What a difference a week makes.
Seven days ago, the disappointment of not only a season opening loss to Sporting KC, but also an insipid performance along the way, had many Vancouver Whitecaps supporters in the grip of despair. Everyone knew it wasn’t a first choice line-up, players were missing and help was coming, but it was still a deflating way to start the campaign.
Fast forward a week and the ‘Caps were heading down to LA, as something of a second thought in a match where Chicharito’s home debut seemed to be all anyone wanted to talk about. Factor in Yordy Reyna missing the trip due to having a cold and Jake Nerwinski picking up a late hamstring injury, and Vancouver didn’t have their troubles to seek.
Yet the Whitecaps did something that has kind of marked their 10 year MLS era, they surprised.
On many occasions the ‘Caps have lost games they were expected to win and won some, many on the road, that no-one gave them a chance in. On Saturday night in Carson, California, it was to be the latter, with Tosaint Ricketts 74th minute goal giving the Whitecaps a 1-0 win over a Galaxy side that offered little and finished the game with ten men. Vancouver could even afford the luxury of a late Lucas Cavallini penalty miss to leave with all three points.
With absences due to injury, sickness, and getting up to match fitness, Andy Rose came in to add some veteran presence and better communication to the backline and midfielder Janio Bikel was thrown in to his MLS debut at right back, with Ricketts partnering Cavallini up top in a 4-4-2 formation.
The Galaxy had the first real chance of the game eight minutes in when Aleksandar Katai rose above the ‘Caps defence to get onto the end of an Emiliano Insua cross, heading wide when he should have at least force Max Crepeau into a save.
It was a bit of a let off for Vancouver, but they repaid the favour four minutes later when Inbeom Hwang squandered a fantastic opportunity to fire the ‘Caps ahead, choosing to try and shoot on a quick counter when he had Ricketts and Cavallini to his left and a wide open Cristian Dajome to his right and only two LA defenders in his way.
It was a terrible piece of awareness and decision making from the Korean, and one you felt could prove to be costly with chances likely to be at a premium.
The game was flowing end to end at a fast pace and the Whitecaps were looking the more dangerous side, although their propensity for self destruction nearly came to fore in the 24th minute when Crepeau came rushing out of his box to try and clear a ball. Bikel got there first, but had a poor clearance, and as the ball fell to Sacha Kljestan with the open goal gaping, the veteran pulled his effort wide, knowing he should have done much better.
The ‘Caps response was quick and came the closest to either side breaking the deadlock, as Andy Rose could only look on in anguish as his header off a Hwang free-kick crashed off the bar with David Bingham beaten in the Galaxy goal.
ANDY ROSE OFF THE BAR!!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 8, 2020
Dajome whipped a dangerous cross in from the right, which just eluded Ricketts, but that was as close as either team got to breaking the deadlock for the rest of the half, despite play constantly moving from end to end.
It was a strong first half showing for the understrength ‘Caps and a performance that likely surprised many. They certainly held their own against the Galaxy, who were looking shaky at the back and quite impotent in the attack. The biggest concern for Vancouver at this point was perhaps whether a tiredness factor would kick in.
The Galaxy came out with a greater purpose in the second half, looking the livelier side and forcing a few scrambles in the Whitecaps box, but Vancouver were putting in a solid team defensive effort and clearing the danger, and raising heartbeats at the same time.
The ‘Caps weren’t really threatening to breach the Galaxy backline. Their best chance coming when Cavallini was played in with 19 minutes remaining but Bingham made the save and the flag went up for offside anyway.
That seemed to spark the ‘Caps belief back into life and they took the lead in the 74th minute in a well worked goal that saw Ricketts neatly finish an Adnan cut back, after some good build up play from sub Ryan Raposo.
The ‘Caps don’t score many, but when they do, they’re a thing of beauty!
Raposo ➡️ Adnan ➡️ Ricketts ➡️ BACK OF THE NET!!!!!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 8, 2020
And things went from bad to worse for the Galaxy a minute later when Joe Corona picked up a second yellow, then a red, for an over the ball tackle on Russell Teibert.
