If Los Angeles is the City of Angels, then Vancouver Whitecaps were visited by the Angel of Death at the Banc of California stadium on Wednesday evening, going down to heavy 6-0 to LAFC.
And the Whitecaps were lucky to get nil.
A breathtakingly dominant first half performance from LAFC saw them first score two minutes in through a Dejan Jakovic header. Two goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips had the home side three up and coasting by the 11th minute, then an own goal and a Diego Rossi strike had seen Bob Bradley’s men go nap by the half.
The home side could only add an Andy Rose own goal to their tally in the second half, as the Whitecaps sunk to their record equalling loss in the MLS era.
You had two teams coming into this one whose form and performances had been decidedly up and down since they got back from the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando. LAFC had managed just two wins in their seven matches, but both of those had come at home in their Banc of California stadium.
Vancouver were the in-form team, with three victories in their last four games and recording back to back wins for the first time since May last year. But as Marc Dos Santos said in the build up to the match, it’s only what matters in the 90 minutes that follow that counts for anything. He wasn’t wrong.
Dos Santos rang the changes for the Whitecaps fourth match in 11 days, with Bryan Meredith replacing the injured Thomas Hasal in goal, Michael Baldisimo coming in for the injured Russell Teibert at centre mid, Theo Bair in for Ali Adnan on the wing, and Lucas Cavallini in for Fredy Montero up top.
With all the build up to this match surrounding Montero’s relationship and production playing with Cavallini and his countryman Cristian Dajome, it was the latter that was perhaps the biggest surprise. But it would prove to be a costly one?
LAFC went for it from the first kick, forcing a corner in the first minute. Meredith was called into his first action in the game from the subsequent corner, having to turn away an Eddie Segura flick to his near post.
The home side kept the pressure on and took the lead just 96 seconds in when Jakovic got goalside of Cristian Gutierrez to head home a Brian Rodriguez corner from six yards out. It was already feeling like a long night was in store.
The Whitecaps should have tied things up instantly when Theo Bair whipped a ball across the six yard box, but Cavallini couldn’t connect his outstretched leg and the danger was cleared.
And the Whitecaps were punished in the 5th minute when a rampant LAFC side doubled their lead.
It all stemmed from another corner, which saw the ball eventually fall to Wright-Phillips in the box, and the veteran swivelled to fire home a fantastic effort past Meredith, who really must have been wondering what hat hit him in his first Whitecaps start by this point.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 24, 2020
This had the makings of being another rout for the Whitecaps in the City of Angels and their bad start soon became a nightmare when another acrobatic finish by Wright-Phillips put LAFC three up 11 minutes in.
If you thought it couldn’t get any worse, well you were wrong.
LAFC made it 4-0 in the 14th minute when Rodriguez whipped a ball into Wright-Phillips, who was denied his hat trick when Veselinovic’s leg took the back past Meredith and into his own net.
It was almost five in the 20th minute when Rodriguez again sparked an attack, this time setting up Mark-Anthony Kaye, who waltzed through a stationary ‘Caps defence but saw his effort crash off the right post.
Kaye did grab an assist though 13 minutes later when he played a nice give and go with Rossi, who slotted the ball past Meredith to make it 5-0 just past the half hour mark.
Vancouver were shellshocked, and they could easily have gone in at the half down by eight or nine goals instead of the five they finally did.
They at least regrouped and came out in the second half in damage limitation mode. It worked, only giving up an Andy Rose own goal in the 68th minute.
Latif Blessing hit the bar, Meredith came up with an excellent stop, LAFC squandered some good breaks. All in all this could have been double figures and a league record-breaking loss. So hooray for small mercies?
It really felt at one point that the TSN Sportscentre Top 10 after the match was just going to be LAFC goals. But at least it wasn’t. What this result was ultimately was just three points lost. Another lopsided result in a strange MLS season that has seen a few of those of late, and one in which the Whitecaps never even mustered a shot on target.
Dos Santos said as much postgame, but he knows there needs to be a solution. That opening 14 minutes was some of the worst defending we’ve ever seen from a Whitecaps team. The full backs were having a torrid time and it felt that Brian Rodriguez was wearing an invisibility cloak other there because the Whitecaps certainly didn’t see him as he ripped them a new one.
There’s little time for analysis really, little time for great changes. Portland comes up in four days time. They’ve just hit six past San Jose last weekend. Get the calculators at the ready.
