Coming off back to back wins, Vancouver Whitecaps left Portland for the last time this regular season to travel to California to take on the LA Galaxy in Carson on Sunday night.
Hopes of making it a rare hat-trick of victories was undone by a performance lacking energy and bite and they fell to a last ditch winner from Kai Koreniuk, as the home side came away with the 1-0 win in a game to forget.
Marc Dos Santos made one enforced change to the starters that have delivered six points from six in their last two matches, with Michael Baldisimo coming in to the midfield for the suspended Janio Bikel.
The Galaxy had the better of the early going, with ‘Caps keeper Evan Bush forced to make three big saves, including a double stop to deny Cristian Pavon, after a couple of slack defensive plays by the Whitecaps.
Vancouver responded with a couple of long range efforts from Ali Adnan, the second of which saw LA keeper diving full length to turn away a fierce free kick in the 19th minute.
LA came back into the ascendency and Bush was called into action in the 38th minute, saving a fierce strike from Sebastian Lletget, then twice on the rebound from Daniel Steres, before Yony Gonzalez fired the ball home, only to see the flag up for offside on Steres’ previous effort.
But it was to end up being goalless at the half, with Vancouver having a 60-40 share of possession but owing a huge debt to Bush for that being the case. That’s not been a scoreline that has boded well for Vancouver in recent away games.
The second half started without much excitement, which from a Whitecaps perspective was actually a nice occurrence, and it was Vancouver that had the first real chance, when Jake Nerwinski went on a run, firing off a shot which Klinsmann saved, initially parrying then recovering the rebound before Cavallini could get to it.
There was little shown by either team and the tempo had less energy than a game of walking football at times. It was crying out for some impact subs by Vancouver, but they weren’t to come and you have to feel that proved costly to the team in the end.
With the minutes ticking down and a share of the spoils looking the most likely outcome, Russell Teibert was adjudged to have given away a last minute free kick in the middle of the ‘Caps half. The kick was played to Pavon at the back of the box and he worked some magic to crash an effort off the crossbar, with the follow up cleared off the goalline.
LA kept the pressure on though and 30 seconds later, they were in the lead.
Pavon whipped in a delicious cross and Koreniuk timed his run perfectly from behind Nerwinski to get onto the ball in the six yard home and blast home the winner and his first goal in MLS.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) October 19, 2020
It’s always heartbreaking to lose a goal right at the death but Vancouver did little in the match to look like they were capable of getting anything more than a point from this one. If you don’t play proactively, and look happy with the draw, this can be the end result.
You’d have probably taken six points from these last three games a week or so ago, but this now feels like points thrown away and in the grand scheme of things in the Western Conference playoff race, this defeat could be massively costly.
There’s four games left now. All of them in Portland. The ‘Caps need at least three wins you feel to make it to the postseason. They may even need all four. It’s looking a lot more bleaker than it did a few days ago, but there’s also so many uncertainties along the way.
One thing that is certain though is that next week’s match with San Jose is a must win. Lose that, and maybe even draw it, and it’s lights out for the ‘Caps you have to feel.
Are they up for that challenge in an ever challenging season?
FINAL SCORE: LA Galaxy 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
ATT: 0 + plus cardboard cutouts that I wish the ‘Caps would do
LOS ANGELES: Jonathan Klinsmann; Julian Araujo, Daniel Steres, Giancarlo González, Emiliano Insúa; Sebastian Lletget (Kai Koreniuk 87), Perry Kitchen, Sacha Kljestan; Efrain Álvarez (Carlos Harvey 78), Yony González (Chicharito 50), Cristian Pavón [Substitutes not used: David Bingham, Diedie Traore, Nicholas DePuy, Emil Cuello, Ethan Zubak, Gordon Wild]
VANCOUVER: Evan Bush; Jake Nerwinski (Theo Bair 90+2), Ranko Veselinović, Érik Godoy, Ali Adnan (Cristián Gutiérrez 80); Cristian Dájome, Michael Baldisimo (Ryan Raposo 71), Leonard Owusu, Russell Teibert; Fredy Montero, Lucas Cavallini [Substitutes not used: Bryan Meredith, Derek Cornelius, Andy Rose, Patrick Metcalfe, Damiano Pecile, Tosaint Ricketts]
Possession: LA 45.4% – VAN 54.6%
Shots: LA 18 – VAN 7
Shots on Goal: LA 5 – VAN 5
Saves: LA 4 – VAN 4
Fouls: LA 10 – VAN 10
Offsides: LA 1 – VAN 2
Corners: LA 8 – VAN 3
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the loss:
“It’s heartbreaking. Everybody in the locker room feels that we deserved to go back to Portland with at least another point. We knew the game would break after 65 minutes. Both teams looked tired and far from each other but we knew it would be one moment offensively from one of the teams. We had a lot of the possession, especially in the first half but we lacked a little bit of clarity to create chances. It was a lot of possession but not enough chances created. Even though if we had some that were dangerous, we still could have done better.”
On the referee decision late:
“At the end of the game, there’s a play with Rusty that goes from a very clean tackle from Rusty, a very good ball that he won, ready to initiate a counter attack five-v-four, and the ref does an incredible mistake, calls the foul, gives the yellow card, puts LA in our half, and from that moment, they get something. They get the cross in that unfortunately we spoke so much about preventing the cross. That’s the type of game LA plays. Unfortunately when you start getting tired, you lose a little bit of sharpness and decision-making. It’s unfortunate, we think we deserve to at least go back home with a point but we’re still in the fight and we’re keeping fighting and now we have four important games coming up.”
