Everyone talks about how important it is to hit the playoffs in strong form, carrying that momentum into the postseason. Vancouver Whitecaps certainly seem to be in some of their best form of the season this month, sadly it counts for nothing as their form for the previous six months had already killed their season stone dead.
But let’s not let that take too much off a shine off a fantastic performance in LA on Sunday afternoon as the Whitecaps showed the Galaxy the Mikey way, with a four goal blitz, including a stoppage time winner, that shocked the home side and put a serious dent in their playoff positioning.
The ‘Caps had led the Galaxy three times over the first 86 minutes after goals from Doneil Henry, Theo Bair, and Tosaint Ricketts, but each time they were pegged back as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Uriel Antuna, and Chris Pontius all found the back of the net for LA.
But with the Galaxy pushing for a winner they were caught out by a quick ‘Caps breakaway three minutes into stoppage time, with Michaell Chirinos blasting home his first goal as a Whitecap to seal an unlikely 4-3 victory for Vancouver and round off a truly fantastic all-round team performance.
Marc Dos Santos went for a strange looking line-up, with leading scorer Yordy Reyna not in the traveling squad and Fredy Montero remaining on the bench after his two recent super sub performances, as the ‘Caps coach looked to use the match to take a further look at Tosaint Ricketts and Michaell Chirinos.
It was also a very different looking defence with Jasser Khmiri finally getting his first MLS minutes after undergoing meniscus surgery last November. The Tunisian’s appearance in the middle saw Erik Godoy return to the starting line-up after his own injury, but in the right back position.
Jake Nerwinski was originally pencilled in at left back but had to be taken out of the line-up before kick off after feeling some tightness, and was replaced by the more usual left back option of Brett Levis.
There wasn’t much expected from the Whitecaps from this one even if they had what would be considered their first choice line-up out there, but these seem to be the kind of matches where the ‘Caps pull out a few surprises, and this was certainly one of those.
The ‘Caps came out strong and LA keeper Matt Lampson was forced to scramble away a deflected Bair cross just 34 seconds in, with Ricketts waiting to pounce.
The Galaxy came storming back and Antuna should have put the home side ahead in the 4th minute when he benefitted from a fortunate bounce in the box, but blasted into the side netting when he just had ‘Caps keeper Max Crepeau to beat.
It was an entertaining and competitive match, more than most would have realistically expected and the ‘Caps shocked their hosts by taking the lead 20 minutes in when Henry headed home an Inbeom Hwang corner. It wasn’t pretty and was more of a bundled home effort, but they all count!
20' DONEIL CHARGE!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 30, 2019
It was a lead that was to last just three minutes before the Galaxy levelled things up when Ibrahimovic slotted home a Cristian Pavon cutback.
The question now was whether this would be a case of déjà vu in LA. The ‘Caps had taken the lead at LAFC earlier in the season before being on the wrong end of a shellacking. Were the Galaxy now going to go on and do the same? Had the Whitecaps just made them angry?
Well thoughts of the Whitecaps falling apart were quickly dispelled when Bair crashed an effort off the bar a minute later from a nice volley and the same player dispelled them completely four minutes before half time when he stayed onside to collect a deflected Chirinos through ball and tucked it away with the slightest of touches.
There were hints of offside but not enough for VAR to rule it out and full credit must also go to Ricketts for not taking a touch to make sure it went in, as he would certainly have been flagged for offside.
41' 📞 Call us anytime Theo 📞
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 30, 2019
It was an unexpected half time lead for the ‘Caps and one which made them know that the Galaxy would be coming out all guns blazing to start the second half.
They did and Crepeau was quickly off his line to smother a Pavon effort at his near post just two minutes after the restart.
LA came close to tying things up again in the 56th minute when Efrain Alvarez fired one in but Crepeau got down well to turn the ball away.
Two minutes later though and it was 2-2 and this was one that Crepeau will most likely want back. Jonathan dos Santos played a beautifully lofted ball forward and it fell onto the foot of Antuna who hit a perfect first time lob from the edge of the box over the onrushing Crepeau and into the back of the net.