FINAL SCORE: LAFC 6 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
LOS ANGELES: Pablo Sisniega; Latif Blessing, Dejan Jakovic (Jordan Harvey 57), Eddie Segura, Diego Palacios (Mohamed El-Munir 56); Jose Cifuentes, Eduard Atuesta (Bryce Duke 72), Mark Anthony-Kaye (Francisco Ginella 56); Brian Rodriguez, Bradley Wright-Phillips (Danny Musovski 57), Diego Rossi [Substitutes Not Used: Kenneth Vermeer, Antonio Leone, Adrien Perez, Christian Torres]
VANCOUVER: Bryan Meredith; Jake Nerwinski, Ranko Veselinović (Érik Godoy 46), Derek Cornelius, Cristián Gutiérrez; Janio Bikel (Patrick Metcalfe 67), Michael Baldisimo; Theo Bair (Leonard Owusu 22), David Milinković (Andy Rose 46), Cristian Dájome (Fredy Montero 57); Lucas Cavallini [Substitutes Not Used: Isaac Boehmer, Ryan Raposo, Ali Adnan, Tosaint Ricketts]
Possession: LAFC 65.1% – VAN 34.9%
Shots: LAFC 19 – VAN 7
Shots on Goal: LAFC 11 – VAN 0
Saves: LAFC 0 – VAN 7
Fouls: LAFC 10 – VAN 10
Offsides: LAFC 3 – VAN 0
Corners: LAFC 12 – VAN 2
MARC DOS SANTOS
It might be easy to blame fatigue and travel, but there certainly seemed to be a lot more than that wrong out there tonight. What went wrong?:
“Let’s make every question tonight about the soccer side. Because when it comes to fatigue and legs, and travel in and out, we’re going to have to find solutions [and] react because this is going to be the reality until the end of the year. We’re going to live off Portland, get in and out of places, where the home teams are always going to have an advantage and be better. And I think we saw it in a lot of the results tonight. It’s so hard to explain the first 14 minutes. The first 14 minutes looked like it was going towards a huge nightmare. We were late to everything. We were not focused. The first two goals from corner kicks were situations, easy to control. When you’re 4-0 down after 14 minutes, you have to make sure that at least you stop the bleeding. Because the reality was, we’re not going to win this game 5-4 now. We have to stop the bleeding, survive until the end. And remember that at the end of this night, we lose three points. We didn’t lose nine points, we lost three points. But it’s very hard to explain the whys we looked like I told you, we looked late. We didn’t deal with the wingers that were in pockets, always in front of our centre backs, the one-twos behind us. They created a lot of problems. We weren’t lucid to get out of their pressure when we lost the ball. All things that had a very big effect tonight. Now we’re going to travel to Portland. Tomorrow it’s a day off, and we’ll react against Portland on Sunday.”
On recovering from this result and getting ready for the next game:
“The message was to not hide from the problems of tonight. We can’t just throw this at fatigue and flying in and out, because if we do that we build a losing mentality and if we do that we hide from things that have to be better. So the message was, guys, we have to address this. And we went through some things in general because we have to look at video and go back to things, but the last part of the message was at the end of the day we lost three points. We’re two points from a playoff spot, and we have to regroup. Think about the things we need to do better, and be ready for the game on Sunday.”
On Bryan Meredith’s debut:
“It’s not fair. It’s not fair for him, I told the guys that at halftime. It’s not fair that we defend with the passive way that we did against a team like LA, having Bryan playing our first game for us. It’s still crazy. It’s very few times that I had to go to a third goalkeeper in one season. I don’t remember any time doing that. But the year brought us to situations like that, and we have to protect our goalkeeper better, and it’s unfair for Bryan, I’m 100% with him and I hope he can recover fast because there’s another game Sunday.”
On the message at halftime:
“The main thing was we certainly can’t afford to have another half like that. At that point you have to stop the bleeding. At that point, from an attitude standpoint, everything is just elevated. Guys take pride in their performance and pride in making sure we don’t concede goals like that. We sat in a little bit. We had a couple of half-chances, but all-in-all obviously LAFC were far superior on the day.”
On the loss from his perspective as a veteran:
“The first minute of the game is tough. Atuesta makes a really great play from the throw-in where he’s able to come out too easily and switch the ball. In that moment so early in the game, we should have been all over them pressing them high up and he gets out of that too easily. He’s able to switch it, they get a corner, and obviously two very quick set piece goals. You allow LAFC to get in any sort of rhythm, especially here in the Banc of California Stadium, you let them gain confidence in their movements, in their passes, in their forward runs. They were able to find so many pockets of space beyond our midfielders, we had to change shape early on. It’s quick sand, it’s very difficult to stop that and collect yourselves. Obviously at the time it was a young group. I’ve been on the receiving end of that, it’s not easy to play against. At halftime, it was a real gut check for the group. Now you have to look back on it as a humbling experience because we’ve come off two good results, six points. You also have to look at this as three points lost. We’re two points out of the playoff race at the moment. Put it to one side and really think about the goals we conceded and move on very quickly. Like we’ve all seen in 2020, anybody can beat anybody. It’s been happening a lot, there’s been a lot of sort of crazy results and the turnaround for us is now very quick.”
