What a difference a week makes. Unless you’re Vancouver Whitecaps, where it makes no difference at all. For the second straight week the ‘Caps got themselves a first half lead, let their opponents back into the game in the final quarter of the match, and ended up empty-handed. As starts to a new season go, this has been a pretty horrible one for those of a blue and white persuasion.
It all started so promisingly. Alessandro Schöpf fired Vancouver into a 17th minute first half lead with his first MLS goal. But it wasn’t to be all Österreich on the night for the ‘Caps as another second half collapse saw San Jose to come storming back with goals from Jeremy Ebobisse and Carlos Akapo to secure all three points and their first win of the new campaign.
Vanni Sartini made two changes from the team that started last week’s loss at home to Real Salt Lake. Mathias Laborda came in for Tristan Blackmon in the middle of the backline for his MLS debut, while Pedro Vite came in for Cristian Dajome as the Whitecaps once again went for the 4-3-2-1.
Cade Cowell had the first chance of the match in the 14th minute for San Jose, rising above two Vancouver defenders but flashing his header just wide of the left post.
The Whitecaps responded three minutes later with the opener and it was a goal made in Europe. Schöpf won the ball midway in the San Jose half after a giveaway, played a nice one-two with Julian Gressel, and showed nice footwork on the return pass to knock it past Daniel in the Quakes goal to get his first tally in MLS.
GOAL ALESSANDRO SCHÖPF!!!
🌊 1-0 🌎📳
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 5, 2023
It was another example of some of the good movement we saw in the first half of the first game, and certainly bodes well for what could come this season.
Whitecaps keeper Yohei Takaoka made a routine save to keep out a Miguel Trauco header in the 20th minute, but the home side were offering little to get back into the match.
The Whitecaps had a great chance to double their lead in the 38th minute when Brian White played the ball into the six yard box, but it was agonisingly just behind Ryan Gauld, who couldn’t swivel himself around to get onto it.
The Quakes went up the pitch and Ebobisse headed narrowly wide, when he really should have got his effort at least on target, then Paul Marie forced a save from Takaoka as San Jose tried to get in on level terms, which they couldn’t.
The ‘Caps were outshot 11 to 4 in the first half, but their solitary effort on target went in the back of the net, so there was that.
The second half started to feel like last week, with the opposition starting to take a hold of the game and turning up the pressure. And much like last week came to collapse around the midway mark of the half.
San Jose got their reward in the 68th minute when Ebobisse rose above a very deep playing Whitecaps defence to powerfully meet a Jamiro Monteiro cross and head home past Takaoka, with the ‘Caps keeper unable to get a strong hand on it to keep it out.
Miro ➡️ Jebo
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) March 5, 2023
It’s maybe far too simple to say it was Déjà vu. The timings may have been slightly different, but the end result was the same as the ‘Caps went from leading at the midway point of the half to giving up two goals and falling behind within a matter of minutes. Last week it was three, this week it was nine.
A great nine-pass move, that left the Whitecaps defence seemingly rooted to the spot, saw the ball come to Akapo at the back of the box and he drilled home a fierce strike to beat Takaoka at his near post. The shot had power, but it the position you simply do not want to get beat at as a goalkeeper.
HIS FIRST GOAL FOR SAN JOSE!
AND WHAT A GOAL IT WAS! pic.twitter.com/03A65yyZtK
— San Jose Earthquakes (@SJEarthquakes) March 5, 2023
The Whitecaps looked shellshocked but there was still time to try and salvage something from the game.
They had a chance to get back on level terms in the 84th minute but first Ranko Veselinovic and then Javain Brown couldn’t get their head onto a dangerous free kick that was whipped into the box.
Substitute Russell Teibert came within inches of scoring moments later, getting onto a nice layoff from Sergio Cordova, but Daniel came up with the big save.
That was to be as good as it got for Vancouver, and they nearly gave up a third in stoppage time, with Takaoka producing a point blank stop to tip over a Benjamin Kikanovic header.
A winless and a pointless start now for the Whitecaps. There’s been two decent halves of football in there, but no complete game, and two inexplicable collapses in the last quarter of each match.
