What are we calling this one? The Amazing Avaya Miracle? The Stunner in San Jose? Or will we be referring to this match at the one that turned Vancouver Whitecaps season on its head?
We need to wait several weeks to go with the latter, but there was certainly a fighting comeback for the ‘Caps in San Jose on Saturday night, and a much needed one with the playoff hopes hanging in the balance after trailing by two at the half to the team with the worst record in MLS this season.
Three goals in a stunning nine minute second half spell from Yordy Reyna, Cristian Techera, and Kei Kamara saw the Whitecaps storm back, holding off a late Quakes onslaught to come away with what could be three huge points come the end of the season. But the nature of the victory should give everyone at the club a massive momentum boost.
Carl Robinson went with the best available line-up for this one, making a couple of changes from last week’s 2-2 draw with New York Red Bulls. Marcel de Jong came in for Brett Levis, with Russell Teibert staying in the midfield after a strong second half showing as sub last week.
The hope was that this would somehow miraculously solidify a shaky sievelike Whitecaps defence. Would it? Well we got an early answer. Seven minutes in to be exact.
That’s how long it took for the Whitecaps to fall behind and once again it was down to inept defending.
Nick Lima whipped a ball into the box from the right, which was poorly headed clear by Aaron Maund straight to Jahmir Hyka at the edge of the box. The Albanian had all the time in the world to compose himself and as three Whitecaps players went to ground for the block, Hyka hit it just a tad higher to fly over them, past Stefan Marinovic, and into the net.
A terrible start for the ‘Caps and it got worse 11 minutes later.
De Jong clumsily brought down Danny Hoesen in the box, but referee Baldomero Toledo initially awarded a free kick just outside. Replays showed it clearly inside and the call was reversed via video review. Magnus Eriksson stepped up to coolly fire home the spot kick and the ‘Caps were in a whole heap of trouble.
Vancouver seriously upped the tempo, but it was a wide open game, with both teams playing counter attacking style football, and you felt the next goal could come from either side.
The ‘Caps huffed and puffed, but their delivery was poor and they couldn’t really carve out any clear cut chances and headed in to the break two down and seemingly out of ideas and hope.
As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth, but I don’t think even the most optimistic member of the #OptimistsUnion could have seen the Whitecaps second half comeback coming.
The ‘Caps started strongly, forcing a couple of saves from Quakes keeper Andrew Tarbell. You knew it was a whole different game with one ‘Caps goal, we just didn’t know how much.
That goal came a minute before the hour mark, when Reyna hit a 20 yard free kick through the wall. Tarbell seemed to have got down to save it but the ball somehow flew up and over him and into the net.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 26, 2018
The comeback was on. Two minutes later it was complete, and from out of nowhere, the Whitecaps were back on level terms.
Kamara streaked up the pitch on another ‘Caps counter, playing the ball through to Techera in the box. The Bug did fantastically well to cut the ball back, losing the sliding Guram Kashia, giving the Uruguayan lots to time to pick his spot and fire home Vancouver’s second to tie things up.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 26, 2018
A miraculous comeback the previous hour had played out, but a draw wasn’t going to be enough for the Whitecaps to keep their playoff hopes alive. They needed three this week and three next week against the worst team in all of MLS.
The second goal brought boos and chants for Chris Wondolowski to come on, and the Whitecaps were looking a far different animal now, as the action flowed from end to end, and the most likely team to grab the winner.
It came in the 68th minute as Reyna got on to a long ball forward, drew all the attention, and then centred for Kamara to easily tap into an empty net from three yards out.
Kei Kamara for the lead…….
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) August 26, 2018
WHAT. A. COMEBACK.
Stunning, but there was still a lot of the match left to play and neither defence had covered themselves in glory so far.
San Jose were clearly angry and frustrated at giving up their lead and threw everything at Vancouver in the closing minutes, forcing a number of manic goalmouth scrambles, including an acrobatic clearance from Alphonso Davies, who had moved into the left back role.
