It was the battle of the two worst teams in the West last season. Two teams that had bolstered their attacks with big money strikers from Liga MX.
But while one of those players found the back of the net on his debut for his new club, the other was left frustrated by the woodwork and a quick reaction from a goalkeeper as Vancouver Whitecaps lost their 2020 opener 3-1 at home to Sporting Kansas City.
Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda scored on their debuts for KC, while a couple of Vancouver draft picks also scored, Erik Hurtado for Sporting and Jake Nerwinski for Vancouver.
Sporting Kansas City controlled the majority of the opening 15 minutes and were rewarded in the 16th minute after the initial ball off a free kick wasn’t cleared allowing Pulido to swoop in to head the ball past Max Crepeau.
#SportingKC goal #⃣1⃣ for #⃣9⃣.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) March 1, 2020
The ‘Caps responded with a long distance shot from Russell Teibert and an in close chance by Lucas Cavallini that was denied by a last gasp tackle from Graham Zusi.
Vancouver were able to equalize just before the half hour mark with Nerwinski scoring from inside the six yard area after a great individual effort and setup by debutant David Milinkovic.
OU LA LA!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 1, 2020
The parity lasted for just over ten minutes when Luis Martins made his run into the area and cut the ball back to the top of the box where Kinda curled a beauty into the top corner of the net.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) March 1, 2020
Whitecaps almost tied it up again just before half time but Cavallini was denied by the post and the visitors headed into the interval a goal to the good.
There was very little going for the ‘Caps in the attack after the restart until the 75th minute when they finally looked a little dangerous going forward.
The home side got a great chance to level late in the match when Cavallini looked clear in the box but Tim Melia was out quick to smother the shot and the hopes of the ‘Caps getting a result in their first match of the season.
But the visitors weren’t done yet and Sporting salted the game away in injury time when former Cap Hurtado finished a superb strike to send the sold out crowd home disappointed.
— Sporting KC (@SportingKC) March 1, 2020
While there have been many changes over the off season for Vancouver, once again the midfield were outperformed by the opposition and were the main reason for their downfall.
Their lack of ability to control the match especially came into play at the start of the second half when they were unable to gain any foothold in the final third.
And things aren’t about to get any easier for Vancouver as they now travel to California to face another Mexican international striker in Chicharito and his LA Galaxy.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 3 Sporting Kansas City
ATT: 22,120 (sell out)
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Jake Nerwinski, Jasser Khmiri, Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan; Cristian Dájome (Tosaint Ricketts 80), Inbeom Hwang, Russell Teibert, David Milinković (Fredy Montero 71); Lucas Cavallini, Yordy Reyna [Subs Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Cristián Gutiérrez, Theo Bair, Andy Rose, Patrick Metcalfe]
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Roberto Puncec, Matt Besler, Luis Martins; Ilie Sanchez, Roger Espinoza, Gadi Kinda (Gianluca Busio 90); Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido (Erik Hurtado 90), Johnny Russell (Gerso Fernandes 71) [Subs not used: Rich Sanchez, Botond Barath, Daniel Salloi, Jaylin Lindsey]
Possession: VAN 48.3% – SKC 51.7%
Shots: VAN 9 – SKC 11
Shots on Goal: VAN 5 – SKC 4
Saves: VAN 1 – SKC 4
Fouls: VAN 10 – SKC 13
Offsides: VAN 0 – SKC 0
Corners: VAN 4 – SKC 3
MARC DOS SANTOS
On a slow start:
“The beginning was disappointing. A lot of anxiety on our side. We really wanted to do well, we were ready to play the game, and for some reason we just didn’t start the way we wanted. The reasons, we don’t know. The guys were ready and very, very excited for this game. But especially those first 20 minutes were not good. Then we were able to stabilize the game, to tie the game. When they scored the 2-1 a little bit against the run of play, we had a very good chance that hit the post. I didn’t see the play again, but I know it hit the post. Then we in the second half were overall the better team. We tried to dictate more, we tried to press better, we tried to create more. There’s a big chance to tie the game again. We don’t tie, then at the end I think the last goal is heavy a little bit too much in the result. That’s my thoughts on the game.”