After all the talk of the need to get off to a fast start and the improvement in preseason, it’s all counted for nothing and the pressure is already starting to mount.
FINAL SCORE: San Jose Earthquakes 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: SJ 59.7% – VAN 40.3%
Shots: SJ 20 – VAN 7
Shots on Goal: SJ 6 – VAN 2
Saves: SJ 1 – VAN 4
Fouls: SJ 8 – VAN 10
Offsides: SJ 0 – VAN 0
Corners: SJ 12 – VAN 6
SAN JOSE: Daniel; Paul Marie, Jonathan Mensah, Rodrigues, Miguel Trauco (Carlos Akapo 63); Jackson Yueill, Carlos Gruezo, Jamiro Monteiro; Cristian Espinoza, Jeremy Ebobisse, Cade Cowell (Benjamin Kikanović 78) [Substitutes not used: JT Marcinkowski, Tanner Beason, Jack Skahan, Tommy Thompson, Daniel Munie, Ousseni Bouda, Michael Baldisimo]
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Javain Brown, Mathías Laborda, Ranko Veselinović, Luís Martins; Julian Gressel (Russell Teibert 65), Andrés Cubas, Alessandro Schöpf (Sebastian Berhalter 75); Pedro Vite (Cristian Dájome 65), Ryan Gauld; Brian White (Sergio Córdova 55) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Tristan Blackmon, Karifa Yao, Ali Ahmed, Ryan Raposo]
On the match:
“I would say, an even game in the first half and an even game in the second half. But I think we had the same amount of chances. I think it was a game that we could have tied. Unfortunately, we missed a couple of chances in front of the goal. Especially the second goal [conceded], we were a little bit too soft. We were in numerical superiority and they broke us centrally to free the space for the play on the side. We knew that it was going to be very difficult here because it’s no secret that it’s hard for us, we haven’t won here since 2015. We fought, we tried to put fresh legs in the second half, the game was very dynamic up and down. Unfortunately after the second goal we had two big chances, one with Javain [Brown] and Sergio [Córdova] where he saved the ball, because if not it would have been a goal and then a great save by the keeper against Rusty. I think we deserved to tie, but it looks like we need to be better, because if we deserve to win last time and we lost, if we deserve to tie today and we lost. They say three coincidence makes a clue, let’s make it two and stop it and start making points for Wednesday.”
On the second half substitutions:
“The game went through the eights a lot. I think Luís [Martins] and Javain [Brown] actually were doing an honest job on the sides. The game went through the eights a lot with [Jamiro] Monteiro and [Jackson] Yueill moving a lot. So I wanted the fresh legs there, that’s the reason why I put Rusty and unfortunately, the substitution was meant to happen five minutes later, mainly with the [Cristian] Dajóme substitution. [Alessandro] Schöpf got a little injured on the ankle which is the reason why we put Sebastian [Berhalter] in.
On the opportunities throughout the match:
“I think we’re maybe just not clinical enough, especially on the road and where you maybe don’t get as many chances as we did last week. Certainly got to capitalize when you get them, it kind of just comes down to being ruthless and clinical and having that final quality that maybe we are lacking at the moment a little bit, unfortunately.”
On the midfield trio with Cubas and Schöpf:
“I mean, it just adds another number in there, which first of all helps in terms of creating a little bit more of a headache for the other team. Especially with our two number 10s, also kind of playing really inside and really creating almost a box at times for us in the midfield and almost having five midfielders in there. So it really overloads other teams and our understanding is really good. I think you can see that with Andrés [Cubas], then Schöpf and with Gauld up front and Pedro [Vite] tonight, [Cristian] Dajóme last week. I think our understanding of our roles are clearly defined and we play off each other really well and have a good understanding for each other’s game and that obviously helps so it’s something that we do well. Obviously last week we did well, especially in the first half, this week, again, I thought we were good in the first half and then we got to try and find a way to carry it into the second and really control the game out of that midfield. I think we can still do a better job of being more of a force for a full 90 minutes. I think it’ll be good moving forward. But it’s coming together quite nicely. and I enjoy playing with those other guys.”
