Football’s a game of surprises. Sometimes teams can pull off the shock result no-one is expecting, surprising everyone and upsetting the odds. But enough of East Fife’s fantastic Scottish League Cup win over Premier Division Hearts at Bayview this morning, this is a Vancouver Whitecaps match report and when it comes to the ‘Caps this season, it’s all been too predictable.
But not today.
As Vancouver headed into Minnesota on the back of five straight MLS losses and winless in 10 across all competitions, confidence was very clearly shot. The Loons on the other hand were riding a high, unbeaten in five league matches, with four of those wins. The result seemed inevitable, but you know, football.
Marc Dos Santos needed a reaction from his players after weeks of dismal performances and he got one, of sorts. There were still some serious issues, goalscoring still proves to be a challenge, the midfield is non-existent far too often, but the Whitecaps kept a clean sheet for the first time in league play since May 10th, and earned their first MLS point since June 26th in a battling 0-0 draw.
Small victories, and right now the Whitecaps will grab anything they can in that regard.
Dos Santos has tried pretty much every combination to try and get a response from his team. For this one, it was the good old 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation, with Fredy Montero up top, and Yordy Reyna and Theo Bair in behind him. An attacking set up, meaning very little off the bench in that regard, but the issue remained the same – could the less than exciting midfield three actually move the ball forward? Not really, but the attack at least got some stuff going on their own.
Minnesota came out all guns blazing and came within inches of opening the scoring with just two minutes on the clock when Angelo Rodriguez just couldn’t get his outstretched foot onto a ball to the back post. Any touch would have seen a goal. Maybe this was going to be the day the Whitecaps’ luck changed.
Those thoughts were quickly dispelled when Doneil Henry had to go off injured in the 14th minute after taking a knee to the back. The official reason given was a back contusion. but he definitely seemed to be holding his hamstring again, so hopefully that also hasn’t been aggravated.
And the Whitecaps lack of luck was compounded five minutes later when Ali Adnan’s free kick into the Loons box was deflected off the bar by Rodriguez and then cleared.
19' Inches away!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) July 28, 2019
Minnesota keeper Vito Mannone still hadn’t had a save to make, and he didn’t until collecting a easy effort from Theo Bair in first half stoppage time. Neither though did Max Crepeau, who still hadn’t by half time.
The home side had dominated the play but weren’t really producing much danger from it, with a Darwin Quintero effort off the post in the closing minutes of the half and a cross from him just eluding Miguel Ibarra the closest they came.
Still in it at the half was likely the best most Whitecaps fans would have been hoping for, and finally a positive in this testing period.
The second half provided some more, with the ‘Caps firing three long range efforts at Mannone as they looked to be the only team able to create any chances.
But Minnesota reminded Vancouver of their danger in the 73rd minute, and should have taken the lead when the ball came to Mason Toye in front of goal, but the substitute fired wildly over.
It hadn’t been the most exciting half you’ll see this season, but the Whitecaps have been on the wrong end of enough of those in recent matches, but the final 10 minutes are always going to be a lot more frantic.
Minnesota tried to turn up the pressure, appealing for a handball on Russell Teibert in the box. Waved away, they kept pushing and an Ike Opara header looped off the bar moments later.
You were expecting more but the Whitecaps defence coped with everything quite easily. Quintero had a stoppage time chance saved by Crepeau, but Minnesota will look back on this and feel it was a wasted opportunity to grab the win.
For Vancouver, let’s not get carried away. This was nowhere near a performance that would have you believe a late table run is on the cards. But, defensively at least, this looked more like an actual team and not a mish mash of players with no real idea.
It wasn’t pretty at times, but it stops the rot slightly. The losing streak has become a winless streak. Getting something out of Cincinnati next week could maybe make us say an undefeated one. That’s the stage we’re at right now, grabbing at straws and looking for any signs of hope. After the doom and gloom of recent weeks, a weekend of that is at least a refreshing change.
FINAL SCORE: Minnesota United 0 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
MINNESOTA: Vito Mannone; Romain Matanire, Ike Opara, Michael Boxall, Chase Gasper; Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso, Ethan Finlay (Abu Danladi 66), Darwin Quintero, Miguel Ibarra; Angelo Rodriguez (Mason Toye 66) [Subs Not Used: Bobby Shuttleworth, Brent Kallman, Lawrence Olum, Rasmus Schuller, Hassani Dotson]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Jake Nerwinski, Doneil Henry (Erik Godoy 14), Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan; Felipe Martins, Inbeom Hwang, Russell Teibert; Yordy Reyna, Theo Bair (Lucas Venuto 73), Fredy Montero (Brett Levis 80) [Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Scott Sutter, Jon Erice, Andy Rose]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On if it’s fair to say tonight was a much better performance for the team:
“The performance of who we really are. From the month of May, the month of June, the identity that we were building in the team, but then we had lost that in July for different reasons and we had to regain it. I feel that today, we regained that part of our game against a very good team, and against a team that has grown a lot in two years. Their staff has done a great job, in a great and very tough environment. They have a great future as a club, and we responded well for sure.”