Again you wondered if the ‘Caps would now cave, but instead they took the game to the Galaxy and went ahead for the third time in the afternoon when Godoy sent in a lovely cross from the right, straight onto the head of Ricketts, who headed home his first as a Whitecap.
64' This is aaaaaaaa nice 👍
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 30, 2019
The Galaxy came within inches of making it all square again when Sebastian Lletget fired one just past the left post in the 72nd minute, and Pavon followed suit two minutes later.
Ibrahimovic then had the ball in the back of the net with 12 minutes remaining but was correctly flagged for being offside.
The Swede headed another effort wide as LA pushed for another equaliser, then with four minutes remaining he got his head onto a long ball and knocked it into the path of substitute Pontius, who did the rest and fired it past Crepeau to make it 3-3 and set up a grandstand finish.
Crepeau pulled off a great reaction save to tip an Ibrahimovic save onto the bar in the 89th minute, but the whistle had blown for a push anyway.
The Galaxy were desperate for all three points as they look to finish second in the Western Conference standings, but as they pushed for the winner they were caught out on a quick Whitecaps breakaway three minutes into stoppage time.
Montero collected a long ball forward and did superbly to play in Hwang. The Korean raced in on goal with just Lampson to beat, and as the LA keeper came out, the ‘Caps midfielder selflessly played the ball to his left for Chirinos to fire the ball into the roof of the net for his first goal as a Whitecap and what proved to be the winner.
Fredy ➡️ Inbeom ➡️ Michaell
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) September 30, 2019
It was a stunning goal and a stunning victory for Vancouver. The kind of performance that just leaves you frustrated as to where this has been for the vast majority of matches. They’ll still be finishing bottom of the West and second worst in MLS overall, but at least there’s been signs of life down the stretch that give Dos Santos something to build upon in the offseason.
As for the Galaxy, the defeat drops them to 4th in the West, still hanging on to a first round home playoff game but looking unlikely to guarantee the second placed finish they were striving for.
There’s one game left for the ‘Caps now. Real Salt Lake head to BC Place next Sunday, guaranteed to finish 5th in the West at worst but still in with a chance of jumping into the playoff spots that would secure them a home game in the first round.
Can the ‘Caps finish the season unbeaten in four? Right now, you wouldn’t actually bet against them.
FINAL SCORE: Los Angeles Galaxy 3 – 4 Vancouver Whitecaps
LOS ANGELES: Matt Lampson; Rolf Feltscher (Chris Pontius 83), Daniel Steres, Diego Polenta, Dave Romney (Jorgen Skjelvik 72); Sebastian Lletget, Jonathan dos Santos, Efrain Alvarez (Joe Corona 66); Uriel Antuna, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Cristian Pavon [Subs Not Used: Justin vom Steeg, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Julian Araujo, Servando Carrasco]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Erik Godoy, Jasser Khmiri, Doneil Henry, Brett Levis (Victor ‘PC’ Giro 46); Inbeom Hwang, Andy Rose, Russell Teibert; Theo Bair (Scott Sutter 72), Tosaint Ricketts (Fredy Montero 65), Michaell Chirinos [Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Jake Nerwinski, Derek Cornelius, Jon Erice]
Possession: LA 59.9% – VAN 40.1%
Shots: LA 17 – VAN 13
Shots on Goal: LA 7 – VAN 7
Saves: LA 3 – VAN 4
Fouls: LA 5 – VAN 6
Offsides: LA 2 – VAN 2
Corners: LA 4 – VAN 2
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the team’s current form:
“I always said that we wanted to build something and we knew that this first season with so many players coming and so many players leaving would be a difficult one but we continue building and hopefully we are going to finish in a good stretch and be positive how we approach the offseason and the preparation for 2020. Now it is difficult what the players are doing I told them after the game mentally to be knocked out, not having a playoff spot and mentally keep going being responsible with their roles fighting it is not easy and that is all credit to them.”