Up a goal and up a man, surely Vancouver wouldn’t throw this away in the final 15 minutes?
The big question now for them though was balancing how hard to push for a second and how deep should they defend.
The Galaxy still felt they could get back into it and the ‘Caps looked dangerous on the counter, and it was the latter that gave Vancouver a chance to wrap up the three points when Giancarlo Gonzalez clipped Ricketts’ leg in the box in the 87th minute and referee Ismail Elfath pointed the spot. It looked like Ricketts had moved his leg towards the Galaxy defender but it wasn’t clear and obvious for VAR to overturn.
Up stepped the ‘Caps big money offseason signing Cavallini, and with the chance of his first MLS goal looming, the Canadian hit a shocking penalty straight at the legs of David Bingham.
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 8, 2020
I don’t know what it is about the ‘Caps and penalties against the Galaxy, but after Adnan’s panenka horror last year, this was equally terrible.
The miss lit a late fire under LA who tried to get the equaliser, but the ‘Caps held firm pretty comfortably to head home with three big, and unexpected, points.
The scoreline and the late defensive stand don’t really tell the story for the ‘Caps. This was a strong, solid, and on the whole, comfortable away victory. The defence were perhaps having to throw their bodies at the ball at the start of the second half, but aside from that brief spell, they were the better team and Crepeau had a fairly easy clean sheet under his belt. He had one save to make all night.
Bikel came in late, to the least favourite of his positions, and looked good on his debut. Raposo came on for his and was lively and dangerous, getting his first assist of his pro career. Ricketts must surely have played himself into another start. Teibert put in one hell of a shift. And the team didn’t really miss Reyna.
Yes, there were some negatives. The penalty miss, the fact that midfield was weak and uncreative yet again, and Hwang hasn’t looked great so far this year. Overall though, this has put a spring in everyone’s step and was just what the doctor ordered after last week’s doom and gloom.
Next up, it’s the unbeaten Colorado Rapids at BC Place, and a definite test to just where the ‘Caps are right now.
FINAL SCORE: Los Angeles Galaxy 0 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
LOS ANGELES: David Bingham; Rolf Feltscher, Nicholas DePuy, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Emiliano Insua; Jonathan dos Santos (Perry Kitchen 46), Aleksandar Katai (Sebastian Lletget 59), Joe Corona, Sacha Kljestan (Ethan Zubak 83), Cristian Pavon; Chicharito [Subs Not Used: Justin vom Steeg, Daniel Steres, Julian Araujo, Gordon Wild]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Janio Bikel, Jasser Khmiri, Andy Rose, Ali Adnan; Cristian Dajome (Ryan Raposo 67), Inbeom Hwang, Russell Teibert, David Milinkovic (Leonard Owusu 84); Lucas Cavallini, Tosaint Ricketts (Fredy Montero 89) [Subs Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Cristian Gutierrez, Derek Cornelius, Georges Mukumbilwa]
Possession: LA 54.2% – VAN 45.8%
Shots: LA 12 – VAN 12
Shots on Goal: LA 1 – VAN 4
Saves: LA 3 – VAN 1
Fouls: LA 23 – VAN 7
Offsides: LA 0 – VAN 2
Corners: LA 6 – VAN 2
[Also a shout out to Jonathan, @lojdvancouver on Twitter for coming up with the headline for us!]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the game:
“The way we worked, our principles from preseason, and how we applied it wasthe way we have to be, and we didn’t see that against Sporting, but we had an incredible reaction today. I think, you know, not only in the intensity of our work and the intensity of how we close down the way we prepared for this game, trying to eliminate Jonathan [Dos Santos] from their build up, being very aware in the box, and being aware of a player like Chicharito [Javier Hernandez], and [Cristian] Pavon in transition, I think [Janiel] Bikel did a great job there. Our center backs did good work on Chicharito, and we knew the first 15 minutes would have a big hype and we tried to control that the best way possible by not backing off. Then we scored a deserved goal. I feel we played a good game and we scored a good goal. Then we had the possibility for the two to zero, where we didn’t score. It brings a lot of emotion and belief to the stadium, but then I thought the substitute players that came in to help dida good job, and today we fully deserved the three points.”
