(Photo Credit: @WhitecapsFC/Twitter)
There was certainly little dynamism on display in this one as Vancouver Whitecaps played out their second scoreless draw with Houston Dynamo in the space of two months.
The home side had the far better chances in Texas on Wednesday evening, hitting the woodwork and having a goal disallowed, but the ‘Caps held firm and some solid defensive play from Maxime Crepeau and half time sub Florian Jungwirth saw them head back to Vancouver with a point and make it just one loss in their last 14 MLS matches.
To come away with anything feels like a positive after a very strange line-up put out by Vanni Sartini. It was a starting 11 that featured just two recognised defenders, one of them not actually playing in the back three, a slew of midfielders, and a two man attack. If it was confusing to those of us that watch the team, I’m not even sure what Houston will have made of it.
The new look line-up didn’t get much of a chance to settle and were under the cosh from kick off, leaving the Whitecaps lucky to not be three down by the 12th minute.
Darwin Quintero had the first real chance of the game eight minutes in, running onto a Sam Junqua cross to the back post, but firing into the side netting.
Two minutes later and Houston’s top scorer Fafa Picault came the closest anyone would to breaking the first half deadlock. Maynor Figueroa played Picault in, he took a touch, and while his shot got past Crepeau in the Vancouver goal, it crashed off the right post.
Two minutes later and Picault had another chance, but blasted over from a good position, as the ‘Caps makeshift defence was being pulled all over the place.
It had been a torrid time, but they finally settled and restricted the Dynamo to just a few half chances for the rest of the half, without really being troubled. The Whitecaps were also having a torrid time at the other end of the pitch, managing just one off target shot through the first 45 minutes.
Sartini’s line-up had screamed trying to get to the break level and taking it from there. If that was indeed the plan, it had worked and the ‘Caps made a couple of changes to start the second half, making three substitutions with Jungwirth, Deiber Caicedo, and Brian White all coming on.
But it was Houston that started the half strongest again, with Quintero looking a real threat. He’d put a couple of dangerous crosses in, with no takers, then he nearly poked home a cross five minutes after the restart, but Crepeau brought off a big stop to keep the scores level.
The Whitecaps were looking more solid defensively with Jungwirth on the pitch, but unable to getting anything going offensively, and the German came to the ‘Caps rescue in the 77th minute when he turned the ball past for a corner after Crepeau couldn’t hold on to a long range Tyler Pasher shot.
Two minutes later, it was another let off for Vancouver when Picault finally found the back of the net but was flagged for offside.
Houston were smelling blood and Griffin Dorsey forced Crepeau to make a great save to tip over his 84th minute effort, as the home side continued to push hard for the go-ahead goal.
But Vancouver also started to show some life in the closing minutes, and Cristian Dajome almost saw his deflected shot drop into the far corner.
There was to be no breakthrough though and a pretty dreadful game of football thankfully came to an end. A road point for Vancouver certainly can’t be sniffed at but the three were certainly there for the taking. How costly that might be, we’ll have to wait and see. They’re still three points off a playoff place, only now it’s Minnesota that hold that 7th and final spot after RSL dramatic late win tonight over the LA Galaxy. But they’re also just five points off 5th with a game in hand.
It’s been a weird season.
San Jose on Saturday at BC Place was already massive. Nothing’s changed. But it’s a must win. Anything less, and it’s a long road ahead. Even with the win, it’s going to be one hell of a battle.
