Report and Reaction: Many Happy Returns! Whitecaps celebrate return to BC Place with win over TFC

Report and Reaction: Many Happy Returns! Whitecaps celebrate return to BC Place with win over TFC

189 days after their home opener, Vancouver Whitecaps returned to BC Place to see off their Canadian rivals Toronto FC 3-2.

Substitute Jake Nerwinski scored the winner and Lucas Cavallini and Michael Baldisimo got their first goals as Whitecaps, while Jonathan Osorio and Alejandro Pozuelo responded for the visitors.

TFC carried the majority of play in the opening 15 minutes creating a few chances including one by Osorio from in close that was deflected by Andy Rose for a corner.

Then, against the run of play, Baldisimo quickly switched the ball to Ali Adnan on the left side. The Iraqi international sent in a cross that bounced on the turf right into the path of a streaking Cavallini who headed the ball for his first goal as a Cap.

The relief for the ‘Caps DP striker was palpable and the hope will now be that he can push on and show what made Vancouver come in for the Canadian international to begin with.

Eight minutes is how long Vancouver’s advantage lasted before Osorio finished a Pozuelo pass with a solid volley.

Hasal was tested and came up with a stop in the 38th minute when Justin Morrow’s sent a shot to the net. The young keeper spilled the effort but lucky for him Ayo Akinola was unable to get his foot to it.

He came up with another stop just before the half, diving through the air to deny a curling shot from Piatti, sending the teams in to the break tied at one.

TFC had a couple of chances in the first ten minutes after the break to take the lead as Piatti hit the post and then Pozuelo had his shot smothered by Hasal.
Soon after the Whitecaps took advantage of a free kick when the initial shot was blocked and deflected right to Baldisimo.

The young Canadian settled the ball down and then delivered a superb strike to the far post past the outstretched hands of Westberg to retake the lead for Vancouver.

It was a stunning first MLS goal for the homegrown star.

About seven minutes later Pozuelo tested Hasal again but the keeper went airborne once more to add to his collection of saves.

However, the Spaniard would not be denied and he finally got one by Hasal in the 71st minute when he was all alone in the box to head the ball in from a Piatti cross.

But the fight and desire missing from Vancouver in their three game road trip out east was in abundance tonight, and the Whitecaps weren’t prepared to settle for a draw.

The ‘Caps responded six minutes later, retaking the lead off a free kick by Adnan when Rose was able to collect the ball and send it back to the middle of the six yard area and Nerwinski was able send it into the net for their third lead of the night and this time it was one they weren’t giving up.

Another massive save by Hasal in the 82nd minute, when he denied Osorio from middle of the box, kept the Whitecaps lead intact, and the remainder of the match, plus seven minutes of injury time, saw the ‘Caps hold on for the win, claiming all three points on home ground for the first time this season.

Joy, relief, and contentment will be the feelings of the night for those of a blue and white persuasion, but also a lot of reality in that despite the three points, there is still a lot that needs to improve.

Although the visitors dominated the match in almost every statistical category, the Whitecaps converted all three of their shots on target while TFC scored on two of their nine shots.

The Whitecaps will return next Sunday to BC Place as Vancouver host Montreal Impact in their penultimate match of the Canadian MLS series.

Was this win a one off or the start of a run? We’ll know in just over a week. For now, let’s just enjoy the victory.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 3 – 2 Toronto FC

ATT: 0

VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Érik Godoy (Jake Nerwinski 46), Andy Rose, Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan; Leonard Owusu, Michael Baldisimo (Ranko Veselinović 90+1), Russell Teibert; David Milinković (Ryan Raposo 70); Theo Bair (Tosaint Ricketts 74), Lucas Cavallini (Cristian Dájome 90) [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Cristián Gutiérrez, Fredy Montero, Patrick Metcalfe]

TORONTO: Quentin Westberg; Auro, Omar González, Laurent Ciman (Chris Mavinga 81), Justin Morrow (Tsubasa Endoh 81); Pablo Piatti, Liam Fraser (Jozy Altidore 63), Marco Delgado, Jonathan Osorio; Alejandro Pozuelo; Ayo Akinola (Nick DeLeon 70) [Substitutes not used: Alex Bono, Eriq Zavaleta, Erickson Gallardo, Griffin Dorsey, Jacob Shaffelburg]