On tonight’s game:
“They are a big team with a lot of history, a game that they had to win because they want to play as many home games as possible in the playoffs, with a lot of quality, a lot of dangerous players, players that are international that play internationally for Mexico, Sweden, Argentina so yes we are aware of that but we came here with a game plan very clear in our heads of what we wanted to do and with the right mentality because a game plan and being tactically aware of something and not having the right approach doesn’t go together. You need to mix both and yeah it was great work from the guys.”
On the team’s game plan:
“I think what we spoke about during the week and what we tried to work on is number one is Jonathan [Dos Santos] has a very big impact in their game, in the build ups so we tried our best with different players to eliminate that and their build up. Then when the ball is wide to make sure that we have numbers to deal with crosses because [Zlatan] Ibrahimović doesn’t need to jump. Ibra just needs to be there and it is already dangerous. Then the runs [Cristian] Pavon coming from the left inside had to be dealt with and I think overall everybody was very aware of their role and knowing what we had to do and what we had to exploit when we won the ball back.”
Thoughts on Jasser Khmiri’s debut:
“You know how I am. I don’t like to speak [about individual players]. I’ll let the people evaluate. Jasser is a player, when we went to get him in Tunisia we had a big belief in him. He’s a player that is spoken a lot about to play for the Tunisian national team. He’s young. Tunisia, for me, is the best national team in Africa. Always at a World Cup, so it’s not like he’s playing or in the books for a weak national team. It’s a strong one. So we know of his qualities. He needs to adapt still to the league. We were very comfortable that his first game in MLS had to be a big one and a very difficult one. In MLS, when you throw in a young player, a new player, you have to make sure that you show him right away what are the dynamics of the league. For him to have his first game against Ibra was a good way to evaluate what he could give us.”
Thoughts on Inbeom Hwang and what he brings to the team:
“He’s special. He’s a player that I believe a lot in. He’s a player that us as a club, we believe in. Inbeom came to a team that is changing a lot. He came into a tough year, but he’s grown much more than many people think. When he arrived less than a year ago, we couldn’t have a conversation. Now we have long conversations in English, so that’s a big step for him and then hopefully it’s going to help him throughout the next stages of his career.”
Where does he fit in best?
“In our way of playing in the 4-3-3, he could play in any spots of the three midfielders. I believe a lot in him, so there’s flushes in many games that he showed his qualities. Maybe today he was incredibly consistent throughout the game. Again he’s a special player with a lot of qualities and that’s why we went to Korea to get him.”
How is he just now physically?
“He’s tired. He’s going through a lot. It’s hard the dynamics of playing in MLS. In MLS there’s already alone a lot of travelling. Vancouver’s one of the teams that travels in a special way and then after that, when there’s an international break and many players rest, he’s taking a plane to Seoul to join the South Korean national team. So all of those dynamics, it’s going to be good for him, the break. After the international break I told them put flip flops on. Go to the beach somewhere and don’t answer your phone. Just relax.”
On having one match left and possibly influencing playoff race:
“It’s in front of our fans that have supported us all the way, even in a in a difficult and bad season, and at the end of the day what I think that we’re showing is a lot of professionalism. We’re all professionals here, the staff, the players, and nobody in the staff or in the players, have had an amateur attitude or a crybaby attitude of now that we’re out, we stop. No. Actually after getting out we continued. We worked on things that we’re not happy with. Everybody’s committed and we’re going to be like that until the last whistle of the season.”
On tonight’s game:
“The guys fought till the last second we scored the goal in the ninetieth minute it was a well-deserved goal. I think the boys really worked hard tonight, I want to congratulate Jasser [Khmiri] on his first ninety-minute appearance for the club I know how mentally tough it is to rehab for that long. I thought that he was really good tonight and that is something to build on for the future.”
