Report and Reaction: Whitecaps self destruct defensively in St Louis as wait for elusive away victory continues

Report and Reaction: Whitecaps self destruct defensively in St Louis as wait for elusive away victory continues

(Photo Credit: @stlCITYsc/Twitter)

Vancouver Whitecaps were the masters of their own downfall in St Louis on Saturday night as three defensive howlers saw the home team run out easy winners in what was otherwise an evenly contested match-up. It was an evening to forget for ‘Caps keeper Thomas Hasal, who was caught out by an Eduard Lowen free kick for the opener, has a miscommunication with Tristan Blackmon that led to an own goal for the second, and spilled a free kick that was eventually fired home by 18-year-old Miggy Perez for a late third.

All the Whitecaps had to show for their efforts was a Brian White header seven minutes from time that gave them some hope of a late comeback but it all came to nothing.

As the Whitecaps heavy schedule of matches continued, Vanni Sartini expectedly rang the changes, making eight from the team that started the midweek Canadian Championship semi-final win at Pacific, with Hasal getting his first league start of the year in goal and local lad Simon Becher getting the nod to lead the line.

St Louis came out strong with Jared Stroud firing wide in the 6th minute and Niko Gioacchini forcing a save from Hasal three minutes later.

It felt like a goal was imminent and it came in the 10th minute when Lowen curled a free kick deep into the back post, and getting more on it than he probably planned, the ball carried over the outstretched Hasal and into the postage stamp corner to give the home side the lead.

Unfortunate for Vancouver, but you have to ask questions about Hasal coming off his line to meet the cross and either misjudging the flight or failing to get to it, as the reaction of the ‘Caps defenders would also seem to back up.

The Whitecaps finally settled and started to come into the game and dictate the play. Meanwhile the home side’s pair of former Whitecaps, Jake Nerwinski and Tim Parker, picked up a pair of yellow cards within a minute of each other, putting some pressure on half of the St Louis defence with three quarters of the game left to play.

The half was just fizzling out with little of note when St Louis doubled their lead out of absolutely nothing in the 45th minute and once again it was a Whitecaps error that handed them a goal.

Lowen sent a long ball forward which only found Tristan Blackmon on the edge of the box, but defensive confusion and a seeming lack of communication saw the centre back head the ball back towards goal while Hasal had come off his line, seemingly reading the path of the cross, and the ball flew into the empty net.

A huge risk for any defender to head the ball back on goal without looking to see where his goalie is. Was there any communication or just missed communication? Either way, there’s a lot of blame to go around.

Two goals down now certainly changed Sartini’s half time team talk, but the ‘Caps had one final chance to get that deficit back down to one in stoppage time when Julian Gressel sent a beautifully timed long ball for Becher to run onto, but the young striker just couldn’t seem to get the ball out of the ground to get a shot off and Roman Burki was out quickly to disrupt the danger.

Both teams came out strong to start the second half and Becher had another great chance for the Whitecaps in the 54th minute, getting onto another long ball forward but unable to get a shot on target.

Neither team were really creating much in terms of goalscoring opportunities, as the game began to get quite chippy, but the Whitecaps had a great chance to pull one back in the 76th minute when Ranko Veselinovic flicked on a header but White just couldn’t run in with the needed touch at the back post.

It seemed like it was going to be one of those nights but the ‘Caps suddenly game themselves lifeline in the 83rd minute when Gressel sent in another fantastic cross from the right, onto the head of White, who knocked it past Burki and set up a potential exciting final few minutes.

The excitement was sadly all saved for the home side and they added a third four minutes into stoppage time, and once again it came from poor goalkeeping.

Lowen fired in a free kick, which Hasal saved but spilled. Tomas Ostrak pounced on the rebound and played it inside to Perez and the young homegrown capped off a momentous couple of days, that included graduating from high school, to blast the ball high into the Vancouver net and seal the deal and the three points for St Louis.