On the team’s performance:
“It was what we worked on since day one. If you come to big games like this and you don’t set the tone, big teams like the LA Galaxy are going to slowly impose their game, and you have to make it uncomfortable for them. That’s what we weren’t able to do against Sporting, but we did today, and if we do that, we’ll always have a chance to win.”
On having to adapt with injuries and illness in his team:
“It says that the way the guys train, everybody’s ready. When Yordy [Reyna] got sick, and Yordy was in the plans to start, Tosaint [Ricketts] was ready, and ready in a big way. It’s a great finish, and [Janio] Bikel trained real training sessions with us too. And, he answered in a way that he looked like a player that has been with us for months, so it’s very positive moving forward, but we still have a lot of work to do. It was an important win to react from the Sporting Kansas City game, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
On the team’s performance:
“I thought every man was just so focused and willing to do whatever it took to get the result. I was really confident we were going to score a goal and then it was just about really sticking to our principles, everything we worked on all preseason and all week reiterating everything defensively. I thought we were disciplined when we needed to be, we could have kept hold of the ball a little better at certain moments. We let them have a bit too much of it I thought especially when we would break into their half of the pitch we could have held onto it a little bit more. Obviously Tos [Tosaint Ricketts] takes his goals so well, great cut back from Ali [Adnan] some of our link up play was really encouraging and overall like you said the commitment of the group was great.”
On the performance of Tosaint Ricketts and Lucas Cavallini:
“That is where it starts, if we want to be a team that really works for each other and grinds out proper team performances like that it starts with the front two. Every successful team that I have been a part of the front two are really willing to put in that work or whatever system you play, front three or whatever it is there, they are willing to do those little things, the little details, the chasing down, the harrying, never letting center backs be comfortable. Those two work so hard and it certainly makes our lives an awful lot easier so credit to those two for sure.”
On his team’s performance here in Los Angeles:
“Gritty, you know, we came here with an objective, you know we wanted to rewrite last week’s performance and come out with a different mentality, a different energy and I think you saw that tonight. We just went after them from the first minute, played fearless and had each other’s backs and I am so proud of the guys. It was a great performance, a great effort.”
On his goal tonight:
“Yeah, I mean I saw Ali, you know getting down the line like he usually does. Lucas made a great run, he attracted a lot of players and I just found that pocket there and put it far post.”
On their defense tonight:
“Solid, you know. Obviously getting the shutout but not only that they kept our lines tight you know when we were pressing from the front they were getting our lines from behind. This is what we’ve been working on all preseason and it’s nice for it to get the result from it.”
On his success at this stadium:
“I love this place, I have a few goals in my past here and it is a great atmosphere, you know, credit to them, the fans came out and supported their team and it was an enjoyable night.”
On sensing the Galaxy’s frustration:
“It’s a big, big night for them you know, home opener. Chicharito’s first game and you know it meant a lot to them and when they are not getting anything from the start you know they are going to start to frustrate and force things and we were ready, we were on them from the first minute. We didn’t focus on him [Chicarito], we focused on our game, getting our lines up, pressing their back line and forcing them to be uncomfortable throughout the game and it put us in a great position to win some balls and get on some counter attacks and it was a good result.”
GUILLERMO BARROS SCHELOTTO
Thoughts on the game:
“Disappointed with the result. I don’t think we deserved to lose today but sometimes in soccer it’s not about who deserves to win or get something, it’s about who’s scoring. They have just only one shot and they scored on the first shot they had. We had some options on the field, but we couldn’t. I think we had nerves. We tried but they surprised us in the 74th minute when they score.”
On all the focus on Chicharito and him not scoring:
“I think everyone is waiting for the Chicharito goal and everyone asks me about if Chicharito does not score during the game. I am more worried about the result tonight than if Chicharito scores or not because I know he’s a regular striker. We have just two games, he could score, but we expect that he scores in the next game. We put the ball in the box a lot of times but we couldn’t find him. We will try in the next game.