On the team’s performance:
“The resiliency of the group shows massive character and perseverance from everybody. Everybody in on the same page, playing or not playing everybody knows they have a role to play and I thought that everybody who played tonight was ready and was focused and really helped this team get all the point tonight.”
On tonight’s game:
“I think it was an exciting match for the people at home, but we came here to get result, we came here to play fearless and go for the win so I’m happy for the guys.”
On settling in with the team:
“Settling quite quickly. The guys have been amazing, the organization, the staff everyone has been fantastic with me. On field there is obviously that period where you have to get that connection with the guys get going. It was nice to get that first goal today and get the account started.”
On Theo Bair’s goal:
“I didn’t know I was offside, but it was going in. I was actually watching highlights of some goals earlier today and I saw a few players letting it go in and I was like that is classy and plus Theo [Blair] deserved it as well so I wasn’t going to intrude by anyways.”
LOS ANGELES GALAXY
GUILLERMO BARROS SCHELOTTO
On the game:
“I think we played so, so. I don’t think we played how I want to play, but in the second half we had more attitude and we could tie the game and then it looked like we were winning the game, but in the last possibility they beat us, and in the last play. I think there is a lot of difference between the teams in this league and you can never get a little time for rest. You have to always play every game 100%, because if not, you can lose. We gave 45 minutes in the first half, and we couldn’t in second half to win the game. We got better in second half; I know I’m maybe disappointed with the result, because I always want to win.”
On the first half performance:
“Sometimes it happens when you get in the playoffs, and you get a game, and it’s not about underestimating Vancouver, just maybe the head is a little down, we are relaxing because we have the playoffs, but we have to keep working because we need to finish in the best position we can. We have to go now to Houston this weekend and try to win, because it’s very important, these three points for us.”
On his decision not to start Joe Corona:
“I talked yesterday with [Joe] Corona. I saw him in the last minute with Montreal, and with Real Salt Lake very tired. Maybe it was a risk to put him on the pitch today as a starter, and Efrain [Alvarez] can give something to us, like good soccer; he has a good foot. So, that is the reason why he wasn’t in, I talked with him yesterday, and he agreed with me.”
On the result today compared to their recent results:
“In recent days we have been really strong, against Montreal and Real Salt Lake. Today maybe it was because we allowed four goals; I think that we have to be stronger in that aspect. Also, we have to look for the equilibrium with the goals we score, and the goals that are scored against us, and it shouldn’t have to be that if they score four on us that we have to score five. We have to try and win games, and have a good defense. A lot of times with the results we have to be patient, we were able to hold off Real Salt Lake really well, until the last ball; the defense did that really well.”
On perhaps risking the game by playing highly offensive towards the end of the game:
“Yes, we risked it. Perhaps in the last 20 minutes we attacked more than we usually do, because we wanted to win and we saw that the other team was defending us more than they were attacking, so we tried it. It looks like in the second half Vancouver changed their attitude a bit, and we tried to play on their side of the field, and we did, but we should have been a bit more attentive on the counter attack, and know how to cut off the play in precise moments.”
On things to change for their upcoming games:
“We are going to continue to work on our defensive play. I think as I have stated before, many times, we know that we are going to score goals, because we have really good player in the attack, but we have to give it security with our defense. We’ll work on that and in all aspects of the game. We have our rival to look forward to, which is Houston, and we’ll try to add up three points, because that’s the only way to finish off in third or second place if Seattle and Minnesota tie.”
On how the game went:
“Very disappointing, this is not what we wanted. We wanted a good ending to the regular season, and it reminds me of the last game last season, but we were not in the playoffs, that is the only difference. It was not a good game from us, totally opposite, a bad game right from the start. We had so many mistakes, we didn’t even deserve to get points from this game.”
On how the LA Galaxy defence was tonight:
“Defense starts from the strikers, we all have a responsibility on the defending part, so if we don’t do good it is everybody who doesn’t do good, we have to do better as a team.”
