves, without them I don’t know what I do because they pushed me and helped me throughout the game as well and I can’t do anything but thank them for that.”
On the match:
“Tough ending, we battled hard, we stuck to our game plan. It’s tough to give up a goal late, we would have wanted more out of this game, at least a point.”
On the advice he gave to Anchor:
“I just told him, great job, just have fun, enjoy the moment. You’re 17, you’re starting in a game on the big stage in front of a great crowd, just enjoy it and be yourself. We’re so proud of him, we wish we could have got a result for him. We wanted to get him a shutout, at least a point. But you got to give credit to the young kid coming in a tough game.”
On Wednesday’s Canadian Championship match:
“Exactly it, biggest game of the year. Our full focus is on Wednesday. We’re not going to let up, we’re going to go into that game hungry, go into that game wanting to get to the next round and we’re going to fight.”
On if he thought any mistakes were made that led to VAN’s goal:
“I have not seen it yet, and honestly, I don’t plan to see it during our day off because we were good after that goal.”
On playing better in the 1st half versus the 2nd half until Kerwin Vargas was subbed in:
“Their formation changed the system, and it cost us to play up to that. I was talking to them for them to understand; I saw we didn’t have many chances, so that is why I decided to make the change, so they could help us find paths, and that is what happened. They were able to find plays and corners, which changed the rhythm of the match.”
On an interview with Cristian Dájome and how highly he spoke about Miguel:
“My parents educated me to be a good person, not a good coach. Seeing him today for the second time, the first in the South American Cup final in Paraguay, the second today. Before becoming a trainer, my first goal is always to be a good person. I love him a lot; he is an excellent person and professional.”
On what he thought on how Kerwin Vargas played today:
“The motivation to sub him on was getting him adapted to the league; playing at home; we knew it was more favorable for him. When he came out on the field and had 32,000 fans screaming for him, that was great motivation. He was pleased; it’s not the same seeing the game on TV as being in the stadium. He knows how to do 1v1 and finalize plays, and obviously, he has a lot left to adapt to the defensive play here; it is different from Portugal. He will have things to work on that people see and don’t see, physically and technically. He comes from a league that the rhythm and physicality are inferior to this league.”
On the upcoming Seattle game:
“We take one game at a time. First, we focus on our win against Red Bulls.”
On the team finding the winning goal to get 3 points:
“Yes, these games are important, and we know we need to win. We are in a position where we need to keep on winning and climbing up in the table. We need to win; it doesn’t matter who does the goal, the circumstances, all that matters is that we get the 3 points and keep winning at home.”
On scoring goals both in U.S. Open Cup and in today’s game:
“Yes, very happy, of course; at the end of the day, a forward ball can land in the same area, and a goal is a goal. I am thrilled to help my team and congratulate my teammates because it looks easy with the synthetic field and the heat from the outside, but when you’re inside, your feet are getting burned, and you feel the heat. It makes you a bit more slow mentality. This was a big game.
On what does it mean to have the fans support this game, despite losing last weekend:
“Yes, the truth is we appreciate the support. Every game, they support us; we can feel them, hear them, and have great fans. We dedicate every game we play for them, every minute, every win, to them.”
On how he felt scoring the game-winner:
“I felt good, and I want to dedicate this goal to my grandfather who just passed away this week. I am thrilled to know I can dedicate this to him and my entire family. We are all going through a hard time, so we had all the emotions and fought to try and get the goal; we are delighted to win.”
On if he had any special feelings before the match because of his grandfather passing away:
“Yes, I felt that you need to reflect on life and be grateful for what you have in these moments.”