A grueling week of three games for Vancouver Whitecaps came to an end in San Jose on Saturday night with a 1-1 draw that kept the team in the playoff places and saw them return home with an impressive seven points in seven days.
Nine out of nine would have been fantastic but it was a tired Whitecaps side that battled to a draw against an Earthquakes side fighting for their playoff lives.
A fairly uneventful first half saw Bruno Gaspar score his first goal as a Whitecaps to fire Vancouver ahead in the 53rd minute, but Benji Kikanovic levelled things up seven minutes later and that was what both teams had to settle for.
Vanni Sartini made another six changes for this one, with the in-form Brian White coming back in to lead the line alongside Deiber Caicedo, and a first choice back three of Florian Jungwirth and the returning Erik Godoy and Ranko Veselinovic.
San Jose’s faint playoff hopes were on the line and they came out on the front foot, trying to get the early breakthrough and forcing Maxime Crepeau into a point blank leg save from Jeremy Ebobisse four minutes in.
That turned out to be the only shot on target in a disappointing first half that aside from a few half chances and some scrambles in the Whitecaps box offered little. Had Vancouver run out of gas after a gruelling couple of matches?
San Jose started the second half the stronger, with Kikanovic wasting a couple of good opportunities, but then the home side were stunned when Vancouver took the lead against the run of play in the 53rd minute.
A quick Whitecaps break saw White play a one-two with Ryan Gauld on the edge of the box before firing off a shot that JT Marcinkowski could only parry. The ball fell to Gaspar who buried it high into the Quakes net for the opening goal.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) October 24, 2021
San Jose nearly got back on level terms right away when Eric Rehmedi picked off Russell Teibert, ran in on goal, but pulled his shot just past the far post.
The Quakes weren’t to be denied though and this time Kikanovic found the target, burying a Cristian Espinoza cross to the back post with aplomb.
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) October 24, 2021
The goal was no more than the Quakes play deserved and they were looking the better team at this point.
Cristian Dajome had a fierce shot saved by Marcinkowski midway through the half, as the ‘Caps had to rely on the quick counters.
Both teams had made changes to liven things up but instead the play dipped a bit, with neither side coming that close to grabbing the go-ahead goal.
As the match ticked into stoppage time, a scramble in the Whitecaps box seemed certain to be poked into an empty goal by Chris Wondolowski but Crepeau recovered from being on the ground to steal the ball off the foot of the all time leading MLS scorer and save what could prove to be a crucial point in the ‘Caps battle for the postseason.
After the highs of Wednesday, a point from this one feels a bit of a disappointment, which shows just how far this Whitecaps team has come. Four road points from these last two games is a great haul and nothing to be sniffed at. But with every point vital right now, dropping any against a team below you in the standings can prove huge.
But the Whitecaps playoff fate lies in their own hands. Win out and they’re definitely in. Two wins in their last three matches should be enough. But a victory at home to Minnesota on Wednesday in what already is a playoff game is now a must.
FINAL SCORE: San Jose Earthquakes 1 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: SJ 64% – VAN 36%
Shots: SJ 16 – VAN 7
Shots on Goal: SJ 3 – VAN 3
Saves: SJ 2 – VAN 2
Fouls: SJ 13 – VAN 16
Offsides: SJ 1 – VAN 0
Corners: SJ 5 – VAN 2
SAN JOSE: JT Marcinkowski; Tommy Thompson (Shea Salinas 69), Tanner Beason, Paul Marie (Jack Skahan 82); Cristian Espinoza (Carlos Fierro 69), Eric Remedi, Jackson Yueill, Benji Kikanovic; Javier López (Chris Wondolowski 69), Andrés Ríos (Cade Cowell 82); 11.Jeremy Ebobisse [Substitutes not used: Daniel Vega, Oswaldo Alanís, Siad Haji, Judson]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Erik Godoy (Jake Nerwinski 85), Ranko Veselinović, Florian Jungwirth; Bruno Gaspar, Russell Teibert, Leonard Owusu (Michael Baldisimo 63), Cristian Dájome (Javain Brown 71); Ryan Gauld (Ryan Raposo 85); Brian White, Déiber Caicedo (Lucas Cavallini 63) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Marcus Godinho, Cristian Gutiérrez, Patrick Metcalfe]
On the game:
“You could see even from the first half that we were a little tired today, we weren’t able to be aggressive and do the pressure like we normally do and they were playing like kind of a last chance game, put in all the arrows on the field. So we had to suffer, and second half I think it went better in the sense that we managed better when we put Michael [Baldisimo] and we put Gauld a little behind, playing kind of in a 3-5-2 instead of 3-4-1-2. I know that we had a lot of chances, even in the last 10 minutes, not real chances but potential to manage those counter attacks in a better way because there was really high, because they were attacking with eight, nine players sometimes. And of course it was very hard to defend, but also it was very, kind of easy, to attack the space if we were doing the better choices, I would say better decisions. But in the end, I think it’s a very good point. It’s a point on the road and on the third game, seven points in in three games in this, I would say kind of hell week, that we were supposed to have against the top two teams and in San Jose, so I’m very happy.”