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
On the team’s victory against Vancouver:
“Last week we learned multiple lessons and I said it after the game last week. I am proud of the group and our performance. We didn’t sustain for the 90-plus minutes but overall, I thought we went there and pushed the game. It just didn’t go our way unfortunately by the end, but we’re working well and we’re confident in how we’re doing things and it’s about moving forward. So, I thought the boy’s showed that overall today. In the beginning, Vancouver had a compact block and made it difficult to play between lines. We got picked off and we conceded an offensive transition by Vancouver. Not the way we wanted to start but we stayed calm. I am proud of the group for taking it one moment at a time. Being present one at a time. We talked at half about where else we can break lines and find advantages if it’s difficult through the middle because of the compactness and that we needed to find other spaces to hurt them in terms of in behind or diagonals and push with flank play. So, I thought our players adapted to that and pushed the game, got pressure on the ball to force them to play direct. Got on the ball and possess and create and we didn’t stop believing. Credit to the guys to not stop, to not give up, to be relentless in their attitudes, their beliefs, their energy, their intensity. We have to be really proud of them. And for us to come back down one and win 2-1 shows character. It will be a good reference point for us moving forward for the rest of the season.”
On the team’s first-half performance:
“I think there’s nerves, excitement, maybe over excitement and playing at home. We had a great turn out with our fanbase. We really felt them. Their energy was amazing and contagious, and I think it helped us turn the game around. But I alluded to the tactical adjustment we needed to make. Vancouver was very compact, didn’t allow passes between the lines. We got stripped with a few balls between lines and I’ll give credit to Vancouver. We want to break lines. We want to be able to play through teams and around teams and over teams. But we got caught a few times and that’s something we have to sharpen up. We opened up in transition and it cost us a goal. I felt we weren’t good enough in second balls. We weren’t winning enough second balls from their direct balls and from our own. That was an adjustment we needed to improve in the second half if we were going to get more pressure on the ball. Winning more second balls, getting possession, and creating and generating more opportunities to score. So, that cycle is connected. We have to keep working. The boys found a way. Even though you say what you say about the first half, tactically we weren’t where we wanted to be, we still created and generated very good opportunities to score. So, that’s good to know. We can be playing at our best or not and we can still be a dangerous team.”
On the team’s preparation for tonight’s game:
“Set pieces are game changers and we know that. Unfortunately, in Atlanta, it didn’t bounce our way in terms of how we defended set pieces. We know the importance of set pieces. We think we have a team that can defend well and respond. Like I said from last week’s game to this one. And also, be a threat offensively. Our staff works really hard, and they care a lot about the details and how we want to attack and defend set pieces and they did make a difference for us tonight.”
On the differences in the second half that led to the comeback victory:
“I believe the sense of urgency changed. Of course, we could’ve started better, but being a goal down you need to do anything you can to come back and win the game. We sensed it right away that we needed to change gears and we did.”
On what the focus in training was ahead of tonight’s game:
“I believe that every day we go to practice, we just want to improve, we just want to get better individually and collectively, and that’s what we’ve been doing. It was a tough loss on the road in the first game of the season, so we needed to get the first one at home. We’ve been working really hard, and of course it has been showing on the field, so we just need to continue to work and improve.”
On his chemistry with defender Rodrigues and midfielder Carlos Gruezo:
“It comes down to having the understanding with not just myself and Rodrigo [Rodrigues], but with the whole back line and Carlos [Gruezo] in front of us, making sure that we communicate early, making sure we are aware of where the strikers are, and helping each other. We cannot defend one-on-one throughout the game, but we need to do collective defending, and we have done a great job of minimizing the chances that the other team creates. We are two games into the season, so we are just going to continue to work and understand each other better.”
On how he feels after winning in front of a sellout home crowd:
“We took all the lessons from the Atlanta game. Coming back home and playing in front of our fans, we just wanted to win, and that is what we did tonight. Like I said earlier, we are going to keep working. This team is an ambitious team and young group of guys that are eager and hungry to succeed. So, we are going to continue to work and always give everything we have on the field.”