On whether fatigue played a factor:
“I knew at the minute 65, more or less 70, the game would open a lot. Of course when you play every three days and you travel, it’s normal. It’s very humid here today and it’s normal that that could come in and be a factor but I still think that we had the chance to win the game here. I felt somebody would end up winning. I didn’t see this game going into a tie. We had moments where if we add just a little bit more of sharpness, we could have created more chances. Unfortunately, our ball possession today didn’t translate into chances created. What I’m more frustrated about is that I think the referee had a very bad decision on the foul that he gives on Rusty that originates them being in our half and scoring the goal.”
On Evan Bush:
“Evan was solid, he was ready, he had a good game. He helped the team, he did what is expected from him, he did what we know about him. There’s not much to be said.”
On the Galaxy midfield:
“We know it’s a midfield without Jonathan (Dos Santos) that becomes less dynamic. Jonathan gives them a very different type of grip in the midfield. I don’t want to judge their decision making especially after the first 60 minutes, legs were starting to get out and players starting to take decisions that are not always the right ones, are slower closing down spaces. That’s the only thing we felt, but again, I think it’s a game that the biggest problem was us in possession, we were not able to change that possession into moments of chances created.”
On substitution decisions:
“We just felt that the game was so open that the quality of Fredy or Cava could have brought something in the final third, especially when it was opening up. They took a lot of the space in behind, their centre backs are not centre backs that push the line very high so they stay lower so that’s why we thought that we were still getting into spaces, we’re still getting into some moments there. Guti gets into a good spot, but the cross comes back and even another one with Ali that almost gets Cristian Dajome, then there’s a ball cleared almost on the line. At the end, even after we conceded the goal, their goal keeper makes a mistake and we almost score there. After the game, you always think about possible subs but we just felt that it was a game that we would be able to get something out of it and unfortunately, it’s always hard to lose in injury time.”
On playing their last matchday travel game:
“I prefer to play these last four games in Portland than this in-n-out. This in-n-out has been hard for us as a team. Hard for the other teams also, it’s just something difficult, but I still think today we could have gotten out of the week where we get seven out of nine points. Unfortunately it didn’t happen, we get six out of nine. We beat Salt Lake, we beat LAFC, we lost this one in injury time. There’s a lot of positive we can take. We’re in the top eight still today so we’re going to fight until the end. That’s what I said, we’re gonna fight inside all circumstances, we’re going to fight until the end.”
Marc Dos Santos described that one as heartbreaking, what’s your analysis?
“That’s pretty good word. I think if you, it goes more than just this game you know, in the whole context of the standings in the table. I think if we get out of here with one point it further keeps them down there. Probably, honestly probably killed their season, ends their season. Emotionally, spiritually, I think that they were, they were dead in the water, and we concede with two minutes left in the game. And, you know, give them hope. And that’s, that’s unfortunate.”
How did you feel that the pace of play was?
“Yeah you know, I don’t think it was great, to be honest. We were on the ball a lot more than I think that we’re used to being on the ball. And that might have surprised us a little bit. I don’t think that we moved it probably as quickly as we should have. Find pockets, be more decisive, drive at them a little bit more, but at the same time, if you think about it rationally, this is what the fifth game and in like 14 or 15 days third game in a week. Traveling the morning. Play on a pitch that’s pretty heavy pitch. Guys legs were tired because of that. And that’s, that’s a byproduct of where we are in the year. So without trying to make excuses, I think that there was still reason to look at ourselves and feel like we should have moved the ball quicker. I think the game was there for the taking in moments. Then in the last 20 minutes, I think that we were maybe a bit naive with trying to close the game out, allowed the game to get stretched. And, like I alluded to at the start, they’re a team that needed to win the game. We were a team that if we would have gotten the point out of this match, we would have been okay with that. So I think we really, really needed to be a little bit more intelligent with the way we kill the game and we didn’t manage it very well. The last probably 15 minutes, I’d say.”
Was a turning point where you weren’t playing for a win, you were playing for a tie?
“No. It’s hard to say that because again you have to take it in context right where the other team knows that you’re throwing everything forward in the last ten minutes then the game is gonna get stretched. Like I said, playing for a tie in the last 10 minutes when the situation is what it is with the table on where we were in the game and all those things. Play for a tie in that moment, could have opened us up for three points if we would have kept our shape and stayed compact. And then we could have hit them on the counter and taken three points. Again, it’s not all about just throwing numbers forward and bringing out a bunch of attacking players and trying to get three points. Those are the types of things that, they were at home, they were certainly going to be pushing, pushing to get the goal. And then they were going to be exposed. And they took advantage of those spaces and we didn’t.”
Marc Dos Santos mentioned a couple of times the late foul this evening that could have resulted in a five-v-four, what were your thoughts on that one?
“it’s tough because I just seen, four or five different angles and views of it and I know I got the ball. And when the referee says verbatim. ‘You got the ball.’ And then you use a foul and a yellow card. For me it’s, it’s just as disappointing that that leads, essentially leads to a goal. And it’s very late in the game and it’s just unfortunate that instead of one team, beating the other a decision from an official leads to a deciding moment in a game, latein the game and, you know, I know in my heart that it’s, it’s not a foul”
What’s your initial reaction of this game?
“That’s what this game is about, it’s about two teams battling for points and, as I just mentioned, you don’t want a deciding moment, a decisive moment is a game to be ultimately decided by an official. You want the two teams to battle it out, fight like we did. It was it was a tough match up until that moment and, you know, it’s just unfortunate that that steals the show and it shouldn’t.”
Next four games are at home in quotes in Portland, what kind of a difference does that make to not have the in-and-out?
“Yeah, these games, I think have been tough on all teams so I can’t just say for us it’s been tough. It’s tough on every team. It’s unusual, it’s something we’re not accustomed to and it’s taking some time to adjust. For us, our next couple matches, or a few matches are at home in Portland, but we’ve been good there in recent form so we’ll look to continue to get results there. We need to get results there if you want to contend for the best.”