Report and Reaction: The defensive gods giveth and then taketh away as Galaxy and Whitecaps share spoils in LA
(Photo Credit: @WhitecapsFC/Twitter)
A year ago, Vancouver Whitecaps were sitting on a solitary point after their first four MLS matches of the new season. It was part of a slow start that saw the ‘Caps claim just one win and four points from their first eight matches. So much was made of that poor slow start and the subsequent turnaround over the next 26 games. But for all that determination for that to not happen again, Vancouver are just one point better off in 2023 four games in.
They are also still looking for their first win of the new campaign following a 1-1 draw in Carson, California against the LA Galaxy on Saturday night. It was a good point, a battling point, and while they may have rode their luck on more than one occasion during the match and got a bit of a helping hand from VAR, they also had enough of their own good chances to come away with more than just one goal, a fantastic first half header from Tristan Blackmon from a perfectly placed Julian Gressel free kick.
In the end they won’t be grumbling too much, but as the weeks go by without getting that first win, so the pressure mounts on everyone at the club.
Playing their fifth match in 15 days, Vanni Sartini made seven changes to the team that started midweek in Honduras, but just one from the team that drew with Dallas at BC Place last Saturday, that change being Sergio Cordova starting, with Ryan Gauld dropping deeper and Alessandro Schopf dropping to the bench.
Both teams moved the ball well in the opening stages, without troubling either keeper, but the ‘Caps got the breakthrough in the 14th minute from a fantastically worked set piece.
Gressel whipped in a dangerous free kick into the box and Blackmon lost his man to get in front of the Galaxy defenders to powerfully head home, and give the German his fourth assist of the season in all competitions. There may have been a shout for offside on the goal, but thankfully there’s none of that lines bollocks in MLS and the goal stood!
That header though🤌 Beauty free kick by @JulianGressel https://t.co/E6DaQyzLqG pic.twitter.com/43jooU9CkX
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 19, 2023
The Whitecaps lead was nearly very short lived but Yohei Takaoka produced a double save two minutes later to keep it intact.
The Japanese keeper got an arm to keep out a Dejan Joveljic shot, but not strong enough to direct it away. As the ball continued to head goalwards, the ‘Caps keeper recovered to scramble back and palm the ball away off the goalline.
Gastón Brugman had a curling free kick in the 18th minute that didn’t miss by much before a bizarre incident three minutes later saw the Galaxy forced to make a goalkeeping change.
LA’s Raheem Edwards and Vancouver’s Cristian Dajome tussled for a ball in the box as the Colombian tried to get in on goal. Jonathan Bond came out to collect the ball and was clattered into by his own player, injuring his shoulder in the process, and he was replaced by Jonathan Klinsmann.
Vancouver weren’t able to test Klinsmann too much for the rest of the half and instead it was LA who were looking the more likely to add to the scoreline.
They thought they had in the 28th minute when Riqui Puig swept home a great Joveljic cutback from the byeline, but the Serbian was offside when he got played in and a subsequent video review correctly ruled the goal out.
Gressel had a long range shot fly over in the 34th minute before the ‘Caps had a first half injury issue of their own, with new DP striker Cordova forced out with what looked like a hamstring injury two minutes before the break.
The Galaxy came within inches of levelling things in the 44th minute when an Efrain Alvarez free kick to the back post was brilliantly met by Martín Cáceres, but his downward goalbound header was cleared of the line by Gressel.
LA weren’t to be denied though and they did go in to half time on level terms after an equaliser four minutes into stoppage time that Takaoka will most certainly want back.
The ‘Caps keeper fumbled an Edwards chip and the loose ball fell right to the feet of Kelvin Leerdam and he stretches to direct the ball home to make it one apiece, and no less than the Galaxy deserved for their first half pressure.
We're back in it! ✨
Kelvin Leerdam with the equalizer before the half pic.twitter.com/VmxsrgX0QX
— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) March 19, 2023
The second half started as the first finished, with LA on the front foot and taking the game to Vancouver.
Joveljic forced a diving save out of Takaoka in the 53rd minute, as the ‘Caps were reduced to trying to hit on the counter.
Vancouver had a four-on-three breakaway five minutes later but it was a squandered opportunity, as was a flashing close range header from Ryan Gauld in the 68th minute that went well wide.
Despite LA’s possession, the best chances were falling to Vancouver.
Gauld played in Brian White in the 75th minute and with just the advancing keeper to beat, he pulled his effort wide in another disappointing wasted chance.
