Vancouver Whitecaps are a team full of surprises. Put them up against a side you expect a comfortable win from and they blow the points. Put out a B line-up against one of the top teams in the league this season and they show fantastic spirit and resilience to claim a late point.
The latter was on display at Yankee Stadium on Saturday evening as Erik Hurtado hit an equaliser three minutes from time to claim a huge point for a makeshift Whitecaps side against New York City FC.
Nicolas Mezquida had fired Vancouver into a 22nd minute lead against the run of the play with a fantastic solo effort, before the ‘Caps two lapses in a New York minute either side of half time allowed Jesus Medina to tie things up just before the interval and Valentin Castellanos put the home side ahead just after.
But the ‘Caps never gave up, and NYC were punished for not putting their depleted visitors away when Hurtado struck an excellent finish to earn what could be a huge point in Vancouver’s playoff push.
As expected, with the focus firmly on Wednesday’s Canadian Championship final it was mass rotation time in New York, with seven changes from the side that started last week’s win against Minnesota. Some were forced with suspensions and injuries, while others were rested for the big midweek clash.
Let’s be honest, it was a line-up that didn’t inspire a lot of confidence in many, but we saw last year in Dallas that Vancouver can send their fringe guys into difficult places and get the job done. If may not have been all three points they took away this time, but it was certainly job done.
The ‘Caps got an early idea of how tough the night was going to be for them just five minutes in when Stefan Marinovic pulled off a fantastic sprawling save to keep out a Jo Inge Berget header, with Aly Ghazal coolly backheeling the danger clear.
5' huge save and clearance by Stef and Aly!
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 5, 2018
New York City were certainly looking the more dangerous team, wasting a couple of half chances, but Yankee Stadium, and if we’re being honest a lot of us watching at home in Vancouver, were stunned when a quick breakaway saw the ‘Caps take the lead in the 22nd minute.
Mezquida collected the ball inside his own half and was allowed to run in unchallenged on goal before firing low into the bottom left corner. A wonderful individual goal from the Uruguayan.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 5, 2018
The goal only meant one thing – even more pressure was on the way from the New Yorkers, and the ‘Caps defence was certainly going to be tested.
The home side nearly capitalized on a Whitecaps giveaway in the 34th minute, with Ismael Tajouri-Shradi streaking up the left wing before firing into the side netting.
NYC, and Tajouri-Shradi, came even closer to restoring parity six minutes later, but the Libyan’s bicycle kick hit the top of the bar and over, as Vancouver breathed another sigh of relief.
With the game in first half stoppage time, and just when you thought the Whitecaps had put in a tremendous defensive effort to go in with the lead, Medina brought the home side back level with a lovely bit of skill in the box, pulling the ball towards his favoured foot, before drilling it through the legs of Marinovic.
Absolutely gutting for the Whitecaps to give one up so late in the half, and you feared a second half onslaught was about to fall upon them.
And they didn’t have to wait long, 44 seconds in fact, before they were trailing for the first time in the match.
Maxi Moralez sent the ball forward, Berget streaked onto it and into the box, leaving Ghazal in his wake, before centering for Castellanos to poke it away on his MLS debut.
— New York City FC (@NYCFC) August 5, 2018
A nightmare start to the half for the ‘Caps and a huge task ahead of them now.
Moralez came close with a couple of chances as the home side looked to turn the screw, but couldn’t quite find the killer touch.
NYC were having a lot of success in playing corners out to the edge of the box, clearly studying Vancouver’s record of giving up goals from there this season, and Alex Ring curled a lovely effort inches past the ‘Caps right post around the hour mark.
But despite firing off shots and having nearly three quarters of the possession, the makeshift Whitecaps were still very much in this one, and subbing on Alphonso Davies and Yordy Reyna certainly gave them some hope of sneaking something, and gave the impression that Robinson felt they could get it.
And Davies nearly did just that in the 84th minute when his fierce strike from outside the box forced NYC keeper Stuver to turn the ball around for a corner.
The ‘Caps clearly felt they could still come away with something from the match and they were right. Three minutes later and things were all square once more when Brek Shea sent a perfect deep ball to the back of the box, right onto the foot of Hurtado, who first timed it into the net. What a goal.
87' @Etado19 pulling off some late-game drama!
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 5, 2018
But the Whitecaps weren’t finished yet and Shea nearly claimed all three points, rattling his last minute free kick off the bar.
There were a couple of nervy moments in stoppage time, and it was disappointing to see Vancouver just kill off time instead of trying to whip in one of the late free kicks they won, but it’s hard to argue with much when you go to a team that’s unbeaten at home, play a weakened side, are out shot 22 to 8, out possessed 73% to 27%, and still come away with a point.
It wasn’t all flowers and sunshine though. Anthony Blondell and Bernie Ibini were poor again and it’s getting harder and harder to justify their salaries, and the overall quality of the ‘Caps defensive and midfield depth is certainly questionable.
