A couple of weeks ago Marc Dos Santos gave an analogy about meeting a girl you like who has a cat that comes with her. There were no ifs or buts, this was the deal. You had to have the cat as well. But I’m now starting to think that the cat was black and that MDS accidentally ran over it. That’s surely the only explanation for the bad luck Vancouver Whitecaps have had to start their 2019 MLS season.
Six games played have resulted in no wins and just two points. They’ve given up four penalties in those matches, with three of them controversial calls. The latest of those came in the Windy City on Friday evening as the ‘Caps had to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw after a video review deemed Doneil Henry had handled in the box in the closing minutes.
Another highly contentious decision, but one which will see former Whitecaps keeper David Ousted breathing a huge sigh of relief after his howler eight minutes into the second had allowed Vancouver to take the lead.
After two scoreless matches at home, Dos Santos made three changes to the team that lost to LA Galaxy a week ago. Scott Sutter came in at right back after the poor showing of Jake Nerwinski, with Fredy Montero and Yordy Reyna coming back into the attack at the expense of Joaquin Ardaiz and Lass Bangoura.
Would that rest they’ve had give the Whitecaps some new attacking impetus? Well, no. Far from it in the first half.
In fact it was a half pretty devoid of any real goalmouth action from either side, with the only piece of excitement coming in the 31st minute when Chicago’s Aleksandar Katai was persistent in the box, before firing off a shot that a sprawling Maxime Crepeau tipped over.
Goalless at the half, Vancouver’s attacking three had looked listless and isolated, with the midfield failing to connect with them or move the ball forward with any threat. This was still very much a game for the taking though for Vancouver if they could get any sort of offense going in the second half.
It was Chicago who started the half stronger though, with Katai again coming close when he fired a low corner to the near post onto the roof of the net three minutes in.
Then, from nowhere, Vancouver found themselves in front after a howler from their former keeper David Ousted.
The Dane inexplicably chased down a ball across goal that he didn’t need to and as he slid dangerously close to carrying it out of the box, he tried to throw it away to Katai but it ran straight into the path of Reyna, who coolly slotted home into an empty net from a tight angle.
Just how we drew it up…
Yordy Reyna gives #VWFC the lead!
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 13, 2019
It was a very composed finish from the out of form Peruvian. One we’ve seen many a player blast over in the past. Hopefully this will now spark something in the forward to get back to the form we know he’s capable of, or at least bring some consistency into his performances.
C.J. Sapong fired one narrowly over on the hour mark, followed by a wilder one by Katai six minutes later, as the Fire tried to find the equaliser.
Whitecaps substitute Joaquin Ardaiz gave us a glimpse of what he could be capable of with 15 minutes remaining when he bore down on goal and cracked one off the crossbar.
Chicago were pressing for the leveller and it was leaving all sorts of room for Vancouver to try and exploit.
But then, just as Vancouver took the lead from out of nowhere, they lost it again the same way. And to another penalty and to video review.
Katai was in the thick of the action once again as his shot hit of what looked to be Henry’s chest in the box. There were a couple of light Chicago appeals, but play continued and the ball went out for a throw in. This was taken by the Fire but officials had asked for a review. One that resulted in a Chicago penalty, much to Vancouver ire and incredulity.
None of the replays shows seemed to indicate a clear handball. In fact, they seemed to show the ball hitting Henry’s chest. After the match he said it his what was basically his shoulder. The referee disagreed, however, and Nemanja Nikolic stepped up to drill the ball home, making it 1-1 with six minutes remaining.
There were no further goals, although Crepeau earned the Whitecaps a point with a point blank save from Sapong with two minutes remaining, and Vancouver were left still searching for their first win of the season and a feeling of having lost two points as opposed to gaining one.
But there’s no time for the Whitecaps to sit feeling sorry for themselves licking their wounds. The games are coming thick and fast and perhaps the last thing the ‘Caps need right now is a visit from the best team so far in MLS, LAFC. A response is needed, but getting it won’t be so easy.
