(Photo Credit: Houston Dynamo)
Vancouver Whitecaps head into a long 27 day break with a lot to think about on the back of three straight losses, the latest of which saw them go down to a 2-1 defeat to Houston Dynamo on a soggy Saturday evening in Texas.
First half strikes from Memo Rodriguez and Max Urruti, both of which were self-inflicted blows by the Whitecaps, saw the home side sitting pretty at half time and they didn’t really face too much to trouble that lead until late on. Deiber Caicedo pulled one back for Vancouver with 10 minutes remaining, their first open play goal of the season, but it was too little, too late.
After a season with few starting line-up changes so far, Marc Dos Santos rang the changes for this one, some of them enforced, with a complete new back four in amongst five overall changes. Bruno Gaspar came in at right back, with Javain Brown getting his first MLS start in the more unfamiliar left back role. Erik Godoy also got his first start of the new campaign, partnering the returning Andy Rose to marshal the defence.
Houston rested a number of their key players last weekend, and as expected, they all returned to the Dynamo starting XI for this one.
It was a fast-paced and very open start to the game, with both sides creating chances, but it was Houston that were the more clinical, opening the scoring just eight minutes in when Rodriguez lashed the ball home after a series of unfortunate events for the Whitecaps starting from Lucas Cavallini falling over too easily trying to win a free kick, Gaspar failing to cut out two passes, a weak save from Max Crepeau that parried the ball into the danger zone, and Russell Teibert reacting slowly to Rodriguez.
Memo smashes it into the net for our first goal of the night 🤩 pic.twitter.com/0MpD1uO4JK
— Houston Dynamo FC (@HoustonDynamo) May 23, 2021
Not the start the Whitecaps were looking for, but they soon carved out some chances of their own. Caio Alexandre unleashed a long ranger narrowly wide, Brown had a header that came close, and Cavallini had a shot blocked in front of goal after a Cristian Dajome cross was parried to him.
But the Dynamo were also having looks on goal with Crepeau saving from Urruti at his near post after the forward got the better of Godoy.
Houston were putting up quite a solid orange wall in their defensive third, and Vancouver were having trouble breaking them down, but there still looked like there was a way back for the ‘Caps.
Well, until three minutes before half time anyway when the Dynamo doubled their lead.
Rodriguez sent a corner deep into the box to an umarked Urruti at back post, who volleyed the ball first time past three Whitecaps and into the net from a tight angle.
MAXI HOW ARE YOU REAL? 🤯
— Houston Dynamo FC (@HoustonDynamo) May 23, 2021
It was a fantastic finish, but once again horrible marking by the Whitecaps, leaving a dangerman wide open, and they did the exact same thing three minutes later, but this time the ball never reached Urutti and they cleared the danger to head into the break just two down.
The ‘Caps brought Michael Baldisimo on at the break to try and bolster the midfield and add some spark and bite. It worked to an extent, but neither team was creating any clear cut chances.
Ariel Lassiter crashed one off the bar midway though the half, and Alexandre replied with another long range attempt moments later that was turned away by Marko Maric in the Whitecaps goal.
Houston had a couple of chances to extend their lead, but Vancouver gave themselves a lifeline in the 80th minute when Caicedo showed nice composure to collect the ball and round Maric for his first MLS goal, after Ryan Raposo’s hustle had won the ball for the ‘Caps in the Dynamo box.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 23, 2021
It was to prove to be a last hurrah for the ‘Caps and although both teams pressed for another goal, there was no real threat from either side in getting it, with Cavallini’s acrobatic attempt in the dying seconds the closest Vancouver came to leaving with a point.
After a strong start to the season, the Whitecaps go into a near four week break from action in something of a slump. The Minnesota loss was probably their most complete game of the season, yet they left empty handed. The two performances that followed were then highly disappointing. There’s a lot needed worked upon in this time, although Dos Santos won’t have a full squad together for much of it.
The goal at the end of this phase of games was to be in or around the playoff places and the Whitecaps are. They’ll finish this weekend two points outside of the top seven. But they certainly don’t look or feel like a playoff side at this point. There’s still a long way to go, we’re only a fifth of the way through the season, but this is not a side that fills you with a lot of confidence.
The defence looks improved on the past two seasons, but the tendency to switch off or simply not mark people in the box is still very much there. The midfield is neither helping the attack or the defence enough, with very little bit or creative spark. And the attack looks good when they’re clicking, but are finding it difficult to do that and finish chances anywhere near enough.
At least the foundations are there and there might be a good side in there waiting to break out. But we’ve been there before and the fanbase are fed up waiting for both results on the pitch and the players promised to achieve them.
The next two months are massive for this team and MDS’ future with it. There has to be signs of improvement, but if at the end of July we’re talking about more non-signings and the difficulties caused by missing players, then I think the patience of many will have finally run out.