On a humbling match:
“Well it’s a humbling league, and the second you start thinking you’re a really good team and you don’t have to do the little things, and pressure so hard as a group, and keep your lines tight, and be disciplined, then the league will come back and bite you. And obviously that’s what happened. LAFC have shown over the last few years that they’re the top team in this league. Okay, results haven’t gone their way every week this season, but coming here is one of the toughest places to come and you have to have a real awareness that you’re probably not going to have a lot of possession. So much of coming here is about concentration, is about discipline, is about ensuring there’s not a ton of space in between your lines. And look, for us, without a doubt there was some real confidence flowing through our group from the last two results. You cannot forget what got you there and all the fundamentals, the really hard work that went into those two results. Obviously this game got away from us way too quickly those first 15 minutes, and it certainly needs to be a real learning experience for a young group of players.”
“Well, it’s a quick turnaround and you as much as it’s so important to really think about what happened, to watch the film, to go through and analyze the goals, at the same time the way 2020 is set up and the amount of games we have coming in quick succession, you need to be humbled by it very quickly and quickly switch your concentration to Portland, which is going to be another difficult match. You know, without a doubt, take tonight to reflect upon it. Individual performances, what could you have done better in key moments, did you press hard enough, did you run hard enough? It’s the simple things in the game that are so important that need to happen every single match. And then you have to be mature enough to put it to the side, and come back with a real willingness in training on Friday to rectify it, to come back and like I said, understand that it’s three points lost, nothing more than that. [It’s] an experience we certainly don’t want to go through again, and an understanding that we need to get these points back.”
LOS ANGELES FC
Opening remarks, yeah, we started very quickly. Immediately attacked down the left side. Scored some goal off set pieces. A lot of positives. Important for us to have a shutout tonight. Something that we haven’t had for a while, and so hopefully it’s a game that we can build on. But we felt good. There was a lot of moments where the football was sharp, created good chances, and we feel good about that, and now we just keep going. The games continue to come quickly.
Thoughts generally on Bradley Wright-Phillips continuing to move up into the record books:
Yeah, he’s a real goal scorer, just has a way of finding space in the box finish. Ante was a player that if he got any kind of chance on his left foot, he was deadly. Not exactly the same kind of players, but both great strikers, and I know Ante has really enjoyed working with Brad, and we’re excited for him, so that’s a great moment.
Could you talk about Diego and Brian; they kind of make your offence, go, correct?
Diego has been our best player throughout the year. I should say along with Eduard, but we missed Eduard of late and it was great to get him back on the field tonight. But Diego has been super. His ability to step up when we have been without Carlos has been fantastic. He’s grown as a player, a leader, and again, and he Eduard are both taking more and more responsibility. So that’s clear. Brian has been more up and down, but I thought it was a really good night for him, and we’ve had conversations of late, work on the field, just trying to get him sharper, his execution, his timing. He’s a talented player, but I’ve said in the past, there are still times where he wants to go full speed all the time, and so trying to get him to be a little bit better at how he changes his speeds, not so predictable when he tries to dribble. So those were positives, and hopefully we can continue to build on that with Brian.
Now that you have a good win, how do you get that consistency over a stretch of games instead of having kind of one really good game, a couple really bad games and back and forth, that kind of thing?
Yeah, the results at times look bad, and then everybody says they are bad games. Seattle is a very good team. We went there twice, and actually in brother games, we had moments where we played really well. The first game in Seattle, their first goal comes in weird way where it hits Tristan and bounces loose and Diaz as is able to pounce on a ball 30 yards out. Hit one over Kenneth, last game, two penalties in the first half. So when you go through a tough stretch, it just seems like sometimes, no matter what, you do things that hurt yourselves. We’ve made stakes. There’s been some goalkeeping errors and some there’s been too many goals off of set pieces, and those are the things that have gotten in. But the schedule in some of those ways has been challenging. It’s been a strange time since we’re back. We had I think three weeks without a game, and if I remember right, that first game against the Galaxy in the afternoon was — I think that was August 22nd, so here we are a month and a day later. When games come quickly, when there’s this one-day travel, yeah, we just have still not been as sharp as we can be. We’ve had stretches in every game where we feel good but other moment where is we’ve hurt ourselves, so we’ve just got to be more consistent and regain confidence and just keep trying to improve in all areas.