FINAL SCORE: Chicago Fire 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
CHICAGO: David Ousted; Johan Kappelhof, Marcelo, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Jeremiah Gutjahr; Mohammed Adams (Djordje Mihailovic 66), Dax McCarty; C.J. Sapong, Nicolás Gaitán (Cristian Martínez 74), Aleksandar Katai; Nemanja Nikolic [Subs Not Used: Richard Sánchez, Amando Moreno, Brandt Bronico, Grant Lillard, Diego Campos]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Scott Sutter, Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Ali Adnan; Jon Erice, Russell Teibert, Felipe; Yordy Reyna (Lucas Venuto 66), Inbeom Hwang (Lass Bangoura 90+1), Fredy Montero (Joaquin Ardaiz 72) [Subs Not Used: Zac MacMath, Derek Cornelius, Jake Nerwinski, Victor “PC” Giro]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the overall result:
“There are two feelings. One we played a very good team. They created a lot of problems. We had to defend very well, and that sometimes brought us to defend very low on the field. It’s not something we really wanted to do but the circumstances of the game sometimes it’s also credit to the opponent. They pushed us back and the quality of (Aleskandar) Katai and (Nemanja) Nikolić, Nicolás Gaitán and Djordje Mihailović also when he came on. The first half a little bit, we give a little bit too much time to (Bastian) Schweinsteiger. It seems like even if he is playing as a center back, he is able to step in pockets and dictate a little bit of the game. Of course then we get the first goal, we’re up, and then it’s a little bit luck factor I would say. We have a great chance with Ardáiz that takes a great shot and hits the crossbar. It could have been 2-0, doesn’t go in. They stay in the game, and then there is this call that I…I don’t know. The angle doesn’t look like it’s a penalty shot, but I don’t know if the referee saw other angles.”
On whether the referee said anything about the handball:
“He promised. He promised. I go, ‘Look, I am going to be upset if it’s not a penalty shot because it’s a lot in six games.’ In six games we’ve been with VAR like every [game], it’s incredible. I have to start putting it into training, [make it] part of training. I don’t know. He told me, he promised me, it’s a penalty shot. I am going to look at all the angles and have my opinion.”
On the team’s upcoming game against Wednesday:
“Look, the problem is not the point in Chicago. Points on the road are always good. Points on the road in a place like this that is a very tough place to play in. The point here is good. The problem is making sure that home is we get points, and that hasn’t been the case until now apart from the point against Seattle. We spoke about a big week for us as a club where we are in Chicago, we are home against LAFC Wednesday and then in Orlando. This is a first good step to start the week but then we have to bring again all our energy against LAFC.”
On coming away with a point on the road:
“Disappointing. If I am honest, usually I think in this league a point away from home is usually a good result under normal circumstances; I will take that. I think the way the game went and the penalty decision against us, it’s disappointing we didn’t come away with a win.”
On the penalty decision:
“I haven’t seen it personally so I can’t really say. Speaking with Doneil (Henry) inside, he said the ball basically hit him on the chest, it was so high up. But the issue that I have and I think most of us have, is that play resumed after it. There was a throw in. He threw the ball in. It wasn’t even we threw the ball in, Chicago threw the ball in. So essentially after that ball enters the pitch, it can no longer be reviewed. He called it back for them to make a substitution, where he ended up doing the video review. And then in the end they don’t make a substitution. I think that’s the issue I personally have, and I think a lot the guys have, is that it shouldn’t have even been reviewable regardless if it’s a penalty or not.”
On the strong defensive performance and cohesiveness:
“I think so. I think it was a bit of a tale of two halves, really. It was tough, tough, circumstances out there for everyone. Going in the first half wind against was, it was a battle. We knew that it was going to be tough. It was windy, it was cold, the pitch is not…it wasn’t great. We knew we had to fight and I think everyone did that. Hats off to the team, to the whole team for the way we battled out there. We were disappointed that we didn’t get the win in the end.”
On the short turn around to get back on the field versus LAFC:
“One hundred percent, that’s the beauty of football, the games come quick and fast and you’re ready to get back out there and try to get the first win which we so desperately need.”
On securing a point on the road:
“It’s one point but I think we could have gotten three points. We are disappointed to leave behind two points. The positive note, we take the point, we go home and we prepare for LAFC. The first half we didn’t play well but we showed we were a team. We defend together, we fought together, not always going to be great. But in the tough moments, how we can, what we can do be together, to be strong, and defend when things can’t come otherwise.”
On what he saw from the midfield and defensively as a whole:
“I think we were a good block. We were very tight, they couldn’t penetrate us. Matter of fact they scored on a penalty kick. Yes, we are very disappointed because we leave two points behind but on the positive note, we will take a point and a solid defensive effort.”
On preferring a quick turnaround versus LAFC:
“We have another game right away, we play at home, we play against a good team. The moments that count are, we play with heart, we play together and that’s what we are going to do on Wednesday.”
On the penalty decision:
“I prefer to not comment on that. I don’t think it’s my job to do that. We have our thoughts on the way we see it, but unfortunately it’s already in the past and now we can’t come back to it.”