FINAL SCORE: Houston Dynamo 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
HOUSTON: Marko Marić; Adam Lundkvist, Boniek Garcia , Tim Parker, Zarek Valentin; Derrick Jones, Joe Corona, Memo Rodriguez (Matías Vera 73); Ari Lassiter (Tyler Pasher 73), Maxi Urruti (Christian Ramirez 90+2), Fafa Picault [Subs Not Used: Michael Nelson, Jose Bizama, Maynor Figueroa, Darwin Ceren, Mateo Bajamich, Darwin Quintero]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Javain Brown, Andy Rose, Érik Godoy, Bruno Gaspar (Theo Bair 85); Janio Bikel (Tosaint Ricketts 64), Caio Alexandre (Leonard Owusu 77); Russell Teibert (C) (Michael Baldisimo 46), Déiber Caicedo, Cristian Dájome (Ryan Raposo 64); Lucas Cavallini [Subs Not Used: Derek Cornelius, Thomas Hasal, Evan Newton, Ranko Veselinovic]
Possession: HOU 39.1% – VAN 60.9%
Shots: HOU 14 – VAN 11
Shots on Goal: HOU 3 – VAN 2
Saves: HOU 1 – VAN 1
Fouls: HOU 15 – VAN 10
Offsides: HOU 1 – VAN 1
Corners: HOU 6 – VAN 6
MARC DOS SANTOS
On scoring their first goal from open play:
“I would prefer to score two goals on set plays today, and maybe get a point or a win, than one goal on open play. For me, the most important is the goals and not if it’s open play or set plays. Every time we play a team that is lower, like Portland, like Colorado, that are more transition oriented when they win the ball, we struggled to break down opponents. We’re trying a lot of things, we’re trying to have many guys in different spots on the field.”
On their first-half performance:
“I thought we came in well in the game. We had flow to our game, we had good possession. And then in one play that we misread, it’s a transition against us. We don’t read that the ball is not under pressure, and we don’t drop fast enough, the ball gets in behind and then it puts us in trouble. They get the 1-0, and it created a little bit of unsettlement in our team. Unfortunately, we gave up, for the first time, a goal on a set play, we’re very disappointed with it.”
On the second half and quality in the opponent’s third:
“I think the last 35 minutes, we reacted, we pushed. We tried, but there’s not enough clarity in that last pass, last play around the 18-yard box and the last third, so it’s disappointing. And we need to grow in that 100%. We need to grow as a team in that area.”
On areas of improvement and assessment:
“Me and Axel, we talk every day about where we need to improve the team and we’re the same way, we’re desperate with some areas that we want to improve, and we’re working on that off the field. The most important thing for me as a coach is trying to work on that, on the field. Consider what we have and what is right now my assessment during the break is going to be, what are our best weapons to try to open up the play and do better in the opponent’s half. Everything, our structure tactically, if we’re not able to play in a certain way, it’s my job as a coach to try to work on a way with the guys that are here to unlock things. This is my job, give confidence to the guys, help them unlock things with the guys we have and at the same time, we work closely with Axel to try to find solutions off the field and we’re doing that a lot.”
On positioning in the Western Conference table:
“We didn’t want to go into the break with three losses in a row, but we wanted to make sure that we got points, we weren’t able to do it. In our division, everything’s very close to each other. If you look at the standings, the points, from the last one to maybe the fourth, or the third, everything is very close, so there’s an assessment to be made, there’s work to be done and it’s important during this break to assess everything.”
On making his first MLS start:
“I mean it was a great feeling, but its not the result that I wanted. At the end of the game I was disappointed. But I realize it’s better for us to make these mistakes earlier in the season than later in the season. We still have a long way to go, we have a lot of assessment to do. The team is really good, it’s just simple mistakes that we made leading to them scoring.”
“As a football player wherever the coach wants you to go, you just have to go there and execute it to the best of your ability. It doesn’t matter where he puts me, with the instruction that he give me I’m going to go out there and execute it. I’ve played left back before. When he told me that I was going to play left back I went back home and watched a couple videos of good left backs, their movement, their defensive transition, body position, to lead into this game.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Disappointed, because we trained hard in the week. We can play, like we know. But it depends on us, so we need to keep training hard and play well.”
On his first start of the season:
“I feel good, but my last game [started] was in November. I’m okay, but I need more games to be again at my level.”
There was a feeling postgame that MDS had disrespected Houston and what they bring this season. Former Whitecaps Tim Parker was at the forefront of that.
— Tim Parker (@Tim_Parker26) May 23, 2021
“We saw it before the game today. We’re trying to build something here. I don’t think that should be taken lightly when teams come down here to play in Houston, that they think they can just come here, get points. That’s not going to be given out easily down here.” @Tim_Parker26 https://t.co/NaptadtOib
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) May 23, 2021
I asked @Tim_Parker26 if was surprised by MDS comments.”
“Yeah I was surprised. It’s hard to win in this league in general. When you kind of put an expectation like that. The opposing team for us, we kind of saw it as a little bit disrespectful, it definitely drove us tonight.”
— Har Journalist (@HarJournalist) May 23, 2021