Possession: VAN 34.4% – TOR 65.6%
Shots: VAN 7 – TOR 22
Shots on Goal: VAN 3 – TOR 9
Saves: VAN 7 – TOR 0
Fouls: VAN 11 – TOR 17
Offsides: VAN 1 – TOR 2
Corners: VAN 2 – TOR 8




On the takeaways from this win:

“Now we had some time to work and we had some time to prepare and we had time to have all the guys together. It was a win, a fight and commitment and guys doing things with passion, but it wasn’t very good. It wasn’t very good in some parts of our game. Again, we have to grow with the ball, we have to, if we grow with the ball we’re going to have even more opportunities to score. Defensively, in one-v-one situations, we didn’t close down all the time very well and aggressive. I think the margin to progress is so high. And to do that while you win is important.”

On the feeling of winning:

“I think it was more relief to get the three points and keep working and keep trying to do things in training to better the team. But was it fully joy? No, I think tomorrow we have training. I’m going to work with the group that didn’t play and then other groups can recover and then we have Monday off and then we have four sessions to prepare again. It depends what we want to be about. If we want to be a team that grows, and that wants to have a winning mentality and keep growing as an organization, we have to hold ourselves accountable that it was good three points, good win, good to score, but so much to still work.”

On taking the chances in front of goal:

“We worked a lot during the week. We worked on set play situations, we worked on doing a lot of exercises that would put the guys in front of goal and give confidence to the guys in front of goal and exercises of belief of getting forward, of being pragmatic on the last third. Like our first goal, Ali gets the ball, takes a touch and whips it behind their backline where Cava shows. These are things that we invested during the week. A lot of investment on set plays situation also, where we have our analysts, Luke [Summers] and Andy [Peat] that helped us a lot to read some things in their play. And I think that was very positive. But again, it doesn’t generate enough, we have to work on that. We have to get better, we have to make sure that we grow as a team. I think that the quality that they have is very high, and for you to beat a team like Toronto, you need to finish your chances, the ones you have, and that we did. And you need to make sure that you have resilience, passion, commitment in the moments you have to defend.”

On Michael Baldisimo’s performance today:

“I thought again, bit by bit, he grows but there’s things that in the one-v-one defending when he closes down that I think we could help him. The defensive side of his game, he could grow. On the offensive side of his game, we need to find him more in possession, he needs to show himself more. We could work with him a lot on angles to receive in dangerous parts because he has quality technically, switches the play well, he finds players in forward lines and then he has a good delivery on set play. I’m happy for him because it’s been a lot of work, a lot of frustration for him. Fighting injuries, fighting cramps, fighting to get a chance one day, and we were fair with him. He fought for it, he worked for it, we were fair, he got his chance and I’m very happy he got this goal also.”

On playing at home after so long:

“I think it helps. I think it helps a lot because recovery is different, mentality is different. The fact that you’re able to be home, you’re able to be with your family, you’re able to come to training with a good mindset, and just feel that you’re able to be in a position that you always feel like 100 per cent physically. When you’re on the road, it’s not always the case. It’s not that easy and I think that for sure that helped us today.”

On the partnership of Lucas Cavallini and Theo Bair up top:

“Cava is a player that needs to feel that he is not the only one attracting the attention of centre backs. It’s a player that could grow a lot on his link up play and I think today it was very positive for him. He was able to hold the ball and he was able to play with the midfielders, but he’s a player that is used to another one being another type of reference. The type of runs that Theo tried to do and tried to get in behind and bring a centre back with him to free the space for Cava was important today. I think it’s the first time they played together, apart from moments in training, but they were able to in some moments be a threat or put Toronto in a position that they need to back off, so it was positive. There was positive things, there’s still things to work but for sure that it’s a step forward. Let’s not forget that I think six Canadian players started. Ryan Raposo came in, Tos Ricketts came in, eight from what I could count but I think it’s also positive when you have that for Canada and to see guys getting this chance to play against such a good team, and being able to find a solution to get the three points.”


On his first MLS goal:

“It felt great. It’s something I’ve wanted for a while. I finally got it deservingly. Got it. There’s one in the books for now and now we focus on the next game against Montreal. We have a lot of work to do and with goals comes confidence so I’m hoping we keep going on this track.”

