Report and Reaction: Whitecaps “outplayed” in KC as Pulido double does the damage
After turning in probably their most complete performance of the season so far in Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota, Vancouver Whitecaps turned in their worst one as they fell to another heavy defeat to a Sporting Kansas City side that picked the ‘Caps apart in a comfortable 3-0 Sunday afternoon romp at Children’s Mercy Park.
There was little mercy shown for Vancouver by a rampant KC side, with an Alan Pulido double, one of them from the spot, and a Daniel Salloi goal doing the damage, but it could have been a lot worse for the Whitecaps if not for some defensive scrambles and four saves from Max Crepeau.
Marc Dos Santos made three changes from the team that lost midweek in Minnesota, with Jake Nerwinski. Derek Cornelius, and Ryan Raposo all coming in for the start. KC meanwhile welcomed back Tim Melia in goal for the first time this season, as both teams headed into this one with identical records.
Kansas City just about edged the early going, but Vancouver had a chance nine minutes in with a flicked header from Lucas Cavallini from close in. The home side responded with a chipped Khiry Shelton effort that went over Crepeau from a tight angle, but into the side nettiing.
KC were looking the more likely to break the deadlock and Roger Espinoza nearly did just that in the 21st minute when his first timer forced Crepeau into a fantastic reaction save.
It felt like a case of when KC would score rather than if, and Salloi came within inches of getting the breakthrough in the 27th minute, pulling his shot across goal just past the far post.
It was a case of lessons not learned for Vancouver though as seconds later Salloi was in again, playing a quick one-two with Pulido then drilling the ball past Crepeau, with four Whitecaps just standing watching.
Slots it 🏡
That's our boy @danielsalloi!#SKCvVAN | #SportingKC pic.twitter.com/KBJ3J0i1Fs
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 16, 2021
It was horrible defending from Vancouver and not the last time we were to say that over the course of the afternoon.
Three minutes later and KC had a penalty and a chance to double their advantage, after a challenge from Raposo on Salloi in the box following a scrambled attempt to clear by the ‘Caps defence. There wasn’t a lot of contact, more obstruction, but referee Alan Kelly had no hesitation in pointing to the spot and Pulido dispatched the spot kick with ease to make it 2-0.
The ‘Caps simply weren’t at the races, and Dos Santos tried to steady the ship by subbing in Michael Baldisimo for Raposo. It seemed to work to an extent, with Vancouver enjoying their best spell of the half in the closing minutes, pressuring the KC defence and creating a couple of chances as they had some success breaking down the press. Not enough to force a way back into the game however.
The inability to score from open play was continuing to haunt the ‘Caps and if it was starting to feel like they were cursed in front of goal. Cristian Dajome highlighted that further when he Ille Sanchez took too long trying to clear the ball, allowing Cavallini to block it down. The ball broke to Dajome in front of goal and with Melia coming out and the goal gaping, he blasted over when a delicate chip would have seen the ball surely nestle in the net.
That one play summed up the Whitecaps attack so far this season and after that miss, KC turned the screw.
Graham Zusi forced a leg save from Crepeau at his near post in the 55th minute, then a scramble in the ‘Caps box saw Crepeau make another save, the rebound bounce off Pulido on the goalline, then Crepeau make a second stop as the home side sensed blood.
It was no surprise when KC finally did make it three in the 58th minute, as an unmarked Pulido collected the ball on the edge of the box, and with no Whitecaps player closing him down, the Mexican was allowed to set up a shot and fire it low past Crepeau.
A brace for @alanpulido 🙌
¡Vamos, nueve!#SKCvVAN | #SportingKC pic.twitter.com/hfBvBYh9SP
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 16, 2021
After that both sides had some half chances, but the scoreboard operator was never really in any danger of waking from his slumber.
Crepeau said postgame the Whitecaps were “outplayed”. You certainly can’t argue with that. It was a performance that certainly raises a number of questions about the depth of the squad and how competitive they can be when missing some key personnel. MDS himself hinted postgame that they don’t necessarily have that in them right now.
There are also a number of other questions coming from these last two games. How can they play with such different intensity? Where is the leadership in the group? What’s leading to all the fluffs in front of goal? And why do the Whitecaps continue to ball watch? I’m not sure how easy those answers will be to come by.
The Whitecaps have six days to try and turn things around before heading to Houston to take on the Dynamo. Those are the games Vancouver need to be winning if they are to be considered playoff contenders. After that they have a 27 day break to regroup, recharge, and hopefully add some reinforcements.
