Barring a bizarre set of circumstances and a Vancouver Whitecaps goalfest, the ‘Caps headed into their penultimate game of the season at new boys Los Angeles FC knowing that their season was over. All that was left was pride and, for some, perhaps playing for a new contract under a new coach next season.
For LAFC, a first round bye, to go with their other inaugural season records, was firmly on their minds, and when Diego Rossi fired them into a two goal lead in the first 15 minutes, they looked in a good position to stake a claim to it.
But then the pride and fight that Russell Teibert promised we would see finally came to the fore and a first half penalty from Yordy Reyna and a second half rifle from Jordon Mutch gave the Whitecaps what had looked like a highly unlikely share of the spoils.
The ‘Caps deserve immense credit for fighting back, but sadly it’s too little too late and their playoff hopes were officially ended with the draw.
It didn’t take long for LA to get off and running. Five minutes in fact, when Rossi played a nice one-two with Carlos Vela on the edge of the box, running on to the return pass and firing past Stefan Marinovic.
Vela nearly doubled LA’s lead in the 12th minute, when he had time to compose himself and fire off a cracker that cannoned off the ‘Caps crossbar.
That just delayed the inevitable and three minutes later Rossi grabbed his, and LAFC’s, second when Marinovic saved his shot but it parried off the post and into the net.
A long afternoon already felt in store now for the Whitecaps, but Russell Teibert had promised this was a team that would not give up again, and to their immense credit they didn’t and were thrown a lifeline in the 21st minute when Benny Feilhaber brought Alphonso Davies down in the box and Reyna stepped up to send Tyler Miller the wrong way from the penalty spot and make it a 2-1 game from out of nowhere.
Yordy Reyna scores his sixth of the season.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) October 21, 2018
Reyna almost tied things up just before the half hour mark when he curled a nice shot from the edge of the box inches past the right post.
That was pretty much it for the first half goal threats, and the second started in much the same way, with both teams creating some half chances without really threatening to add to the scoreline.
Both sides made substitutions around the hour mark and it was Vancouver’s that reaped the dividends first when Mutch shocked the home crowd by firing the Whitecaps level in the 65th minute after some great build up play by Davies.
The young Canadian weaved his way through the LA defence, losing the ball, only to win it back and play a neat backheel to Erik Hurtado, who in turn set up Mutch and the Englishman rifled home the equaliser from 25 yards out, although Tyler Miller should have done better in the LA goal.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 21, 2018
One of LA’s subs, Latif Blessing, brought a save out of Marinovic as the home side pushed to get back ahead, before Rossi flashed one past the post with 12 minutes remaining.
LAFC pushed for the winner, while Vancouver hoped for something on the counter. Nothing was to happen for either side and a 2-2 final was not what the home side had hoped for, or expected, after their quick fire start. They now head to Sporting Kansas City next weekend in a match which will decide who finishes first place in the West, and which could very likely knock one of the teams out of getting a first round bye.
For Vancouver, it was great to see the fighting spirit and to grab a point, but it’s also frustrating at what this team is capable of doing when they play to their strengths. Too little, too late, and a disappointing season thankfully will come to an end and put us all out of our misery next Sunday with a home Cascadian derby with Portland. Is there still some more fight left in the side? Let’s hope so.
FINAL SCORE: Los Angeles FC 2 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
LOS ANGELES: Tyler Miller; Steven Beitashour, Danilo Silva, Walker Zimmerman, Jordan Harvey; Benny Feilhaber (Eduard Atuesta 60), Lee Nguyen, Carlos Vela; Aaron Kovar (Latif Blessing 60), Adama Diomande (Andre Horta 80), Diego Rossi [Subs Not Used: Luis Lopez, Dejan Jakovic, Joao Moutinho, Marco Urena]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Doneil Henry, Brett Levis; Aly Ghazal, Alphonso Davies, Russell Teibert, Yordy Reyna (Jordon Mutch 61), Brek Shea; Erik Hurtado (Anthony Blondell 70) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Sean Franklin, Aaron Maund, Felipe, Nicolas Mezquida]
Overall thoughts on tonight’s game
“I think they proved this afternoon what kind of team they are. It could easily have gone under after the first 12 to 15 minutes and they fought back. They set the line a little bit deeper out of possessions, I think we started frustrating LA. Obviously we got the goal with some individual magic, and again, in the second half we were in control, we didn’t really concede anything on goal. They had a lot of outside the box shots, a lot of crosses that were easily blocked, and the boys thought there were a couple of chances late on where we should have won it, so I’m really proud of the boys.”
Alphonso Davies’ performance
“[Alphonso Davies] dropped the line a little bit deeper, we started getting 10 yards inside their half and dropped it 10 yards deeper which means he’s got to work that much harder. We challenged him to work a little bit harder when the ball passed him out of possession so he had to do a lot of coverage and filling spaces and therefore, he started from a deeper position. He’s got some real quality and it was on display tonight.”