The ‘Caps were soaking it all up and as six minutes of stoppage time was signalled, substitute Erik Hurtado bore in on goal, forcing another strong save from Tarbell.
Vancouver saw out stoppage time fairly easily, and the final whistle brought jubilant scenes from the pitch and bench.
You can’t undervalue both what taking three points and coming back like this does for the ‘Caps, or rather, what it should do. Going back to BC Place and not coming away with another three next week against San Jose undoes it all. The squad should be buzzing but they have to build on it. This is just three of the 15 to 18 you feel the need to make the postseason.
The victory still sees them below the playoff line, but they’re one point off a faltering LA Galaxy with a game in hand. There’s eight game left and we need to see this second half Whitecaps side in them. Anything less, and it’s simply not going to be good enough.
FINAL SCORE: San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 3 Vancouver Whitecaps
ATT: 16,326 (no, seriously!)
SAN JOSE: Anthony Tarbell; Nick Lima, Guram Kashia, Florian Jungwirth, Joel Qwiberg (Dominic Oduro 82); Magnus Eriksson (Chris Wondolowski 69), Anibal Godoy, Luis Felipe Fernandes, Jahmir Hyka (Christopher Wehan 65), Valeri Qazaishvili [Subs Not Used: Matt Bersano, Jimmy Ockford, Yeferson Quintana, Jackson Yueill]
VANCOUVER; Stefan Marinovic; Jake Nerwinski, Kendall Waston, Aaron Maund, Marcel de Jong (Nicolas Mezquida 56); Cristian Techera, Russell Teibert, Felipe Martins (Aly Ghazal 55), Alphonso Davies; Yordy Reyna, Kei Kamara (Erik Hurtado 72) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Sean Franklin, Efrain Juarez, Anthony Blondell]
On if the Earthquakes were complacent in the second half:
“Well, I’ll speak about my group. Obviously Mikael [Stahre], at halftime it was probably a perfect game plan for him. You know, sometimes mangers don’t play the game, the players play the game. 2-0 is a horrible score line. We’ve been here before, we’ve been two goals up and you know sometimes you have to do the basic fundamentals and hang on. We got into our groove. We got a goal with Jordy’s free kick and you sense the confidence rise and three goals in nine minutes shows how dangerous we can be on the road as well. We’re really pleased. Obviously I’m sure [Stahre] will be disappointed in there but they played really well in the first 25 minutes. They deservedly were two goals ahead but it was probably an entertaining game for a neutral if there were any neutrals out there.”
On if he thought the team was suffering after three early yellow cards in the second half:
“No, I thought we were soft in those first 20 minutes, they won every second ball. Goals usually comes down to a mistake or people switching off or not winning your battles. I thought they won every second ball, they won every header, they wanted it more and that is a big concern. No team of mine wants to be outfought and outbattled as you call it. So that’s what I said at halftime. I don’t mind losing the game, but you don’t go under and you don’t give in and you don’t be soft. We’re in professional sports, we’re in big boy world so you have to roll your sleeves up and fight. And we did fight, we showed a little bit of fight, subs made a big impact in the game. You know at 2-0, you’re gambling, trying to throw a forward on and we tweaked it slightly with [Nicolas Mezquida] coming on with the energy and then Aly and Erik coming on as well. Kei had a tight hamstring but sometimes you get them right and sometime you don’t.”
On the reasoning for taking off Marcel de Jong:
“I don’t think Marcel had one of his better games, to be fair. He’ll be the first to accept that but we were 2-0 down so we were trying to be proactive, putting Alphonso Davies on, whose a left-winger, putting Nico on, whose an attacker and obviously switching Yordy out wider allowed us to get another attacker on while we were 2-0 down. I’m sure then, we scored three goals in nine minutes and then everyone says it’s a genius substitution, for which in theory it is. You know, but the players deserved the credit. The managers will take the heat and are applauded sometimes, but for me, it’s all about the players.”