FINAL SCORE: Houston Dynamo 0 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: HOU 63.3% – VAN 36.7%
Shots: HOU 17 – VAN 5
Shots on Goal: HOU 4 – VAN 1
Saves: HOU 1 – VAN 4
Fouls: HOU 12 – VAN 16
Offsides: HOU 3 – VAN 1
Corners: HOU 8 – VAN 4
HOUSTON: Michael Nelson; Tim Parker, Teenage Hadebe, Maynor Figueroa; Griffin Dorsey, Matías Vera (Memo Rodríguez 89), Darwin Cerén, Sam Junqua; Darwin Quintero, Corey Baird (Tyler Pasher 65), Fafà Picault (Maximiliano Urruti 80) [Substitutes not used: Kyle Morton, Zarek Valentin, Ariel Lassiter, Joe Corona, Derrick Jones, Boniek Garcia]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Andy Rose, Michael Baldisimo, Jake Nerwinski; Javain Brown, Janio Bikel (Russell Teibert 75), Leonard Owusu (Florian Jungwirth 46), Patrick Metcalfe (Déiber Caicedo 46); Ryan Raposo (Ryan Gauld 58); Cristian Dájome,Lucas Cavallini (Brian White 46) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Marcus Godinho, Bruno Gaspar, Tosaint Ricketts]
On the match:
“It was very hard. We knew that it was going to be very hard with the quick turnaround and especially the long flight yesterday and the condition here, and the fact that they are a good team. So we knew that they probably would have more possession than us and we would have to defend. I envisioned that maybe we should have defended a little less and had more of the ball, but we defended very well with a lower block. In the second half we did better when we had the ball. The problem in the first half was also that when we won the ball back, we were too frantic and trying to go over, while when you play in this condition, we need to keep possession as much as we can because the humidity really kills, really, really, really kills you.”
On goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau:
“I’m very happy because Max is a very good goalkeeper, he’s a fantastic leader. But I’m also happy that I have Thomas [Hasal] on the bench, because even Thomas if you remember when he played against Austin. We have two really solid choices there. I know that it’s difficult, I played as a goalkeeper, and I believe there was like 75,000 worse than those guys. So I know when someone is good.”
On the match:
“Well, I think all in all it was a big fight. I think first half we were a little struggling to keep the ball, to possess it. So at halftime we said we need to be brave to try to play out from the back and move from a little more. Because in that team, making it a back and forth game that’s always difficult. Then second half I think in possession, we did better, even though Houston had a couple of good chances where they could have scored, but like the last weeks we fought, we jumped in on every shot and we blocked well and we earned that point and we earned that clean sheet.”
On playing his former team SJ on Saturday:
“It’s a special game for me. I’ve been in this club for four and a half years at a fantastic time. I really liked the players, the coaching staff. So really happy to see friendly faces. But on the field man, I have a mission, I want the points and whoever comes against me I’m going to destroy him.”
On playing centre back in a back three:
“It’s been a bit different, especially playing on the left side. I had a good conversation with Vanni, he thinks I have the attributes to be able to play there. I had a lot of help from Flo and Andy. I said this before, they have 10 plus years of experience playing and they have helped me a lot, kind of get more comfortable with the position.”
On a point gained:
“I mean if you look at this week that we’ve had so far, we’ve flown four and a half hours for a midweek game. I don’t know if most teams are doing that right now in the season, so I think coming out with a point, especially in this humidity, I think it’s a good result. I don’t think we played the best that we’re capable of. But to come out with a point and a clean sheet, I think that’s always a positive.”
On goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau:
“He’s just proving every game that he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the league. There’s nothing more to say, he’s an integral part to our team. He’s a big reason why we’re still in this playoff race, and I’m happy to have him behind me.”
On tonight’s game:
“Yeah, I mean I thought the team had a lot of energy today. We played very close to a perfect game. For us, we gave them nothing and created a ton of opportunities. Unfortunately, the ball didn’t go in the goal, and I know we’ve suffered a few of these this year and today we certainly disappointed from that end because we created the chances for this to happen to a zero-zero game.”
On the 3-5-2 formation and why he went with this formation:
“We felt like they are a team that has a lot of speed and they add numbers in the middle of the field and we thought that would be a better matchup for us today. As it turned out, I thought it was a good matchup. We shut them down pretty much completely and were able to create a bunch of opportunities. So, it worked out well.”
On if he imagined it would work that well especially in the backline:
“When we put together the training sessions leading into a game, when we scout an opponent every time, we always hope that it works out this good and a lot of the times it doesn’t because that’s just the way soccer is sometimes, but today I thought we really had their number.”
On if he thought this formation was the best approach with the way Vancouver plays now:
“Yeah, I mean they have a new coach now so that’s different. So, they play a little bit different. They play a little bit more of a counter game. They also had a goal to their roster—a great player. He only came in probably the last 20-30 minutes today. They are a little different team now than they were when we played them the last couple times.”