Joveljic thought he’d given LA the lead two minutes later when he controlled the ball on the edge of the six yard box after an Edwards cross took deflections off two Whitecaps defenders and fired home, but the referee blew for a handball and Vancouver breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The Galaxy were committing numbers forward to try and get the lead in the closing stages, but it was leaving them short at the back and the quick ‘Caps breaks were causing them a lot of problems and in one them, Javain Brown saw a deflected shot in from the right crash off the far post in the 85th minute.
As the game petered out, the ‘Caps nearly grabbed a dramatic winner at the death in the unlikeliest of fashions, as a long Brown throw in to the box was met by Cáceres ad he directed his header towards his own goal, his blushes saved by a scrambling Klinsmann, who tipped the ball over for a corner, which then came to nothing.
And that was all she wrote. A good road point for Vancouver in a game that could have really gone either way with the various incidents and chances. In the grand scheme of things, not a bad result, but the Whitecaps are needing more than that right now to kickstart their MLS season. With a tough trip to Minnesota next weekend, it’s not about to get any easier any time soon.
FINAL SCORE: Los Angeles Galaxy 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: LA 57.4% – VAN 42.6%
Shots: LA 20 – VAN 12
Shots on Goal: LA 6 – VAN 2
Saves: LA 2 – VAN 4
Fouls: LA 13 – VAN 15
Offsides: LA 1 – VAN 1
Corners: LA 13 – VAN 4
LOS ANGELES: Jonathan Bond (Jonathan Klinsmann 25); Kelvin Leerdam (Chris Mavinga 86), Martín Cáceres, Jalen Neal, Raheem Edwards; Mark Delgado, Gastón Brugman (Uri Rosell 86), Riqui Puig; Efraín Álvarez (Memo Rodríguez 65), Tyler Boyd (Preston Judd 86), Dejan Joveljić
[Substitutes not used: Lucas Calegari, Eriq Zavaleta, Uri Rosell, Daniel Aguirre, Jonathan Pérez]
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown, Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon, Ryan Raposo (Mathías Laborda 74); Julian Gressel (Sebastian Berhalter 74), Andrés Cubas, Ryan Gauld; Cristian Dájome (Alessandro Schöpf 61), Brian White; Sergio Córdova (45.Pedro Vite 43’)
[Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Déiber Caicedo, Ali Ahmed, Simon Becher, Russell Teibert]
On the match:
“Well, I think in the first half they were the better team, in the second half, we were the better team. Pretty simple. Unfortunately, when they were the better team and they were pushing, we were almost getting there 1-0 to the end of the half and then they scored the goal. But I have to be honest, they deserved to tie at that point and we weren’t able to press very well in the first half. The second half was completely different because when we changed the way of pressing, we were much more aggressive. Even with the midfield, having a midfield three instead of a midfield two helped us match them. They’ve very good players in the middle, [Gastón] Brugman, [Riqui] Puig and [Marco] Delgado, they all played very well and we got split much less than the second half and we won a lot of the balls and we actually had the chance to win. But it’s okay. It’s okay. It’s a really good point away. The last two weeks, I saw the team I want to have, from the [Real CD] España game, we are on the right direction. I have to be honest, even the first game against RSL was the only game that didn’t go well in terms of performance.”
On the match:
“Obviously, we wanted the win, it’s a tough game, with the players they have they find spaces in between us, they have the quality and I think they that showed a little bit more in the second half. We were able to defend decently, and honestly kept it a tie. We definitely have to go back to Vancouver, go to the drawing board and continue working and thinking about ways to continue fighting and games and pushing to hopefully get us over this hurdle and start turning these results into wins.”
On his goal:
“Yeah, it was a great ball in and we were working on set pieces a lot the last couple weeks and luckily, I was able to get free, like I said it was a great ball and thankful it hit the back of the net.”
On the importance of getting back to Vancouver before heading back to Minnesota:
“Yeah, I think it’s good to get back and have a good end to the week. Obviously, we advanced in the Champions League and now with the 1-1 we take the point. We have somewhat of a good feeling going back, get a couple days off and then have a normal week of training before we get to Minnesota. Obviously, pretty big to kind of take a breath and kind of reset and then get full steam ahead, obviously, with two games in MLS and we got to try and pick up our first win. It’s a tough place to play in Minnesota but hopefully, we can bring that mentality that we had today there and be a bit more clinical, I think, when we get the chances and hopefully, that’s the first win next week and then we keep going.”