Sometimes the matches you’re least looking forward to are the ones that serve up the most entertainment, and that was certainly the case in Vancouver Whitecaps’ visit to New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night.
Tired, depleted, and with rotation in the offing, I didn’t expect much at all heading into this one. I certainly didn’t expect a highly entertaining end to end four-goal encounter, but that’s exactly what we got from two makeshift line-ups.
Vancouver’s Scott Sutter and New York’s Brian White exchanged first half goals, before an unfortunate Andy Rose own goal gave the Red Bulls a 55th minute lead. But a Fredy Montero penalty, awarded for a handball after a video review, fired the Whitecaps back level.
Add in Luis Robles picking Felipe’s pocket, amongst a number of strong saves, and near non-stop end to end, and this was one of the most enjoyable ‘Caps games of the season so far. Not to mention an impressive and possibly valuable point taken in the process.
The Whitecaps preparation for this one was far from ideal. An already draining fourth match in 13 days was made worse by the ‘Caps flight from Kansas City being cancelled yesterday, forcing them to charter and get into their New Jersey hotel after 2am.
Marc Dos Santos went with a 5-4-1 formation, making six changes to the starting line-up from the draw in KC, handing Brett Levis his first start of 2019 on the wing and having a clear focus on Saturday Western Conference clash with FC Dallas at BC Place.
New York went with a young starting line-up, making a number of changes themselves, including several homegrown players, and it was the home side that had the best of the early chances, with Derrick Etienne firing just past the far post after a quick Red Bulls counter in the 11th minute.
Joaquin Ardaiz, getting the start as the lone striker up top for Vancouver, was causing a few problems for the New York defenders with his bustling style and as he powered towards goal in the 17th minute, Connor Lade just got a foot on the ball to knock it away as the Uruguayan was about to get off a shot on goal.
And it was Ardaiz’s hard work that saw the ‘Caps take the lead on the half hour mark. Powering past his man once again, he hit the byeline and his attempted pass to Levis was deflected into the path of Sutter, who blasted high into the next from a tight angle at the back post.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 23, 2019
A fantastic finish and a somewhat unexpected lead for the visitors.
New York nearly got themselves back level two minutes later when Kaku turned superbly at the near post and sent a shot that looked destined for the back of the net, only to see Erik Godoy make a fantastic clearance off the goalline.
Erik Godoy 😲😲
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 23, 2019
The Red Bulls weren’t to be denied though and did tie it up in the 37th minute when Brian White flicked a header over PC on the goalline, after getting onto another header from Amro Tarek from 12 yards out.
New York pushed for the goal ahead goal for the rest of the half, but Vancouver held on and the teams headed in at the break tied at one apiece.
Vancouver went for a change at the half, bringing Fredy Montero on for Levis and switching to a two up front formation.
Etienne should have done better for the Red Bulls three minutes after the restart when some hesitation between MacMath and Godoy nearly let him nip in, before the ‘Caps keeper collected.
Vancouver should have retaken the lead on a quick 53rd minute counter. Ardaiz sparked a 3-on-2 break, playing in PC, who lofted a wonderful ball to Felipe and the former Red Bull man could only look on in disbelief as Luis Robles got down to his header and turned it away off the goalline and post.
It was a surprisingly open and end to end game and it took a moment of misfortune from Rose to give the Red Bulls the lead in the 55th minute, turning a low Brian White ball across goal past MacMath and into his own net.
We'll take it!!!
— New York Red Bulls (@NewYorkRedBulls) May 23, 2019
Unlucky for Rose and the Whitecaps, and coming moments after Felipe’s chance, but the Englishman almost made immediate amends heading an Ali Adnan corner goalwards, but Robles pulled off another fantastic goalline save to keep the home side’s lead intact.
Vancouver kept pressing though and were handed a lifeline by a familiar foe – VAR. Sean Nealis, who was having a less than stellar night at the back for New York, was adjudged to have handed in the box after video review. Montero stepped up and buried the spot kick, sending Robles the wrong way to make it 2-2 with half an hour to play.