On his message to the fans ahead of Wednesday’s home match:
“We need them. It’s a team effort and the team effort includes the fans. So, they’re a huge part of the fact that BC Place became a fortress. So I know it’s going to be a Wednesday night, whatever, but they’ve been fantastic so far and I know they will be fantastic. And if they can come even with a higher number here, they’re going to, again I say every time, it’s called the playoff push, so we need someone to help us push too so the fans they will help us for sure.”
On the playoff push:
“We’ve been working all year long and it comes down to the last eight, last seven games, where it’s a playoff push. The objective is to be above that line all year long, but at the end of the day, MLS there’s always a push towards the end and we’re right in it. The seven points that we got in the last three is helping us to build momentum and believe that we can beat and get results pretty much everywhere. Now Wednesday, obviously against Minnesota, they have one point on us, if I’m not mistaken I just looked at the standings really quick. And, I mean that’s the one, that’s the one that will be really, really huge. Portland lost as well if I’m not mistaken. So, it’s points up for grab. We’re home, we want to make a fortress, we need our fans to show up, guys show up, we need you, and we’ll all be together there.”
On the heavy rotation in the squad over the last couple matches:
“It’s not difficult, it’s principles and everyone believes in everybody, everybody can play these type of games. And at the end of the season, we know that there’s an accumulation of games, there’s suspensions, tiredness, knocks, so you know there’s going to be rotation. And we believe that everybody in our roster can play, and Vanni did put the subs in, we have five and we make five. We need them, we need everybody accountable because we’re a team and we need the freshness at this time of the year as well to be on the pitch.”
On earning a point on the road:
“We weren’t celebrating too much to be honest, and I think that kind of shows what team we’ve become. We weren’t satisfied completely with how we played. It’s always big to get a point on the road, a seven point week is huge for us and it’s keeping us in a playoff spot. But after this game, it wasn’t anything like Portland where we were celebrating hard, we know that we still have a big, big job to do.”
On the next game against Minnesota at BC Place on Wednesday:
“I think that at this point in the season, our last five games, I think every game becomes the most important game. Obviously now that we have Minnesota, now it’s the most important game; I think today was [the most important game], I think Portland was at the time. So you know, now we just have to take it game by game, and each game is really like a final to us now. I think having a game at home [on Wednesday] is going to give us an advantage. We’ve been really strong at home this year, and we’re really excited to get back and to hopefully to sing stand by me again at the end of the game.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
On tonight’s result:
“We wanted the win. The guys played a great game. They played with devotion and had many goal-scoring chances. We needed to be sharper in the end. Vancouver had a great performance from their goalkeeper. I am satisfied on one hand because the young players are growing. I will keep repeating that once the young players have 20 to 30 matches played, they will be important players in this league.”
On Jackson Yueill’s surprise role as a center back:
“There were many matches in which Eric Remedi and Jackson were center backs in the second half. This is not improvised, it’s something we have practiced. Jackson played as if he’s been a center back his whole life. I am assured in knowing there is a clean outlet in him, short and long passes that are precise, intelligent to double down in the defense. I want him to be a leader and perform this way. The goal is for him to play in Europe. Since my arrival, I have tried to turn him into a more complete player. He’s played behind the strikers, as a double pivot, holding mid, and as a center back. He’s made some contributions in our last four points.”
On the team’s urgency to qualify for playoffs:
“Since preseason, we have been working to qualify for playoffs. As the season went on, we realized there were moments when we were and weren’t competitive. There are games that show what we look for from San Jose, and it’s these types of matches. These games hurt when you don’t win them, but they offer a lesson to everyone. A team with these expectations can’t go the distance with the number of points that we have. I congratulate the players because although we are far from playoffs, they showed devotion as if they were playing a final and that is the San Jose we want. When we can maintain this consistency, the team will be better.”
On the goal:
“I know when Cristian [Espinoza] gets the ball out wide, he’s going to whip it in super hard. I just put myself in a position where I’m in between the ball and the defender and it happened to come to me. I didn’t even really hit it that hard. I kind of just focused on it the whole time and just made sure I made good contact. Those types of balls, it’s already whipped in super hard, so you just have to redirect it. But overall we played really well I thought. We created a lot of chances. I think they only had that one chance and they put it away.”
On advice he’s received from veteran players:
“For me, I talk to all of the older guys. They give me a lot of advice. Keep on going, put my head down, go at guys, play simple when I can, and when it’s time to do my things, do my things. Everyone’s been giving me pointers, from the beginning of the season up until now. It’s always nice to have that. I think it’s helped me develop as a player and that’s ultimately what I want to do, get better each and every day. If I can do that, I’m happy.”