General thoughts on the game
“Yeah, it was a tough game here. LA are a good team. You can see the way they play out there. They make it difficult for you. As you know, they’ve got world class players. It was a difficult afternoon. But, saying that, I thought we did well to stick in the game and come back from 2-0 down. To get that goal before halftime, obviously it gives us a chance. We’ve nicked a point out of the game, so it’s pleasing.”
Adjustments after going 2-0 down
“I think we sat a little deeper. We didn’t give them too much space to play through us. We kept them on the outside of us, which helped. They still had a few chances and they could’ve scored, but we just looked a bit tighter and not as open as we were in the first 30 minutes.”
Mindset on your role as a sub
“I just enjoy playing football. It’s obviously disappointing. I want to start every game, but even playing 15 or 30 minutes, I enjoy playing football. When I’m on the pitch, I want to give it my all.”
“It was a complicated game. Getting two goals scored on is difficult. We were make it into a positive game for us. We wanted to tie the game because we don’t want to lose especially for our families that are there.
Adjustments going down two goals
“We just needed to score and take our chances because in the beginning it was difficult with their qualities. They have top players that made top decisions. Sometimes in the end that makes a huge difference. “
Team goals that they are no longer in playoffs
“Finish well. We want to win the last game in our house. We’ll see what happens next year but hopefully we can win next week to go into the offseason calm.”
LOS ANGELES FC
Overall thoughts on tonight’s game
“For me it’s a bad tie, it’s two points that we let get away. We’ve done it before this year, if you do it late in the year, obviously it feels worse. We got to still make sure that within the group there’s a real sense of optimism because we still get the chance to go to Kansas City next week and win the conference. There’s everything to play for in the last week of the season and that will determine how the playoffs work. I thought when we got to 2-0, there was a feeling for me that they thought the rest would be easy. The number one thing when you play Vancouver is transition so even at times when they’re very deep, Alphonso Davies, sometimes [Yordy] Reyna, these are guys that can just take the ball and run. That was what we talked about beforehand but we let that play turn into a penalty, we had chances after that to go to 3-1 in the first -half, started off the second-half in a pretty good way, but still, we need to be a little bit sharper with the final part of it, that’s football. Latif makes a really good effort to win a ball but we end up turning it over again, and [Jordon Mutch] smacks it, it’s hit well, I’m sure it’s moving, and I think probably Tyler [Miller] can do better, so it’s a combination of all those things. And then late in the game it’s the same, can you make a play when it counts? Late in the game, I thought we didn’t do a good enough job of finding the right windows, the right passes. I remember one where made some decent football and pushed Steven Beitashour to the right and he chose to play the ball right across the front. It was a little late, maybe that’s one where Lee [Nguyen] is coming just behind the penalty spot. So there’s a lot of little football things for me on a day like today that made the difference. I think that we’re a good team but we’re looking for a little more consistency when it really counts to become a great team and we get a chance to finish strong next week and when it’s all said and done, see what that means for playoffs.”
Defending in tonight’s game
“We obviously talked about transition before the game and I wouldn’t call it an adjustment but what we did better was that we were more aggressive to push up faster and the first player around the ball when you lose it is the key. You’re not looking for that player to win it but you’re looking for that player to put enough pressure so that others can come together and then you take care of the problem there and you don’t have to run 80 yards to put out an emergency. I think we spoke about that at halftime. You do it in different ways, in some moments Benny [Feilhaber] is your deepest midfielder and certain plays he can push up a little higher so that he’s closer to the first guy when you lose the ball. The way you organize yourselves behind the ball when you go forward and then your decisions when you have the ball, those are the things that go hand in hand with handling transition. If you’re always spread out on the field and you make bad decisions, you lose balls in all the wrong places and everybody’s spread out, then the game just goes back and forth and it’s wild and that certainly isn’t the way we want to play. I think there were some moments like that late and that’s not a good thing.”
On having to play high pressure defensively
“Ideally, you can stop those long runs with our positioning and our counter pressing. It’s something we work on in training every week that Bob (Bradley) continues to talk to us about. Anytime that you have to run 60- or 70-yards tracking players, especially in the heat, it takes it out of you. Anytime we can just stop it from the beginning, it saves a lot, and we can be more productive when we get the ball.”
Thoughts on your connection with Aaron Kovar
“We’ve been in this formation for three games now. We’ve got quality players that can play multiple positions. I don’t think it’s anything that guys are uncomfortable with. With (Aaron) Kovar in front of me, I think he does a fantastic job. I think his work rate is unbelievable. He brings a different side as far as his positioning and defensive work rate. I love playing with (Aaron) Kovar. I love playing with most of the guys in front of me, but it’s something that (Aaron) Kovar brings that’s different. It’s just that work rate – that defensive tenacity. He’s going to bring it every game. That ball he played across to Diego (Rossi) is something he’s worked on from preseason until now, and he’s really excelled in it.”
Team chemistry among the forwards
“We know each other and we try to create good plays. We try to play fast and pass well. We’ve played many matches together and we have gotten know each other a lot better each game. We pretty much what each player is going to do. Our chemistry has improved.”
On trying for the third goal
“We were trying the whole match to get that third one. We had many chances to get it and win the game. We definitely had our chances.