But let’s save those gripes for the podcast. For now, this is an unexpected point and as two huge Canadian Championship games against Toronto and a Cascadian derby against Portland await in the next week and a half, this result should give the Whitecaps a massive boost for the tough task still facing them to make this season some sort of success.
FINAL SCORE: New York City FC 2 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
NEW YORK: Brad Stuver; Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ronald Matarrita; Alexander Ring, Maximiliano Moralez, Jesus Medina; Valentin Castellanos (Kwame Awuah 65), Jo Inge Berget (Jonathan Lewis 75), Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Ben Sweat 82) [Subs Not Used: Jeff Caldwell, Sebastien Ibeagha, Rodney Wallace, Thomas McNamara,]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; Sean Franklin, Aly Ghazal, Aaron Maund, Brett Levis (Yordy Reyna 69); Bernie Ibini (Alphonso Davies 54), Russell Teibert, Felipe, Brek Shea; Nicolas Mezquida, Anthony Blondell (Erik Hurtado 46) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Cristian Techera, Marcel de Jong, David Norman Jr]
On pulling out a draw…
“The boys are happy. I think when you look at the big picture, I love that group in there – I really love them boys. When they play like that and perform like that and give me absolutely everything – that’s the reason why I love these boys. If you had known the travel schedule we had and the day before our game – a training day yesterday, we weren’t able to be on the training pitch – we trained down by the PATH station, and they produced a charactered performance like that. I’m so proud of them, I love them to bits.”
On seeing the squad depth come into play tonight…
“Very important. Two center backs, I changed both full backs – Jake [Nerwinski]’s got an injury with his hamstring. [Aaron] Maund was excellent, Alphonso [Davies] has dropped into that role for me, so there was always rotation going to be done in this game because we’re up against Toronto [in upcoming Canadian Championship]. Alphonso [Davies] comes on and he was tired – you could see the effects of a long week for him. You got to give credit to Erik [Hurtado] as well because he’s been really, really patient throughout this year, he hasn’t complained. He’s gotten with his business, he’s got a super finish and he’s put himself right into the shop window now for me.”
On this draw producing momentum going forward…
“[NYCFC]’s a good as team as we have played. They move the ball very well. Tactically, they’re very smart. I think we limited them in the first half and then they made the adjustments in the second half, which causes problems. When that happens and you’re away from home, you got to hang in there. We saw last week when we scored three against Minnesota and were flying, they hung in there and they got one goal, it went to 3-2 and then it went 4-2 [us]. Today was similar. We were under caution a little bit, we defended for our lives like you need to do. They’re a really good passing team because they’ve got really good players. The two goals we gave away were two bad goals. The first, just before halftime, was poor defending. The second one, we caught under it, the Berget run behind our center back – it was a good goal for them but it’s a bad goal from us. Start of the second half, we didn’t go under – the boys continued to go. While we were only one goal behind, we’ll create a chance because of the players we got.”
On Stefan Marinovic’s performance today…
“I think that whenever you play, you have to be in the zone. I said to you my players give everything every week. Sometimes you say they don’t and they do. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it isn’t. Stef[an] was terrific today, but from Stef[an] all the way down to the three substitutes, they were all terrific. It was probably one of [Marinovic]’s best games because I’ve missed him too much this year.”
On coming off the bench and scoring at Yankee Stadium…
“Honestly, I was just doing my job. It’s good to come on the road and get a point. We’re fighting for points right now and every point at the end of the season is going to count.”
On tonight’s game plan…
“I mean, we had 18 players so we had all the players we needed. We came here and we wanted to get behind the counterattack, but we also wanted to defend well as a team.”
On scoring the equalizing goal…
“We got the ball and Brek [Shea] got great delivery and he put the ball right on a platform for me and I was wide open and put it in.”
On tonight’s game giving the team confidence…
“We have two wins already in a row, so this just makes it three games undefeated. We have confidence in the team, so we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”
NEW YORK CITY FC
Why starting a player that just came to the team (Castellanos)?
“Starting a player on his first week is not unusual. This is a matter of quality. They ask me why I sometimes start an 18-year-old player and that is because he has more quality than a 30-year-old. [Castellanos] trained with his former team for 15 days, he came and trained well and for the way we wanted to play today he was ideal. From the day you sign a player, he becomes part of the team, if you think this player can help you out go ahead. If he is lacking rhythm, then we will wait a little bit. But to me it doesn’t matter if he arrived days before.”
Does he think the team lacked luck or talent today?
“I think the second half we came out and we played better. We had plenty of chances, but we missed the opportunity to secure the match… we did not deserve to tie the game, but we were also unable to score more goals.”
When will David Villa be back?
“If nothing happens, David will be back for the next game.”
On if the result of the Atlanta United match change your game plan or formations in any way..
“I saw the game. We prepared the game against Vancouver. We wanted to play 4-3-3 and nothing changed. When you play football, it doesn’t depend on the result (of other matches). We want to play with five attacking players, with Jesus [Medina], Maxi, Tati [Castellanos], Jo [Inge Berget, Ismael [Tajouri-Shrad]i. I think in 20 minutes we played really well but after that it was the same the last three games.