Cool as you like.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 23, 2019
The game continued to swing from end to end and Ardaiz forced another save from Robles after shaking off Nealis in the box. But it was to be his last action of the match after tweaking something on the shot and he was replaced by Lucas Venuto.
The action and pace finally took a bit of a dip in the closing stages, with only half chances created by either side down in the closing minutes.
The Whitecaps almost snatched the victory in the closing seconds of stoppage time when Venuto broke on a one-on-one counter. Robles again kept the ‘Caps at bay with a sprawling save, and Hwang couldn’t get the rebound past the Red Bulls defenders that then packed the box.
With no more goals, Vancouver held on to a secure a fantastic, and well deserved, point. They’ll probably feel they should have taken all three and they could have. But after a travel day from hell and missing some key starters, the fighting spirit and overall performance will delight Dos Santos and give this Whitecaps team a massive boost.
There’s little rest for the ‘Caps. They now head home to face FC Dallas on Saturday afternoon, flying out at 6.30 on Thursday morning. They’ll be tired but they need to recover quickly against a Western Conference rival. If they show the same fighting spirit, they’ll be fine.
FINAL SCORE: New York Red Bulls Vancouver Whitecaps
NEW YORK: Luis Robles; Connor Lade, Sean Nealis, Amro Tarek, Kyle Duncan; Omir Fernandez, Cristian Casseres Jr, Derrick Etienne (Daniel Royer 71), Alejandro Romero Gamarra “Kaku”, Alex Muyl (Sean Davis 71); Brian White (Tom Barlow 80) [Subs Not Used: Ryan Meara, Kemar Lawrence, Michael Murillo, Mathias Jørgensen]
VANCOUVER: Zach MacMath; Scott Sutter, Erik Godoy, Andy Rose, Ali Adnan; Brett Levis (Fredy Montero 46), Felipe Martins, Jon Erice, Victor “PC” Giro (Inbeom Hwang 62); Joaquin Ardaiz (Lucas Venuto 71) [Subs Not Used: Maxime Crepeau, Jake Nerwinski, Russell Teibert, Theo Bair]
Possession: VAN 36.6% – NY 63.4%
Shots: VAN 13 – NY 18
Shots on Goal: VAN 7 – NY 3
Saves: VAN 1 – NY 5
Fouls: VAN 12 – NY 15
Offsides: VAN 1 – NY 5
Corners: VAN 6 – NY 9
Duels won: VAN 46 – NY 56
Tackles won: VAN 10 – NY 11
MARC DOS SANTOS
Considering the late arrival and the struggles in travel, I would imagine you are thrilled with a point here?
Yeah, it’s an important one. If we just look at the game, it’s one thing, but then we accumulate that in the last ten days, Portland or Atlanta home, Kansas City, now in New York, it’s difficult. It’s four very good teams that demanded a lot from us physically. Considering everything, we’re happy with the point, but the positive thing that we are going to take, really, is our approach coming in in the second half. Our first half, we suffered a lot.
We were a little bit against the ropes. We were like in a boxing game and you decide to get punched a little bit, and you give the last punch at the end and that was a difficult time for us, a lot of pressure that was put on us from the Red Bulls where we were able to exploit something that we believe could be a weakness and in transition we got a goal. In the second half, I think it was a much more balanced game between two good teams, we were able to tie the game and in the game, I think Robles makes a good save, and he made key saves for them, and the game stayed 2-2.
What was it that you exploited?
Their pressure is very aggressive. You know, they have this way of being that they are all-in and their offensive marking is aggressive. So we wanted to exploit the spacing behind using Ardaiz, or in the second half, also Montero and Venuto. We were able to exploit that and it’s something that we knew when we play against a team that’s so aggressive in their pressure, and the center back out smarts the opponents, well, we have to be smart exploiting that.
We did a little bit too much of it, but part of it was to play some long balls behind them, yes. The other part is the one we had a very difficult time doing, breaking their lines through possession, that was a little bit better in the second half.
On the danger of Vancouver’s counter attack
We wanted to use it much more than any other game because of being against a team that is so aggressive in their pressure, and we had a couple of situations that were very dangerous. You know, you need to be, I believe as a coach and as a team, you need to have your own identity, but you also need to be smart in a way that you know what the opponent gives you and then after you adjust your identity and play towards the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent.