On if he was happy with the response of the team following the game against Minnesota:
“Yeah, you know it’s a little strange, because we played so well in the week when we got the seven points and then when we go to Minnesota we actually didn’t play poorly. We made a couple of mistakes and, unfortunately, we had to pay for that. It was hard to come back and that’s what we talked about coming into this week. We have to keep doing what we are doing. The team has been playing with the confidence—has been creating opportunities. We have been on the verge of winning all these games and unfortunately, they are not going our way, but I’m not surprised this has been a group that has been fighting the whole year. I mean we didn’t fold on any game this year and I think that is a lot of credit to the players.”
On the performance of the defence tonight:
“Yeah, I mean that’s what I was saying that playing with the three center backs today, because of the team they are I thought we played the perfect game. We really didn’t give them an opportunity to create and I thought (DF) Maynor (Figueroa) played a great game. Teenage (DF Hadebe) played another great game and I thought that (DF) Tim Parker his level was higher today than it had been. So, I’m really happy with that. You know you can’t say enough about the energy that (FW) Griffin Dorsey brings to the team. I mean he doesn’t stop and it was a great find for us in the middle of the year and he’s helping a lot.”
On the performance of Griffin Dorsey and Sam Junqua tonight:
“They are guys with a lot of energy. I didn’t think Sam (Junqua) played as well as I know he can. I think he can do better but I mean he obviously gave a 100 percent effort and that’s all you know as a coach I can ask for. He gave us the effort. He stood down his player on his side and delivered crosses on top of it so I’m happy with that.”
On the performance of Tyler Pasher tonight:
“Yeah, I feel good about the fact that we have some options. You know because now Corey (Baird) is in the fold now and I think Corey played a great game today. We were planning to give him only about 60 (minutes) because that’s probably what he’s ready for without getting him hurt. I wish we could have kept him longer in the game, but I didn’t want to risk injury. I thought he played really well. I thought he connected with Darwin (Quintero) a lot in the middle of the field, Quintero, and I think hopefully we see a lot more of them together.”
On tonight’s game:
“I think we had a pretty good game plan in terms of what we wanted to do with the ball and how we wanted to go against them and how we lined up, kind of a little bit why we changed the formation tonight. I think we did really well, I think we created a lot of opportunities, we had a lot of the ball and a lot of the ball in their half which is really important to kind of put them under pressure. Unfortunately, we just obviously weren’t able to find that goal.”
On having a lot of possession tonight:
“It’s obviously a lot of fun when you have the ball, but you also have to be wary of what kind of positions you’re in and how vulnerable you are with it. So, tonight I thought it was a good day for us to have the ball. We were able to get more numbers in spots than they were, we were able to outnumber them and play through them a bit. I thought it was a really good day on the ball for the team.”
On the team’s mentality going into the last six games:
“I mean we’re still hungry. I think we want to win every game moving forward. There’s no reason why our mentality would be any other way. Obviously, in this league you never know what can happen so that’s how we have to approach these last six games and just go for the maximum points that we can probably try to grab.”
On the best thing the team has going for them right now:
“I think we’re in a good way in terms of attacking. Tonight, we didn’t get a goal, but we were able to create a lot of chances. Then, defensively I think we’ve been pretty sound. I think we limited their chances in terms of organization and stuff like that so it’s kind of just doing that game in and game out that’s going to be key for us.”
On returning to the field:
“Yeah, it has been a difficult few weeks getting back into it. Obviously, it is always great to get back out on the field with the guys. It took a little bit to adjust in the first few minutes just to find my feet again. It has been quiet a while since I played, but other than that I felt pretty good.”
On winning the possession battle today:
“We came in today with a game plan and the game plan was to basically match up well with their center backs and two forwards. As you saw from the start of the game, we had quite a few chances right off the bat. The game plan was working pretty well. It is just unfortunate that we couldn’t find the back of the net tonight. I felt that it was a pretty dominate performance tonight from us overall.”
On navigating so many injuries this season:
“It is challenging, you go three seasons with no injuries and then all of a sudden you have a season with injuries. That’s just a part of the game, unfortunately, it is what you have to go through sometimes. It has been extremely challenging to get back up to pace, it has been difficult, but I feel that I have grown on as a player. That’s something that has made me a lot stronger mentally as a player. So, it is definitely something I can continue to take with me.”
On his focus for the next six games:
“Personal goals are my team goals right now. It’s to go out there and make an impact, score goals, assists. Do whatever I can to help the team win. That is basically what it comes down to, my personal goals are the team goals right now.”