On the second half:
“We had the ball more, we took care of the ball more. We took care of managing the pressure, even using a little bit more our wingers too deep in the first half. We were very deep, they were coming up with three if we didn’t press one of the centre backs then he would drive with the ball. That’s how we got a little bit more in our half in the first 25 minutes. But then when the wingers started to participate more in the pressure, it helped. So we’re going to review that. Again, there’s things that are necessary to show for the Galaxy game, [for] others it’s a different team. I think there’s little things sometimes in that we were trying too much individual plays in the channels too much, one-v-one, when we could have combined better. These are the little things that we need to watch again.”
On generating chances in the second half:
“We tried. We spoke, our possession was better. Pressure was better. But we did not originate as many chances as we could. I think a lot of the guys really wanted to do well, show well, and sometimes you’re thinking too much and then sometimes the decisions are not always the best. We were not able to find our best players in the right spots. And then when we did, we missed two very good chances. So that’s disappointing.”
On Cavallini and Pulido:
“Pulido had that half-chance and scored. He’s a player that links well with their team in possession, comes in good pockets. We knew about that. I don’t think he was as dangerous as I thought he could have been in behind. Lucas put himself in a situation to get a goal, and today it didn’t happen. But it’s going to come for sure.”
On why the team started slowly in front of fans after a strong preseason:
“We’re going to look at the game again, but I don’t think it comes from that. I think that the guys showed before this game that they were capable of doing what we wanted. Today it was just a day that, especially the first 25 minutes, that we weren’t able to apply what we worked on. And it was kind of surprising at the same time. We felt it on the field, a little bit of anxiety, a little bit of some guys nervous and having choices of passes that were risky or too many touches, trying to do everything perfect. So that was difficult today.”
On the 4-4-2 formation emphasizing the wingers:
“Both [Milinković and Dájome] have the ability to play in a 4-3-3. But both have the ability [to play the 4-4-2]. They’re intelligent enough, they understand the game. Their defensive behaviour is a little bit different when we play in a 4-4-2. They have to tuck in much more inside when the ball is on the other side. They’ve done that well. Then it’s a question of the midfielders that are available as of now. I’m trying to maximize a player like Yordy Reyna, trying to offer more players around Cavallini. That’s why right now that’s the choice of the formation. We’re waiting on guys that are going to start training with the team as of tomorrow, like [Janio] Bikel and [Leonard] Owusu, and we’re still waiting on Ranko [Veselinović]. And that couple make us shift and try to maximize more when we have everybody here. But right now, we went with the best team available in our opinion, and playing like that was the best way to maximize the pieces that we had.”
On the anticipation for the opener:
“I was really looking forward to stepping on the pitch today, especially the opportunity to step on the pitch with two of my three kids. My daughter was embarrassed to come on. The debut was not what I expected but we just have to learn from our mistakes. It’s still a long way to go. The team has to get better.”
On his chances:
“It was just one of those days when the ball does not want to get into the back of the net. I just have to finish better. Hopefully the ball will find its way into the back of the net in the next game.”
On the transition to Vancouver:
“The transition was great. Coming into the preseason and adapting to my new team, my new teammates. Everything was easy. I still got a lot of things to work on. I’m happy to be here. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help this team.”
On implementing the game plan:
“We didn’t play exactly how we were playing in preseason. As a team, it wasn’t our type of game. Aside from the result, if we were to play good, I would tell you. With the result and how we played, it wasn’t how we wanted it. Still a long way to go, just got to keep my head up and show why I’m really here. We just need to stick to our game, put the ball on the ground, start moving it, and relax. Don’t feel too much pressure and go with the flow.”
On how he felt pre-match:
“We were just anxious to get to the stadium. When we finally got here and we saw the fans, it was a pretty special moment. We haven’t done that before. That’s huge for the guys. We all got really excited. We all knew how much this meant to the city and all the fans. We’re disappointed with how the game went tonight.”