On the team’s performances in its first four home games:
“I think, first of all, I want to thank our fans who came today with this terrible weather to support the team. They are very important for us and the team played also for them. I also think that we had a very good game. I think we dominated absolutely, especially in the first-half, especially with the control of the result. I think we read very well how the opponent is going to play and what they were doing. We created opportunities. We just weren’t sharp with that. Definitely we are not happy with the result today. But the team also is currently improving in form. It’s doing very well. We fought back after we conceded a goal. An unfortunate goal. It happens in this game and we have to be ready for that and I think we had a good reaction. I think we came back. We tied. We also created opportunities. The game ends in the box of our opponent. Until the last second, I think we pushed. So that will be the recap of the game and the performance of my players and I think that I’m really proud because I saw the team fight. The team that plays the way we plan and prepare and the team that is capable of reacting, never giving up and with all that I’m very, very confident. I truly believe in my group. I believe in all these guys and I’m sure that very soon we’re going to come back on a winning streak which is something that we are looking for. Our current form is still not where we want to be. Definitely, I think we’re going to get there. I think if we just keep playing this way, being smart, and obviously minimizing, or eradicating, the defensive mistakes we can be successful and right now we are not happy where we are but we’re confident.”
On what’s missing in the final third:
“I think we cannot say that it’s just the game like today. You missed your opportunities. We have a lot of pieces in attack. The guys are creating a lot of opportunities, a lot of shots on goal, finishing actions. It’s just the precision. We lack the precision in the final pass to maybe be a little bit more cooked, prepared. I think that’s something that we may miss now. But definitely today was, I think the mindset of the guys was very, very sharp, and we just miss a little bit more of completing the full sequence of the passes that we had with the ultimate final pass. I think that’s what we missed.”
On Nico Gaitan’s performance:
“I think he’s also, as the team, looking for his best form. I think he had actually very good games the whole season. I think he performed very well. I think he’s looking for that goal also to score. He, as I was saying in Spanish, like the rest of our strikers … they rush in finishing the opportunities or situations where we can finalize with a shot or the final pass. So, it’s just because we want to win. We want to score goals and we create those opportunities and we want to make it happen right now and that happens. He’s looking for that goal that will boost his confidence and the confidence of the team. But generally he’s doing well. I think he still needs to get to his best form, not only getting sharper but also fitness wise but I think he’s progressing very well.”
On today’s performance:
“We were the better team today, for sure. I think we deserved more than this one point. From the first minute of the game, we wanted to push and make pressure on their backline with our players up front. I think we had a lot of shots in the first half. We create opportunities. I don’t think they have many chances to score in the whole game. We really push a lot. It was an important game for us. We wanted three points from today. I think overall if you see the whole game we left two points on the field. Again, we showed character. After the goal, we push, we don’t give up. We fight until the last second. I think this is the way we need to play. We need to appreciate every single point. If you see the overall picture on the field, we deserved more, we deserved the victory. They came here to defend with ten players. This is what they do all game and they wait for counterattacks and for our mistakes. It’s difficult to play like this but overall I say I’m proud of the team and we need to push forward and collect points.”
On one win in four home games:
“We need to collect points at home for sure and we will for sure. We just need to keep doing and these things will turn. We just need to work for that. If you see the games that we’ve played you can see a difference from the last year. So every single game we never give up. We push until the end. We have a lot of good games also at home against Orlando for example. Against Seattle we didn’t come into the game good, the first 10 minutes weren’t good. But also, again we don’t give up, we came back into the game. This is the way that we want to play. We want to collect points and we will.”
On getting more goals:
“Score more goals. Goals. Goals. Of course, it’s on me. I will take responsibility for that. I’m the guy who needs to score goals and it’s on me. I just need to be sharper, better in that and similar to the team I deserve more goals in the five games I’ve played in. I think it’s just one reason, the team and I need to work hard, to believe in ourselves, to stick together and to turn this situation because I feel power in this group that we can turn this situation. Also, today we didn’t lose so that’s a positive thing. That’s how we need to think, to always see the light and to build on that. Who saw this game, they saw a team who wants to push and wants to create chances, who want to score goals, and also a team (Vancouver) who are just defending. Of course, congrats to Vancouver for that one point. They came here to bring points home so congrats to them. Also, congrats to my teammates, to my team. We believed until the last second and in the last minute of the game we had a big opportunity to score and turn this game again. I think, overall, we played a good game.”
On Vancouver’s goal:
“I made a mistake, simple as that. I told the guys when I got in the locker room that I apologize for putting us in that hole and that was a mistake from my side. It hurts especially in a game like this where we needed three points and I think we had the majority of the chances, but that’s the nature of the position.”
On the team’s performances in their four home games:
“No, we’d like to see more points. But we’re still in the process here of building this team and I think, like a lot of the guys, I feel in here that we’ve got a team going forward that can be very strong. But we obviously need to put points on the board and that’s what we’re looking for. But it’s about getting onto the next game, getting onto the next job and that’s Colorado at home.”