On Joaquin Ardaiz’s performance
Joaquin still needs to find consistency in the game. It was good to have him out there. He attacked a lot the space and behind, but inside the game, he has moments that are very inconsistent and when he’s on, when the good moments are on, he could be very dangerous, powerful, and very dangerous attacking the space and behind. But then when the moments that are low and this connects with the team, it’s very low. So we need to work with him in that part.
On the few decisions that haven’t gone Vancouver’s way this year
Well, I have people around me that always tell me that it tends to balance out. I didn’t believe in that because, you know, we were in a part that we were. It’s impossible to have so many VAR calls, but I just rewatched it, and it is a penalty shot, a fair one, and it’s a good call from the ref.
The team in general, you’ve gotten some results, new team, new coach, everything. Are you content with the progress you’ve seen and how far along is everything?
Look, we don’t live, thank God, me, the staff, we don’t live in Twitter land and Facebook land, I don’t know what’s going on there. So for us, inside, we all believe in the process. We feel that every single game, if you go and watch every result, it’s all 1-1, 2-2, 0-0, 1-0, 2-1. We’re in every single game. We believe in the process. We believe in our group and we are staying the course.
At the end of the day, it’s what happens after the 34 games. That’s where people could actually analyze everything. Do I feel growth? Every day. Every day I feel we’re going in the right direction. Do I want more? Absolutely yes. It’s not enough. I want more and I want this team to improve, and we know where we have to improve and move forward.
With all of these games, are you learning something about your team having to do all the squad rotation you’ve had to do?
I’m learning from MLS, also, because USL was a little more breaks. It’s been aggressive and I’m learning about it, and maybe I’m learning about depth at the roster and learning about making sure other players are options. That, I’m learning a lot. But what I learned from the group is guys, if you would have spent the day with us yesterday, you would have never believed that we get out of here with points. It was a day of almost 24 hours from 7 a.m. to going to bed almost at 4:00. So I’m learning about mentality, character, approach, guys fighting together, guys believing in the process, believing in the project, that’s what I’m learning from our guys.
Talking with Chris [Armas] yesterday, the topic of you guys both coming from Bob Bradley came up and I just was curious when you see from him that he took from Bob, and then what have you taken and how you guys are maybe similar and how you’re different?
Chris for me is, first thing, a great man. So I know he’s going to win a lot. He’s a good person, a good man and he knows what he wants, and those traits are in Bob. Then he has the aggressiveness and courage that Bob has. I see that. But at the end of the day, they are not clones, you know, Bob has a lot of great and fantastic qualities, Chris, also, and it’s good that in soccer, we are all different and we learn from each other and we move on.
Back to back games off the bench for Inbeom, is the travel affected him?
Look, since March of 2018 to now, he’s been close to 60 games. In the middle of that travel, Asian Cup, dealing a new contract, a new club, friendlies, adapting to a new culture. So much happened quickly, and while the guys after the Toronto game are going to have four days off, Inbeom is taking a plane to play with his national team, so he doesn’t have a break, and I have to find the best moment to do that, and probably he’s going to stay home after the South Korea game. I’m going to give him four days to stay home and I just want to help him recover, because now it’s everything so condensed, and we have to protect him as a player. That’s what we’re doing.
On tonight’s game
We are super happy. Trust me. We deserved to win tonight. We had the better chances to win the game but we are happy with one point after what we deal with travel, with the waiting and getting to the hotel super late. This is a huge point.
On the impact of yesterday’s travel
We are building a team with the mentality that no matter who is on the field has to be connected and has to be committed to help in any way they can. For us, it’s about going there, uniting, fighting for each other and we know that we have enough players to fight again. Today, we proved it. In the circumstances we were in, we came into the game with the positive mentality and we walk away with one point.
On VAR going in favour of Vancouver
Thank god. Finally, we got a positive one. We got one for us and we deserve it. Obviously, they reacted the way for the referee to check it out and I had the opportunity to score.