On how important it was to get three points away:
“Massive. It’s brilliant in Vancouver because they keep reminding you of things you haven’t done, not things that you have done, which is great and it puts a smile on my face. I have a little bit of fun with people but nine attempts I think we’ve been down here and we’ve lost every time. I think we were even two-zero up once here in a league game two years ago. And then my goalkeeper got sent off for a wrong decision and we lose 3-2. So roles reversed in that one but eventually we managed to get that monkey off our back and win the game against a really good team. They have good players, it will take time for the manager to implement his style and people will probably get a little restless but they got good players and he knows what he’s doing so they’ll be fine.”
On his decision to have Erik Hurtado start on the bench:
“Kei scored five goals in six games. I say this all the time, we have a very difficult travel schedule and I try to rotate my players in my squad more than any MLS team. And I do it for a reason because over the course of the season you need your whole squad. If you look at the first 10 game of the season, I don’t play too many settled lineups because players have to get used to playing with other players. So I rotate quite a bit and I decide on the opposition, I decide on the strengths of certain players against certain opposition. Last week against New York Red Bulls, I played Erik and he played very well and Kei played for 10 minutes. This week I played Kei and he gets the game winning goal and I’ll hook him straight away. He was disappointed by his hamstring anyway so Erik comes on and he nearly gets his goal which is what I need and I have Anthony Blondell who has been very good in training so it won’t be too long before he gets another chance.”
Overall thoughts on the match:
“We played really well, especially in the first 30 minutes and we took control of the game. We talked in the locker room at halftime about continuing to score and get a third one. When we conceded the first goal, I think we lost everything, actually. We lost the shape, the power and the will to play. We lost everything in seven minutes or something like that. Crazy defeat.”
On the plan for the match:
“We dressed the same lineup as the previous one and the reason for that is we also played well in the first 45 minutes against Toronto. That is why we started with the same lineup. Obviously, it went well for the first 35 minutes. Then we had a plan to make some early changes, but we were forced to react when we conceded the goal. The plan was to be proactive, but it changed, and we had to be reactive.”
On the shift in the game:
“There is a mental thing when you concede a goal and you are facing a good opponent. That happens in a game. You have to handle that, but we lost everything. They reacted a bit after the third goal, but it was too late. For me, I think we played really well in the first half and we totally dictated the game. Really hard defeat that is for sure.”
On the energy in the team:
“In the past five weeks I think we are doing better; practicing better and have better energy in general. We prepared for this game like all other games and had a great feeling when we stepped out this evening. We came out perfect and scored two goals and played really well. The reaction when we conceded the first goal was like we lost everything.”
On the result:
“Devastating. I don’t think words can quite describe it right now. Just a gut punch. I think we played so well for so long and then 15 minutes of just complete let downs. Again, we’re trying to fix it, trying to work on things that led to it, but all in all, from top to bottom, our mentality is just not strong enough right now.”
On not being on the field during Vancouver’s goals:
“It’s even worse I feel because you don’t have a say in it. I would try and help any way I can, but it’s a helpless feeling.”
On the team’s game plan:
“I felt we executed well. I thought we came out bright. The first 15 minutes, 17 minutes, two goals and dictating the game. And then we just had 15 minutes of – don’t know exactly what happened. Can’t pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but it went real wrong.”
On what went wrong in the second half:
“I don’t know, but it’s something that we need to discuss because it’s not good. I think we controlled the first half great, especially the first 30 minutes we played really well. But it’s our fault, we can’t blame anyone. It’s our fault that we lost the game.”
On if the team got too defensive after going up 2-0:
“We have had a pretty rough season. The confidence is maybe not on top, but we’re up 2-0 and we need to play more organized. We need to play better than we did. We played pretty naïve today, made mistakes and eventually lost the game.”