On key to the attack:

“It’s something we practiced a lot this week. We lacked a lot of crosses and stuff like that so obviously me being in the box is a threat so we had to take advantage of that. Something we trained on this week. It’s something we ended up doing today, and luckily we got a goal from it and it’s something we’ve just got to keep doing.”

On his thought process during the goal:

“I saw it coming from the cross. And as soon as a ball came, I just knew I’d have to smash it in the net. It was just a sense of relief but hopefully it’s the first of many.”

On the difference from the road trip:

“Just to find that identity in this team. We lacked that identity on the road trip. Maybe we needed those three games as a wake-up call. We couldn’t afford to lose any more points and we knew today was going to be crucial for that. And we needed to walk out of here with three points, no matter what. So I guess just thinking that we had to win this game, no matter what.”

On areas of improvement:

“We still have a lot to improve. Obviously, today was a really good game from us, a really good performance but the main thing we did today was score goals, not only one, we scored three, so we walk out of here with three points. We have a lot to improve on. I think we need to keep the ball more, it’s something we lack, we give the ball away too easily, we lose the ball easily, and it’s something we need to train on towards these next two games remaining.”

On playing with no fans:

“This is what I live for. This is what I do so with or without fans, this is a passion for me. And that’s how I live my game each day. It’s something I live for. Obviously, not only do I play for myself now, having a family, I play for them as well so it’s a big motivation for me every day.”


On how the win felt:

“It felt great. It feels better to get three points to be honest. You know we’ve been struggling a bit. It’s been tough to get results, you know, to get points. And we came out tonight, we fought hard. There’s still stuff you need to work on obviously but it’s always good to get three points, especially at home.”

On his goal celebration compared to Michael Baldisimo:

“I was already getting stuff from the guys in the locker room about that. I mean what a goal, what a celebration, he showed me. I’ll give it to him, I bow down to him on this one. But I’m really happy that he scored. You know he’s been working hard. I’ve been here for four years, he’s been training with us in and out. And I’ve seen him progress. I’ve seen him get his chance and he’s taken full advantage of it and I’m happy for him.”

On his goal being the biggest of his career so far:

“Yeah, I think it is. It’s my first game-winning goal right. So, you know, it feels good. It was a great ball by Ali [Adnan] to the back post, Andy did a great job to cut it back, and again I was in the right place at the right time. Like I said before, I live in the six now, that’s where I score my goals now, so I was happy to get it to help the team get points.”

On co-leading the team in scoring:

“I’m not going get too ahead of myself here, but yeah you know the beginning of the year Marc pulled Ali and I aside. He said he wants us to be involved more in the offence, and I think you’re seeing that so far this season. I think Ali has a goal and three assists now, I have two goals. So it’s always good to get production from your outside backs because that just adds to the threat you have on offense.”

On no fans at the stadium:

“I’ll be honest, it’s not the same at all. It’s always great to have the fans in the stadium, you feel the atmosphere. You know, it’s funny when I scored, I ran over to the corner, I was like why am I running over to the corner. There’s no fans, but I just didn’t really know what to do. So I went over and celebrated. We know that they’re watching, we know that they’re supporting, and we’re happy to give them something to cheer for and something to look forward to now.”

On breaking the scoring slump and getting a win:

“I think it’s huge. I think it’s big, especially for Lucas [Cavallini] getting his first goal. I know that he’s been frustrated with himself, because I know that he expects more from himself. He’s a great competitor, he wants to help this club, he wants to help this team. And I think him getting on the scoresheet tonight was huge for him and for us as well. And I hope that he can keep this going.”

On building off the win:

“It’s definitely something to build off of, three points at home is always something to build off of. It’s great that we have two more games at home to make the most of this opportunity that we have right now with this homestand. Like I said before, obviously it wasn’t perfect tonight. There were some mistakes there, there’s always things that we can improve on. But ultimately, we’re happy that we got the three points, we’re able to come out with our first game, and beat a very good team, one of the best teams in MLS.”

On the team’s passion and desire:

“After this road trip, as you know, we all know that it was very tough, the results that we got. When we came back, we had a team meeting with the coaches and we had a team meeting just the players. Then we kind of sat down, we said this is where we need to turn it, we need to flip the script now, we need build, and we need to try to get points whenever we can. And I think coming in tonight, getting three points off a very good team, it’s definitely something to build off of, and it’s something that we really needed at this point in time.”