On tactical changes
It’s definitely a positive if we can switch throughout games, depending on the opposition and the players we have available to switch from formations, is definitely a strength. I think that is something we can do more going forward. I think in the first half, we were pinned back a little bit too much. It took us a while to get into the game, especially against their press that they are so well known for. The second half was a lot better. We had a lot of chances and [New York Red Bulls’ Luis] Robles made a few exceptional saves in the end. We couldn’t get the win but we are happy with a point, especially after everything shown.
On first goal of the game
It was a counter-attack. We need that because the way they press, that they are suspect to counter-attacks. That was an area we were looking to exploit. We did it a couple of times and would have liked to have done in more but we did it that one time really well. Joaquin [Ardaiz] did an excellent job on the side, getting the ball in and I was kind of lagging on the back post and closed my eyes and hit it
On next game versus FC Dallas
Big game for sure. Let’s hope the flight isn’t as long as it was getting here. We’ll be in the best frame of mind for it and we are going into that game with the idea of winning it.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
Seemed a weird, uneven game where the first half, you had them under a lot of pressure. They seemed maybe fortunate to not go into halftime with a deficit, and in the second half, it seemed like they — I don’t know if they changed their tactics a little bit, but they seemed to force you under pressure with their counter. They seemed very dangerous on counters.
How you’re describing it is exactly how it went, and for us, it was. That was the case in both halves; that it was going to be transition, and we knew that going in. So knowing that a team is going to sit back, four in the back, we suspected and we saw them play five in the back recently, so we knew that structurally, what it could look like, but tactically, that they would plug up spaces and yeah, try to catch us on the counterattack, which they did throughout the game.
So in nights like that, in games like that, going into it to know exactly the play and it’s a game plan for that, and then meet the demands of that, right, which takes discipline. It takes discipline when you know exactly what it is and now can you execute. Listen, we probed all night long. I thought if we stuck to it even more, attacking flanks, getting guys on the move, challenging their back line, it’s going to take some guys making plays. It’s about quality of the run, quality of the ball, is it pull it back, so you don’t set up a counter-cross, reframing the box. There’s a lot of little details that go into that that we work through and talk through, prepare for. We thought it was going to be there for us when we saw at start of the game. And credit them. They made some plays and made it hard for us. Made it hard for us.
On the last play of the game, did you have too many players forward to give up that counter, or was someone in the wrong position or what happened there?
Yeah, look, we try to be aggressive in general. So on set pieces, it’s why we are among the leaders of goal scoring because we commit a lot forward, and we are looking at Kyle on the play, and he was the last guy back and we’re saying, be careful. They didn’t have anyone up initially, but it quickly transitioned. So it’s how we design our set pieces but then it has to be quick transition to recover or counter press the ball. So yeah, listen, I would say I’d have to look at the way we have it exactly structured on the play or in our spots, but our guys are pushing. We’re trying to get the game winner, and we had to put out a big fire at the end there.
Obviously you guys have done a great job throughout the many years that you’ve drafted or the academy, did it look to you at times like Sean Nealis looked like, or should I say that Vancouver kind of focused themselves to try to get him. Did he seem to struggle at all tonight in your mind?
Well, the first thing I have to say about Sean Nealis is we put a big demand on him. We knew it physically, it was a quick turnaround for him. We knew that going in that that would be a challenge. That’s why a lot of the guys got the night off. So the starting point, yeah, and then seven backs on our team, generally get put into difficult situations, transition moments, big spaces to deal with, clever attackers.
So that’s just not easy. So, of course, we say the defenders get judged for their bad plays, right, so he putts out 20, 30, 40 fires tonight on plays that he does well on, maybe a couple slip. But he’s such a — he’s a young player, but he gives a lot. So we’ll always look and try to learn from it, and he is — that’s why he’s out there. He’s got courage and he’s growing quickly. But then, you know, should it be a yellow card early? That puts him in a tough spot, too. Listen, we’re happy with Sean. We’re happy with him and we put a lot on him and we thought, yeah, it wasn’t our best night as a team, all of us. He’s going to be a good player for us.