On if he was happy with the maturity shown by his team today in a hostile environment:
“Yeah, it’s very hard after the month of July we had, and after the hard loss Wednesday it emotionally leaves a lot of scars, and you ask for a reaction and you ask for a commitment. The guys answered, and everybody answered as a team, and that’s very positive. When we do things as a team, we’re able to be in every game.”
On if he was happy with the balance of the team tonight:
“Yeah I think that the chances we got when we were able to exploit in counterattack situations with some of there chances and react, that was very positive. Like you said, defensively we were a very organized team and we didn’t give a lot away, but they always looked dangerous when a guy like Quintero gets the ball or a guy like Metanire puts a cross in and there’s Toye, Danladi, and Quintero in. You need to be able to keep a high level of concentration in the box, but I think our guys did a very good job and were very committed tonight.”
On if the team kept a good rhythm after Erik Godoy subbed in for an injury:
“Yeah, between Doneil [Henry], Derek [Cornelius], and Erik [Godoy] they’ve all played in this team and they’re all ready to come in. We wanted to give Erik a rest, but unfortunately he got a rest of ten minutes, but he was ready. Mentally he was ready, he came in, he helped the team, and that’s football.”
On if not having a midweek game this coming week will really help this team to be able to prepare for their next match:
“Yeah for sure. For you to improve a team you have to train it. You have to train dynamics, you have to train principles, you can’t do it if you don’t train. This is a good moment for us to get reorganized.”
On the team’s performance:
“Yeah, for sure. We came together and put on a great performance.”
On getting results on the road:
“It feels amazing, especially after the run that we’ve had recently. I think that this can be a turning point for us and I think everyone in there feels really good.”
On balance of offense and defense:
“Yeah, I think that we found our balance between attacking and defending. We got plenty of balls up forward, maybe not the cleanest chances ever but I think we’re moving towards something.”
On if he’s feeling more comfortable at the MLS level:
“Yeah, every game gets better and every half gets better. It’s just a matter of time.”
On how to keep grinding out points on the road:
“Stay focused during the week, keep that same mentality that we have. Grind, grind, grind and stay together and be compact. Do what we can.”
On if the team responded well following recent games:
“Yeah, I mean finally we got out of the slump. We finally got back, not necessarily to our right ways because we’re still looking for a win, but yeah it’s good to start getting back points.”
On if the team showed a lot of maturity tonight playing in a hostile environment:
“I think yeah, I think it was a full team performance. Everyone worked their socks off, everyone was all in together. We’re all frustrated about the situation that we’re in right now, and we’re all before the game saying that we gotta just go our there as a team and give our best and that whatever happens happens, and today we were able to get the draw and just start going the right way.”
On if he felt the team kept a good rhythm the full 90 minutes despite injuries:
“Yeah, I mean we’ve played together all year long, whether it’s training or preseason, so I think the partnerships between all the center backs are pretty comfortable. We play to our own style, no matter who’s in or who’s out, we have our own style of play so it’s not a big if someone goes down and we gotta switch and put someone else in.”
On if the team had a good balance tonight:
“Yeah, the stats we don’t really think about, the game just goes on as it is. If we concede a lot of crosses, the team is always prepared to defend it. Offensively I think we’re a lot more dangerous compared to previous games, so I think this is definitely a game to build on. There’s more we still want to be better at, but this is definitely a step in the right direction.”
On if not having a midweek game this week will help the team prepare more for their next match:
“For sure, I think everyone’s looking forward to getting a full week to prepare, because with three games in a week there’s not much time to prepare for the next team coming up. It’s kind of just game after game after game. Now we get a full week and now we can kind of relax after our flight tomorrow, then we’re right back at it again on Monday.”
Thoughts on the game and dropping two points at home:
“We spoke about it in the week. This was going to be one of them games and I was worried about it. But the things that I was worried about didn’t come to fruition this evening. The energy from the players was terrific. The only thing lacking was the final ball in the final third. What did we have, 30 crosses? 37 crosses? I can’t remember the last time I was involved in a team that got 37 crosses off and probably didn’t get on the end of more than two or three. That’s an issue.”
On failing to break down the Whitecaps:
“We knew they’d set up and try to take away the middle of the pitch and we said let’s switch the play. I thought we did really well in that in spells, but we never really had the great killer ball in. Darwin [Quintero] put a great ball in that bounced through the six-yard box first half and I expect somebody to be on the end of that. That wasn’t to be.”
On subs adding some spark:
“They [Mason Toye and Abu Danladi] gave us some energy, which we thought one of them might produce something. I don’t know if he was offside, but Mason had the chance, didn’t he, after the little knockdown from Miggy. They’ve earned their opportunity, they’ve been training well. Especially Mason, you know, he scored seven goals recently. It is what it is, we’ll go again.”
On still taking positives from the game:
“I thought we had excellent preventative marking when we were attacking so much. Vito’s [Mattone] had a save second half but first half, I don’t think he had a save to make. We were pleased with a lot of aspects of our play. Our ball movement, circulation — at times — was excellent. Just the final third we couldn’t pick a pass tonight. It’s another point towards where we’re going to try to get to and I’ve been doing this too long to look down at a point. Points are important and it’s another clean sheet and we’ll go again next week.”