On his goal:
“It’s a long offseason. I was upset with how we ended last year. I know I can be better. When I got that goal, I was excited, happy. I thought it was big because we got right back into it.”
On his overall performance:
“When we first got into preseason, Marc wanted to let me know that I had a free role, that he wants me to get forward and he wants me to go up and down the pitch. I tried to do that as much as I could tonight. I thought at times when we were defending a lot, I was a bit overloaded so I wasn’t able to get forward as much as I could. I tried to defend as best as I could tonight under the circumstances. The goal is a consolation but I would take the three points over a goal any day.”
On first impressions:
“It’s a very good stadium. Very good supporters. I’m very happy to play for his club. I’m disappointed about the game today because we lost. We have 33 more games in the league. It’s just the first game. I’m disappointed, I wanted to win this game today and we didn’t get the result.”
On the team improving:
“I’m happy for the assist. I’m confident because the team is good. This team has the capacity to get back and play better for a better result.”
On the importance of this season to him individually:
“This season is very important because last season I didn’t have good chances at Hull. Now I’m with the Whitecaps it’s a very important season. I would like to play my best level for the team. Today I played good in the first half, in the second half, not the best. It happens in football. Now I have to work hard at training to get better to help my team because I want to play very good for this club, my coach, and the supporters.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
On winning away from home:
“It’s the first of 34 games. This is always a tough match. We normally play away from home on our first game, it’s always a tough thing to do for the team. You have to take the sting out of the fans. You have to be brave because at times during the game, you either have to be really good with the ball. You have to be willing to defend really well. Emotions go up and down. I thought the guys handled it very well, they implemented the game plan really well. They were committed, we were fit, and the guys deserved the victory based on all those components.”
On Alan Pulido:
“It’s what I expected. He can play in between the lines. When he needs to be a target forward, he can. When he needs to go out wide and play combination play, he can. When you get him around the box and you give him just a little bit of time, he’s a clinical finisher, he’s deadly, and he’s got a great nose for the goal. I’m really happy for him that he gets the goal because he worked hard during the preseason.”
On Gadi Kinda:
“He worked so hard. If you love this game and you love positive play, that guy is electrifying to watch. He deserved the goal based on his positive play tonight. ”
On Erik Hurtado:
“I’m happy for him because it’s never easy coming into that situation.”
On the defence:
“I thought our defence did tremendous. I thought Matt and Puncec were fantastic. I thought that they read situations really well. They made good decisions, when to clear it, when to keep possession. I was very happy with that aspect. In the second half, what we did really well was we managed the game tremendously because we were brave.”
On reaction to the win:
“Just happy about the win right now. We did a lot of work in the preseason with the team and it feels good to see that it’s paying off.”
On the three goals:
“We had three magnificent goals. Alan fought his way to the header and scored a great goal. Luis got down the line, created space, and got Gadi a wonder strike. Gerso did all the fancy work and gave me a cross, all I had to do was put it in.”
On the new season:
“It’s a good game to build on. We have to get back to KC and look at some film and get ready for Houston. It’s a fresh start for everybody, it’s a new season. I was just focused on doing my job, what the coaching staff asked of me and I was going to let everything else take care of itself.”
On the late save and goal:
“We knew in the second half, we knew they were going to come out and high-press us a little bit more. We knew it was important to get another goal. It didn’t come until late in the game. Tim Melia came up with an incredible save a couple of minutes before we scored the goal. If he doesn’t make the save, the game is different.”
On Lucas Cavallini:
“He’s a good player. He’s really smart, always plays off your back shoulder. I was trying to get in behind and get on him on the crosses. Strong player, target striker. I think he’s gonna do well in this league.”
On overall performance:
“I thought we played well tonight. Guys made their debuts, two new guys for us scored goals, so that’s going to help their confidence going forward. We can feel good about this one but we realize it’s only the first game. We’ve got to move on and continue to get better.”