Can you talk about the first half
A team like Vancouver, they defend well and they are comfortable in a deep, deep block and crowding their — even you look at the way that they defend free kicks, a wide free kick, there are a lot of teams in the world, they sit at the top — they put everyone in the box. They are very comfortable attacking the ball, not getting turned around, attacking the ball, and yeah, so now when we get into those wide areas, we knew that they gave up seven penalties this year. That’s a lot. You often go a whole season without that many, so we’re asking, be aggressive. We don’t have to just cross the ball, think about the timing of the runs, the quality of the ball.
So yeah, there’s a lot that goes into getting clear looks. The way Brian scores a header, it’s a lot of traffic, you have to almost make a play; can you anticipate. And for me, it’s you’ve got to keep at it. A lot of time, when you watch the Man City’s of the world, you think it’s never coming, but it always comes because they stick to it and you can make a play. It’s quality that oftentimes, yeah, there might be a certain decision or an extra touch or taking a touch.
Listen, I’ve said before and I’ll say it again now that games like that, I think are going to help us. We’ll take a hard look and we’ll get those reps. We’re going to see that again.
This was a game where you guys seemed to control possession, first half, certainly. What is your general reaction to it right now? Are you — is there a promise from your perspective, because you seemed to get unlucky with a penalty kick goal on one play, or is it frustration because Franco — maybe you can create a lot of chances what’s your perspective right now?
I think my perspective is that, yeah, we knew we would be a challenge. Said it before the game that they make it hard, they will. We knew that. But the perspective, we try to create a perspective from our guys to get excited for this. You don’t always have the ball pushing to use back, but now, were we in control or were they in control, right, they are very comfortable, with us having it, and they can catch us. At some point, I must say, this is perfect, perfectly executed. The game plan is working right and we’re saying, you know, we can do better.
So now, again, when you have — when the night’s going to set up like that, games now, how good can you be at moving the ball, moving the opponent, is it sideways, is it bringing them out. Is it really running hard in moments, recognizing, here is a big chance out wide; a 1B1, putting you on your heels, or is it a 2B1 and can you get the timing right. That’s a fun challenge. You can hear — can we get some chips with guys running behind us, all the scenarios we work on and talk through. It’s there. I saw the guys trying. We tried. It’s just easier said than done. I don’t know if we had 20 shots tonight or so I think. Yeah, I think it could have been 30 shots, if we really can stick more to it.
Are you satisfied with the amount of time that he had the ball or should the team have been looking for him a little bit more?
I didn’t think about that. It wasn’t going to be a nice that Kaku could get a lot of space essentially. It wasn’t going to set it up. It was going to be about the quality of his touches and can he make a few plays with what he has. It’s just not a night where there’s going to be a lot of space where he operates. I actually thought he found the game, and he setup a bunch of really good plays and I thought his set pieces were very good and I thought he maintained a real control on the night. He found good situations. You look at the pass he gives Kyle Duncan at the end, it’s right there. That’s what you ask from your play-maker, right.
Be disciplined, stay up the field, let the game come to you a bit and now understand how to set guys up and make guys around you better. It was good to see his sharpness keep getting there and he gives a lot to the team. So yeah, we think he was — we were happy with his performance.
Has he seen the ball enough? Are other players finding him as much as you’d like him to?
Yeah, I think in what the game presented, you’ve got to take what the game gives at times. I think we found him as much as we could. You might find one time where he comes for the ball and a guy sees something different. We always look for him, so that’s part of our — of how we try to unlock teams, find Kaku, he can make final plays.
On needing to stay consistent even during long stretches
It’s easy to get up for those games or Atlanta, LA Galaxy, big time teams on the weekend. It’s a lot harder mentally to regroup and do it again, midweek. And that’s part of the learning process because if you look at it on the field Brian White, second year Pro. Omir Fernandez first year pro Sean Nealis first year pro Kyle Duncan second year Pro, I could go through and for the most part, outside of Sean Davis who came on late, Alex Muyl. Derrick, there’s not a ton of guys even Kaku second year in this league, there’s not a ton of guys who really understand what’s required to get results midweek because it really is about the mentality. It really is about how you approach the game and how you’re able to regroup under 72 hours and do it again. And the teams that have done very well and won Supporter Shield’s for this organization. And they figure that out.