Especially in the first half, your midfield was really controlling the pace of play and controlling all the spaces and finding the right areas. Was that a positional sense for you or number of touches? What were they doing well tonight in the first half?
I mentioned earlier, certainly Eduard helps give our midfield a little bit of an extra level of intelligence and I know that especially for Mark — understanding in terms of when is the ball coming, he trusts that the ball will come at the right time in the right way. That sets him up for his next play, so he can already start looking and thinking about what comes next. So that understanding is really important. And I think Cifu has continued to improve and it’s nice seeing him in the midfield with Mark and with Eduard. So when we get it going, it’s just the fluidity of wait the ball moves. It’s finding the right space. It’s using the right touches. It’s looking forward and finding the right window. So a lot of good football throughout the game from those guys and hopefully we can continue to improve in all these ways. That’s the little bit of sharpness that sometimes you’re trying to play the same football you always play, but you’re just not quite as sharp in certain moments, quite with advantage, quite as sharp in your ability to play out of pressure in the midfield. Those are important things.
You talk about importance of just trying to make sure that Diego was being vocal and maybe some different players on the team. On Atuesta, did you get that sense from him today, having the captain’s armband, and how much he boosts up the midfield? And if the game had unfolded differently, was he fit to go the full 90, or he only played 70 because of the way the game went?
We’re still watching Eduard’s minutes. At around 70 or 75, he felt he was a little tired, and he hasn’t had 90 minutes in a long time. You know, leadership comes in different ways, but throughout this season, there has been a group of guys that have stepped up and taken on more responsibility. Eddie Segura, Diego, Eduard, maybe I’m missing somebody, and Mark. Those four guys have definitely been challenged. So it’s not just about being vocal. It’s about how do you set the standard every day, how do you know how to challenge, encourage, push your teammates. How do you make sure that when guys come in every day — especially during a difficult period, guys are excited to get on the field and guys are excited for training. I’m counting on all those guys. It’s not just about being vocal. It’s about being sharp in training. It’s about making sure the football things we want to do well are there every day, and Eduard is a huge part of that. Certainly when we were in Orlando, we felt that even after we went from, whatever, March — to July without a game, and I still felt that when we got there, the push to play the way we want to play, to control games, to go fast, I thought those things were there. We made some mistakes to give up some goals. I said it before, two times in Orlando, late games, teams equalized, Portland and Orlando offset pieces. But you can see all of those guys taking bigger roles, and so certainly Eduard is a key part of that, and I’ve talked often about Diego. I don’t mention Eddie much because he’s just a steady guy who is there with a good mentality every day, and you know, Mark, also, has worn the captain’s armband this year. So it’s a collective effort to get more leadership from guys.
In the type of scenario where a team is winning 5-0 at halftime, what is said in the locker room? What kind of speech do you give your team? Do you tell them to keep going or slow down a little bit? And my second question is with these type of games, when there is not a lot of goalkeeping participation, what are your thoughts or how can you rate — we know there have been some doubt in goalkeeping?
There’s not much — you see where one ball has come back to him, his ability to make the right choice, right touch, right pass out of the back, and so those are some things we can still look at with him. At halftime, we simply spoke about being a team now that doesn’t all of a sudden get ahead of itself. Just stay sharp. Stay concentrated. Make the right choices, the right plays. It’s not time for guys to start trying things on their own. It’s time to play really good football as a team, control the game, and we really emphasize the importance to get a shutout.
Overall thoughts on the clean sheet:
Yeah, I thought we did really well to bounce back after a tough loss in Seattle. We’re looking to obviously get two wins at home and I thought it was a very good performance from our team collectively. You know, started off well, and didn’t really take our foot off the pedal.
It’s been a little while since you scored in MLS. Tell us about the goal and getting the bonus of getting to score tonight?
Yeah, it obviously feels great to score a goal. I thought Brian played in a great ball and I kind of attacked it. I saw it as a good ball and I was able to get my head on it, and yeah, we’ve kind of continued from there. That wasn’t — didn’t really want to finish there. We decided to continue to play well, keep the ball, keep possession and create more chances from there.
Obviously things are very subjective this year with everything going on. Wondering for you, or perhaps if you could say, the chemistry of the team, do you guy the feel a bit more comfortable? Do you sense it being more comfortable being at home, not fans in the stands, but the travel and schedule have been difficult; do you feel like it’s a sense of relief when you’re finally back in L.A.?
Of course. We love playing at home. Unfortunately we’re not able to play in front of our fans, but I know they are back home cheering us on. It’s a special place to play, and you can tell that we’ve always been a very difficult eam to beat at home, and we just need to continue playing well at home and continue to get wins and move up the table.