FINAL SCORE: Sporting Kansas City 3 -1 Vancouver Whitecaps
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi (Jaylin Lindsey 75), Ilie Sanchez, Andreu Fontas, Luis Martins; Gianluca Busio, Roger Espinoza (Cam Duke 88), Gadi Kinda (Remi Walter 67); Khiry Shelton, Alan Pulido (Wilson Harris 88), Daniel Salloi [Subs Not Used: John Pulskamp, Amadou Dia, Kaveh Rad, Graham Smith, Grayson Barber]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Jake Nerwinski (Javain Brown 61), Ranko Veselinovic (Erik Godoy 80), Derek Cornelius, Cristian Gutierrez; Ryan Raposo (Michael Baldisimo 36), Janio Bikel, Caio Alexandre (Kamron Habibullah 61), Deiber Caicedo; Cristian Dajome (Theo Bair 80), Lucas Cavallini [Subs Not Used: Thomas Hasal, Evan Newton, Russell Teibert, Leonard Owusu]
Possession: SKC 67% – VAN 33%
Shots: SKC 27 – VAN 9
Shots on Goal: SKC 7 – VAN 2
Saves: SKC 2 – VAN 4
Fouls: SKC 13 – VAN 19
Offsides: SKC 1 – VAN 2
Corners: SKC 8 – VAN 2
MARC DOS SANTOS
On today’s loss:
“Today was our hardest day this season as a team. We looked overwhelmed in the first 25 minutes. We struggled, they came out at us in waves, and it made it very difficult for us. And when we won the ball, we weren’t able to get out of pressure.”
On adjustments after falling behind:
“When you’re 2-0 down, we thought about how we were reading the game, things that were happening in the midfield. And we needed a player that would allow us to get out of pressure, that’s why the decision on bringing [Michael Baldisimo] in. And when we did that, I think the last 15 of the second half, it gave us a second wind and hope that we could come in the second half and score a goal to kind of change the balance of the game. We have a huge chance in the second half with Dajome, in front of goal, ball going in could change a little bit the dynamic. We weren’t able to score and then they got the third one.”
On learning from the loss:
“Overall, we played a team that was better than us tonight and the team that deserves the three points, and now we have to react and get out of this game, learn from this game and not throw away everything we did until this game, and try to see what we could do now to get to a next step in games like that.”
On Sporting KC’s start:
“I think that in the moment that that the pressure in the front wasn’t well done. They had Martins getting very wide and high. And when that happens, it created a two-v-one in the right side because we weren’t able to press right away, and that didn’t allow Jake to release higher so Jake had to be caught in two-v-one situations.”
On the missed chances:
“I didn’t really see the play of Cava when it comes to his right foot, I didn’t see that play yet, the game just ended right now. We need to create more opportunities, it’s an area of the game that we’re struggling with, and we have to find solutions inside the roster. That’s why we brought Baldi to see how it could look with two number eights, going higher on the field. We also at some point brought Kam [Habibullah] to play between lines, but let’s not forget, Kam is still very young and still in development, he is not going to be right away our solution. He needs time to develop and grow. And that’s what we tried to do, but look, this week, that’s the question we need to answer, see what can we do right now to create more, to generate more. But of course, if you look at the two away games, in Minnesota, in Kansas City, I think there was enough actions for us to score some goals.”
On the game:
“It’s not a good feeling to come on out of here without any points. They came at us in the first 30 minutes, we suffered, we saw it. After that, the staff made an adjustment, bringing Baldi in and it balanced the midfield. And then the second half we came short, physically, with the ball. I don’t want to go too into details into the comments but we got outplayed today, like we can see. There were some good moments for us, but overall the 90 we came short today.”
On scrapping this game:
“No not at all. We’ll see it and adjust it. We will see what we did good and we’ll correct what we did not do good. We’re not going to scrap anything.”
On the game:
“The result says everything. They were better in every segment of the game today – in defence, in pressure, in offence. They deserved their three points.”
On playing in front of fans again:
“Well for me personally I like to play [in front of fans]. I enjoyed it really even in Minnesota, and here are more fans. I really enjoy to play with fans, we miss them a lot. It would be better if we have our domestic fans you know who are cheering for us. I mean it’s nice for the game but definitely when you play against 10,000 people against you, it’s easier for the opponents because they have the wind in their back, but that’s normal. I hope later in the season we will have fans with us.”
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
On the team’s 3-0 win
It was a complete game by us. From the opening whistle, we were excellent in our movement of the ball. We were excellent in our movement off the ball. We created some very good chances. For us to score two goals before the half, I think that says a lot. By the time you go in for halftime, you can sort of get your wits about you. They made a change late in the first half with a sub about the 35th minute to change their formation. We made a couple adjustments. The guys were very good on both sides of the ball.
On the second half adjustments
They moved to a 4-3-3. In the beginning, they were playing a 4-4-2. It was a formation change that we had to make sure that we sorted out for ourselves and that we were all on the same page with it. The other thing is, I think that also the speed in which we moved the ball around was a real key factor in the game today.
On his expectations for his team
My expectation is that every time we step on the field, that we play the way that we did today. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out that way. It’s early on in the season. We’ve had a couple performances that were very similar to this one in that we’ve been dominant in the game and we’ve played very close to the style of play in which we want to. I think when we do that, it yields results like it did today.