On team finding their identity:

“We’re not one of those teams that’s going to spend a bunch of money on one big time guy. We do have our DPs, but we’re going have to be a team that plays together, that believes together. And it’s got to be one united group that’s going to get us these points.”



How would you assess tonight’s performance?

“I’d say generally from 18 to 18, great. I thought in general we were able to possess and play through them and get into dangerous areas, pin them back pretty well, create a lot of dangerous moments that don’t turn into a dangerous enough chances or make their keeper make saves or turn them into real chances or goals. But I think in terms of our possession, our ability to get into the final third, I think it’s good. But you know games aren’t won between the 18’s. Games are won in the 18-yard boxes. So, we’ve got to, on the attacking side, we’ve got to turn some of this good play into more goals. Having said that, giving up three goals is very difficult to win a game. Very difficult to draw a game. And I think that they had maybe four shots of which we gave up three goals, two of them off of set pieces, or second phase stuff, which is a bit infuriating. They weren’t really able to get much going other than the set pieces that we don’t deal with. The first goal we lose a guy running off the backside. So, my disappointment 100 percent is on the goals that we give up. We’ve gotta be better than that. On the attacking side when you score two goals you should get something out of the game, at least a point. But I still think we have the opportunity to be more lethal in the final action to put more balls away, and to get what ultimately, we should get with all the attacking play we had.

Is it wrong to say you guys are in any kind of slump with the way you’re dominating games?

“No, I think again, I think I said the same thing to the guys that I’m saying to you. I don’t think our performances are bad, but results are based off execution. So, in both games I thought our performances were good. We were, again, in dangerous areas were positions to create goal scoring chances and to score goals. Last game we gave up a goal that we shouldn’t off a set piece, and this game we gave up two on set pieces. I think the first one was off the run, so I think our performances, our ability to create chances, all that is good. So, I’m not too concerned about that stuff. We’ve got to defend better on set pieces. One hundred percent that’s got to be better. Everybody’s got to be committed. Everybody’s got to fulfill their responsibilities. We’ve got to want the ball more than them. If it goes over our head, we’ve got to pick up guys and make sure that the second phase, that we’re getting to the ball, we’re dealing with guys. It’s been a little loose the last two games and against teams that don’t create a lot against you, set pieces become such a vital part of the game.”

What did you think of Pablo Piatti playing the full 90 minutes?

“He was creating the most danger for us on the night. He hit the post a couple of times. When we were in some sort of range to finish, he was the guy who was getting things off. His ability, at times tonight, to create problems for them, darting through space and he was still sharper than everybody else with his movements so we kept him out there Then the second part, we tried to get him over to the left as we were putting numbers in front of the goal, just to use his left foot to try to get some balls in front of the goal.”

Does the team feel a bit snake-bitten?

“Yeah, I think there’s a little bit of frustration. Tonight, I would put a heavier frustration on the goals that we’re giving up.”


When you dominate a game like that, does it make losing more frustrating?

“Yeah for sure it’s frustrating. To dominate a game like that, where we create a lot of chance, to score on two, we probably should have scored on a few others. And to give up so little chances, and then to concede on those ones, it hurts. You know, as far as defensively, collectively it wasn’t good enough on two set pieces. And then in the first half, where we start the game in total control, and them have one attack and score a goal. It’s something we need to correct. When we go back to training, we’ll talk about those things. We will correct them and now we look forward to a very big game on Wednesday.”

What do you guys need to do differently to put more balls in the net?

“We are getting the chances. We are getting into spots. So, you just have to execute. You have to have a little bit more of that killer mentality in front of the net. The goalie also made some good saves, some lucky saves today. We scored two goals and two goals away from home, you know, sometimes that’s enough to give you a win. I think we are creating chances and scored two today. I think maybe more of the emphasis has to be defensively. We can’t let in three goals the way we did. And so, I think more we have to focus more on improving the defense of the set pieces and the transition.”

How did it feel to be captain?

“It’s an honour. I’ve been captain just a couple of times and like I said before it’s always an honour to captain this club. You know it’s not easy to captain this club with the shoes you have to fill with our guy that’s not here. You know he’s done a lot for a club. So for me when I wear that arm band it’s an honour and I just tried to lead, to lead more by example.”

Authored by: Steve Pandher

AFTN Soccer Show co-host and Senior Writer

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