On the defence from Vancouver:
“We were not effective, it was easy for them to just kick it away and when you are not effective it becomes easier for the opponent. We had some possibilities to put the last ball in the box, but sometimes it doesn’t come in, or it comes in but doesn’t come in good.”
On looking ahead towards Houston:
“We are in the playoffs, so we have another game for the regular season, win or lose, we win we come in a better position, just like we could have today, that is the only difference. And playoffs I think are totally different mindset, away or home, doesn’t matter, the mindset has to be different, there is no reaction until the playoffs, we change the mindset for the playoffs.”
On the lineup going into the Playoffs:
“I think every player has a responsibility, that is why we are a team, so if somebody is missing, someone will fill in and can do the job, so we have confidence in everybody and count on everybody.”
On whether playing at home matters in the Playoffs:
“I don’t know, because here there are no favorites, today people said we should win, we are in a good position, but we lose the game, that is MLS, there is no favorites, away or home anything can happen.”
Are you thinking of the Golden Boot vs. Houston:
“No, I don’t even know how it looks like, I am just trying to help my team win and today was not enough, maybe I should have got more goals to win the game.”
JONATHAN DOS SANTOS
On how frustrating this home loss was:
“Yes, like you said, it’s frustrating. We knew it was important to win this game to position ourselves in the second or third place in the West. I don’t know why this always happens to us against teams that, not to sound disrespectful, aren’t at our level. We were too relaxed. A team like that can’t come and score four goals on us, not to undermine them but we know we have a better team overall. Now we must learn from this. We are in the Playoffs and we know these mistakes can cost you everything in the Playoffs, so we have to learn from this, and we have a lot to play for in Houston.”
On how worrisome this loss is ahead of the Playoffs:
“Of course, it’s worrisome, given it’s the last part of the season. We should have corrected these mistakes a long time ago. We should be a lot more focused. In the end, the Playoffs will be single elimination and you can be out of them because of mistakes like today. We have some time to turn it around, train hard, correct these mistakes and learn from them, which is the most important.”
On how important it will be to close out the regular season on a good note ahead of the Playoffs:
“Like I said, I don’t know what happens to us against these types of teams. They can’t come and score four goals on us, not even in video games, honestly. We know we have a better team and it is small details that in the end, it is details that second or third division teams should be focusing on. I have never seen games that after we score three to tie, they come back and score a fourth, they could have scored five. It’s not normal, but we still have time to fix the mistakes. We have two or three weeks left before the Playoffs and we must be calm. We have to finish off the season strong, with confidence which is very important.”
On how important it is to be able to get that home-field advantage in the Playoffs:
“Yes of course, we would love to be in the second or third place but in the end, I don’t know if it will depend on us without the other team’s results but hopefully things will work out for us for us to host the first Playoff game. I think it’s important to be able to play at home because we can be stronger here. We know that playing on the road is complicated and more so during the Playoffs.”
On what the team did right today despite the loss:
“We never stopped fighting. Towards the end we tied the game and in the end a play in the last-minute cost us the loss. I always saw a team that was hungry for more, that tried to attack and own the game but in the we lost the game because of simple mistakes.”
On how the team is physically ahead of the Playoffs:
“Very good. I think the team is in good shape, it’s true that at the end of the season it’s difficult because you have played a lot of games throughout the year, but the team is strong. I think we showed we all didn’t stop running until the last minute, we kept trying. And I think that’s very important, I think the coaches and Javier Valdecantos did a great job with us during the season and I think that’s why we are good physically now.”
On being named LARS Player of the Year:
“It’s an honor to be named Player of the Year by our Supporters. I think that I have suffered a lot these past two years, specially last year. In the end, this award makes me love this team even more and makes me want to be at this club for many more years with this great family. Now I get to enjoy this award. We know we still have the Playoffs around the corner, and we must be Champions. Our fans deserve it. Thanks to them, the team has never stopped fighting. We have been working very hard to be in the Playoffs and I am very happy because in the end, we owe everything to our fans.”