You asked about Alan. It’s a real simple thing. When you have a player like Alan (Pulido), your team moves with the success of a player like that. I always talk about Alan and I talk about all the great things that he does. The bottom line is that he’s incredible for the way that we want to play. He’s incredible within the group of guys, his work ethic in the game, his hungriness to score all the time. All those things are very, very important to what we do. His quality today was very evident.
Everybody was very solid, very confident and had a lot of courage to play. It’s not easy to play the way we played today: to keep the ball, to be accurate, to continue to push the game forward and then just keep getting in and around the box and creating the chances that we did. Going into halftime being up 2-0 is a good confidence builder for the group.
On the play of Gianluca Busio
He was tremendous. When you look at the back four and Busio, and the way that those guys all played together, I thought it was excellent. I thought they were fantastic on building out of the back. They allowed for the front five to get in good spots. The front five’s movement off the ball was rewarded because of the possession that we were able to keep in the back and in the way that we were building the field up. When you are able to do those things, a lot of the movements – when they start to get rewarded, you start to see more of them because players feel like ‘If I’m going to make the move and you’re going to play me the ball then I’ll make the move again.’ You could see a lot of that pleasure in the way that the guys were playing. The final piece is that when you can break through another team, you start to gain a lot of confidence. As the game grew, we gained a lot of confidence. Frankly, we didn’t give much away on the other side in regards to shots on goal or really great chances by them. A lot of it has to do with how good we were on the ball.
On Tim Melia’s return
Tim didn’t have to do a lot of work. If you don’t lose the ball in bad situations, you’re going to limit the number of chances that they’re going to have on your goal. It’s always been our objective to try to have the ball as much as possible but at the same time be very productive going forward and create very high-quality chances. I think that we’ve done that in the last so many games. We’ve got to continue to work toward that. Today, the good thing is we executed on three of those opportunities and scored goals. We deserved it.
On the performance of Daniel Salloi
I said to him the other day, ‘You’ve got to keep pressing in a positive way. You can’t think about it as I’ve got to hurry up this shot or I’ve got to be really quick with taking a chance.’ His movement today and his work ethic in the game and his ability to cause problems in the other team’s box was what he’s been doing for a lot of the games. Today, he was rewarded. I’m a big believer that, if you’re a goal scorer and you’re not scoring, you still have to work. When you do that, you make your own luck. That’s the difference with him right now. He’s making his own luck.
On his confidence
This year, I’m feeling very confident. I’m playing a lot. I’m getting chances. I’m making good movements. It was just a matter of time. Hopefully, I can keep it up. I’ve got the support from the coaching staff and my teammates. There’s no point to lose confidence in these times. Obviously, you’re going to miss a couple of chances but over the course of the year, I want to score as many goals as I can. So far, so good.
On the matchup with Vancouver
I think in the past couple of games, we’ve been having great connection on that left side. I think Luis (Martins), Gadi (Kinda) and Alan (Pulido), we are doing great things there and getting behind defenses and finding chances. I think it’s just the chemistry. If we keep doing this, hopefully we’re going to cause trouble for other teams. This makes me very happy I could score and draw a penalty, as well. It’s a big victory at home.
On scoring shortly after a missed volley
As I said before, you’re going to miss chances in a game but it can’t put down your confidence. I think this year, I’m doing everything to get my chances and putting them away is very important. There are times when you keep thinking about those situations where you miss and that’s just not good for your game. Obviously, it’s difficult to forget them but it’s on to the next one. In the past couple of games, I’ve had so many chances. In my head, I just know there’s going to be a next one and I’ve just got to focus on that one.
Thoughts on the match
For me, it was all about the start of the game. I think we got a chance in the first minute. It set the tone for the first half and the rest of the game, as well. We were relentless in our attack. We had lots of chances. Today, we finished off three good goals. I can’t say enough about the performance. It was really big to get the shutout as well. It is our first one of the year. We needed to get back to those defensive performances of being very, very difficult to play against. That will lead to the goals, as well. The guys did fantastic this afternoon and we need to continue this momentum next weekend.
On his return from injury
It’s been amazing to get back on the field with the boys and in front of the fans. I can’t wait for this place to be at full capacity. That’s coming pretty soon if I’m not mistaken. That Austin game had a lot of emotions for me for different reasons, one for coming back from such a long time away from the game and then playing against Bes as well. I can’t say enough about the trainers’ work that they did with me and my surgeon as well. So much credit goes to those guys. I’m thrilled to be back on the pitch.
On being the club’s all-time appearance leader
It’s special because I’ve been able to be with this club for so long. This club means so much to me. It shows my age for sure, but I’m hoping there’s plenty more to come as well.
On getting Tim Melia back and Gianluca Busio playing as a holding midfielder
It was great to have Timmy back. I think this was a good game to kind of wet his feet a bit. He didn’t have a whole lot to do in terms of saves today, but his communication from behind and his distribution was fantastic. Obviously, we’ve got a couple injuries so sliding guys around here and there. Busio filled into that role seamlessly. Ilie dropped into the backline seamlessly as well. It was just a really, really good performance from top to bottom.