On Castellanos’ and Stuver’s first starts with NYCFC…
“I’m very happy for him [Castellanos] because to arrive here, in fact, he trained 15 days in Uruguay and five days with us [NYCFC], especially the last two days he was amazing in the training session. When I decided to play with him, he has quality to play on the left side/right side, even the striker. I think he’s a player that will help us a lot. I’m very happy for Brad. I think Vancouver had a few chances and I think Brad was good, especially when we had the ball. He [has confidence in himself and the team as well. I’m very happy, I think we have two good goalkeepers right now. It’s important for us with the injured players, not just Sean [Johnson], every single player is important for us but the performance about Brad for me was good.”
On whether he was surprised to be in tonight’s Starting XI…
“I’m happy to be here and I’m happy for the opportunity that my coach and teammates gave me to be part of the Starting XI. It’s a little bittersweet that I happened to start for a match that ended up as a tie, but I’ll just keep on working and keep on getting better.”
On previously knowing Coach Domènec Torrent…
“I met him in Manchester and it was a pleasure to work with him there and being able to work with him here is a gift. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity and connecting with this very hard working and intelligent coach.”
On tonight’s goal…
“It was a great opportunity. Special thanks to my teammates because they kept feeding me balls, kept feeding me in the same direction that I ended up with the goal. Still a little bittersweet, but I’m especially thankful for the opportunity my teammates gave me as well and I’m very happy to have debuted with a goal.”
On defining tonight’s experience…
“First off, I’ve never been here to New York, so just stepping foot on this field was great. It’s a great field, it’s a great stadium, the atmosphere was tremendous. I’m very thankful for the fans that came out today to support the club.”
On the first goal given up…
“We were recovering. They had numbers up on us and we were kind of retreating. I think as a group, we retreated too far, let them get to the top of the 18 and once he gets to shooting range I think we just need to step – and it starts with me communicating and just overall, it’s something we can fix for next time and it’s a good learning moment for all of us. He had a free shot from the top of the 18, he hit it really clean, I just tried to stay big for as big as possible and try and read it, but in that moment, I’m just trying to stay true and I’m not trying to guess and go the other way.”
On his first start for NYCFC…
“It was good. I actually feel comfortable in Yankee Stadium. One of my only other regular season starts was here as well. But it was good, the guys were great, training with them – there’s no learning curve with these guys. Just hop right in and whatever happens, happens.”
On the second goal given up…
“They made three key subs. They brought on Alphonso Davies, Yordy Reyna and [Erik] Hurtado. All three of them brought in some quality and pace at that stage of the game. It’s very difficult for us to change because they weren’t really pressing in the first half, then all of a sudden they put in the three speedsters and everything changes. They’re pressing every ball, they’re going after everything. It kind of looked like we were shell-shocked by the speed for a second. It happens but at the end of the day we just need to bounce back.”
On preparing for Alphonso Davies…
“[The news of his contract] is great for the league. It’s great for players, especially players here that are developed here, that are homegrown and go on to Europe for that bit of money. It doesn’t change anything for us. He’s a quality player, he has some tremendous pace and some special qualities but you look around this locker room and there’s players with special qualities as well. You just take it in, you know what he’s capable of and you just prepare like any other game. Just go in and know how to shut him down, if you can.”
On if NYCFC treated this match differently knowing Vancouver’s state in the standings, injuries, suspensions, etc…
“MLS is crazy. Anyone can win on any given day and we know that. You have to prepare as if it’s the MLS Cup Final every game and we went in the right mentality, we were creating a lot of chances. We just got burned in two moments, but we’ll get ready for Toronto.”
On his impressions of the opponent…
“We knew Vancouver would play this way. They stopped our attacks and they always counter attack and that is how they scored the first goal… but now we have to continue working and keep moving forward.”
On the first game for Castellanos…
“It was a great game for him. 60 minutes where he kept a good intensity he scored a goal and this is great for him to start building more self-confidence. I’m very happy for him and his performance tonight.”
On his thoughts on playing in the midfield
“I feel good. For a while when I was younger I played in that position and I like it. I feel comfortable as much as I do playing in the wing. I think I did a good job.”
On only gaining one point…
“We always play to win, we always want to gain all three points but today we tied so now it’s time to lift up our heads. We need to work hard during the week to correct what happened today.”
Thoughts on Valentin…
“Very good, it’s very difficult to adjust to a different type of field, but from the first day we felt a connection with him. He’s an excellent player and now he has a goal, that is important for his happiness and attitude towards the next game.”
On the late goal from Vancouver…
“I haven’t seen the goal, but I think it was our fault to let them have the ball and we had to defend but that’s soccer. They only have to get there once and it went in and that’s why we let 2 points slip away. Now it’s time to think of the next game and not make the same mistakes again, other than the mistakes we did it was a good game and we need to have confidence for the next match.”