That’s part of playing this league and if you look at the schedule it’s not getting any easier right because of the scheduling change in the season being done at the beginning of October, you look at the congestion in the summer and we’re going to have a lot of these. But, as I said, those are younger guys and they’re going to learn, and they have very high ceiling so I am very optimistic with that. But tonight’s, it’s a great experience right and I don’t want to go as far as saying as a failure but it’s very evident that this organization values, the whole roster, and we feel that we can put anyone on and play the game that we want and when we play the game we want, there’s a very good chance, especially at home that we can win. And it didn’t go that way tonight So, the good thing I guess is that we did get a point, and it’s a valuable experience for all those players and they’ll grow their grow because they’re the type of players that that we’re confident that they will I mean they have to it’s part of necessity.
On motivating the young defenders like Sean Nealis
just keep working, he’s got a great mentality and you use the word mistakes and, of course, someone can label it that but the way I see is it’s just learning opportunities, and we have a lot of confidence in Sean. As you can see, he’s had some great games, and he’s playing in a new system, new tactics, new league. And as long as he continues to keep his head down and work, value learning, and constantly self evaluating and improving. He’s got a big future.
On if there’s been an emphasis on improved wide play and to be better with crosses over the course of the season?
The emphasis here is always the game plan. And part of the game plan today was to be patient, to attack the flanks and if there’s time and space get into the box, because they’ve conceded 7 PKs this year. They’re not the most agile when it comes to defending one v one. And I haven’t seen the stat sheet, but I can’t even imagine how many crosses we had in there outside the 18. And one thing that’s very frustrating, at least from my vantage point is there’s time and space. So the very thing that we spoke about, that was part of our game plan we didn’t do and to me, that’s the frustrating part.
On the halftime adjustments and how Kyle Duncan has been playing
No, he just told them to switch. I’m not entirely sure why just said that they switch and Kyle. I mean, I was I was just telling Kyle today I’m so proud of him. And this is a guy that I met last year, the beginning of 2018, we’re starting to get together as a team before preseason started. And Jesse texted me and said hey, there’s this is a number to this guy were bringing him in on trial, reach out to him and, and so he came to sofive, we’re training, we’re just doing interceptions. And right away, you can see that this guy has talent, and to see the way that he’s developed to see the way that this organization is believed in cultivated talent. Now it’s manifested in a call up to the U23s and I’m just proud of him. I’m proud to be his teammate. And, and I keep harping on him. And all the younger guys have that have that white collar expectation, like you’re a white collar talent, but you have to have a blue collar mentality of coming to work every single day and improving and improving, improving. And if he does that, and the other young guys do that, then not only will this organization benefit, but in their own personal journey as a professional, they’re going to be able to reap those rewards as well.
On reading the ball on the first goal
Yeah you know I just trying to stay alive in the box and think of anything that kind of falls to me because to me and you know Amro headed right at me I just wanted to flick it on, redirect in case anyone was on the line and it ultimately worked out.
On starting Sunday and then going back out there tonight
Yeah, you know when any of the time we played a big game against Atlanta you know you want to kind of keep that same energy level you know we brought put a lot into that especially going down to man early so we wanted to bring that same kind of intensity to this game. I don’t think we did that unfortunately. But you know we got to learn from that and try and bring the same energy we brought to Atlanta every game
On him and others filling in for the injured Bradley Wright-Phillips
Yeah, I mean they are big shoes to fill right you know, I don’t think any of us are really filling shoes out completely you know, we’re doing the best we can and you know each of us have a little bit different kind of style of play that’s unique to us and I think what’s most important is that we stay true to who we are but also learn from mistakes and learn from what Brad tells us because ultimately he’s one of the best goal scorers this league has seen it he’s a great mentor to have and I think we’re all just trying to you know, soak everything in as a sponge and learn from the best we can and put that in our own game.
On the short week and heading into Cincinnati
Oh, yeah, that’s going to be a good game for us. You know, there stadium is hard to play in a lot of fans and it’s an away game after just playing now we have to recoup quickly and prepare for that game. So yeah, it would be tough, but we’re you know, we got to get up for the challenge and do the best we can hopefully come home with three points.