Another disappointing away result for the Whitecaps, who are fast approaching one full year without a league win on the road. This was a match with little to choose between the two teams and a draw would have been a fair result. Instead three defensive howlers cost the ‘Caps dear, sending St Louis temporarily to the top of the table and sending Vancouver down to 8th.

If the ‘Caps are to make any serious inroads in the postseason, they need to find a way to rid this road hoodoo. Cutting out the defensive errors would certainly be a start.

FINAL SCORE: St Louis City 3 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps

ATT: 22,423

SCORING SUMMARY:

10’ – STL – Eduard Löwen
45′ – STL – Tristan Blackmon (own goal)
83′ – VAN – Brian White (Julian Gressel)
90+4′ – STL – Miguel Perez

STATS:
Possession: STL 38.4% – VAN 61.6%
Shots: STL 15 – VAN 12
Shots on Goal: STL 6 – VAN 2
Saves: STL 1 – VAN 4
Fouls: STL 11 – VAN 12
Offsides: STL 2 – VAN 3
Corners: STL 7 – VAN 5

ST LOUIS: Roman Bürki; Jake Nerwinski (John Nelson 63′), Lucas Bartlett, Tim Parker, Kyle Hiebert; Njabulo Blom, Eduard Löwen; Jared Stroud (Tomás Ostrák 72′), Indiana Vassilev (Jonathan Bell 90+2′), Célio Pompeu (Miguel Perez 72′); Nicholas Gioacchini (Aziel Jackson 90+3′) [Substitutes not used: Ben Lundt, Joshua Yaro, Akil Watts, Isak Jensen]

VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Javain Brown (Sergio Córdova 65′), Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon, Luís Martins; Julian Gressel, Sebastian Berhalter (Déiber Caicedo 57′), Alessandro Schöpf (Levonte Johnson 85′); Pedro Vite (Andrés Cubas 65′), Ryan Gauld; Simon Becher (Brian White 57′) [Substitutes not used: Yohei Takaoka, Mathías Laborda, Ryan Raposo]

REACTION:

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

VANNI SARTINI

On the refereeing:

“It’s hard to win when the other team has 12 men, so that’s the initial thought, and if we don’t receive a letter from the league that apologises for the shameful performance of the referee. It’s something that league can do it and should do it because it’s for the good of the league because we export this product away and when there is something that is completely shameful, unfortunately shameful because it looked like the referee was a player for them. It’s really hard to come at the game with the things that happened on the field.”

Why do you think the referee’s performance was shameful?

“We didn’t have any foul. Every foul for them was there. Every half and half, it was always two different measurements, never the same, and Jake should have been sent off. The free kick, it’s our fault, Thomas made a mistake, but it’s not a free kick. At the end it’s a free kick for us, they whistle a free kick for them and they score the third goal, and the management of the game was one way. Probably he had a bad day, and I’m sorry for him, but if the league doesn’t recognise that, there’s a problem.”

Did Vanni talk to the ref about it?

“He didn’t respond to me and I didn’t want to talk to him because I would have been angrier than I am now and I would say things that I would later regret to say. So better not to speak.”

On Thomas Hasal’s performance:

“Unfortunately he made one error on the goal. The second goal he was unlucky. It was a miscommunication. I don’t know if he called the ball from Tristan or he didn’t. He grew into the game. It’s hard to play once every three months, that is why we didn’t play him in the cup. We didn’t put him under pressure in the cup. Beside the first mistake after two minutes I thought he responded well and then he played a good performance.”

“We need to focus on the positive, we need to focus on what he did later. We’ve also not been shy to tell him the mistake. He did a mistake. That’s the only way in order to grow. He knows. He’s a fantastic professional and we trust him and we’ll need him again, he’ll play again. I think that the best way to really tell him to do better is that mistakes can happen. Unfortunately he plays in a position that when he does a mistake a goal is guaranteed. But before the made that mistake he made a good save from five yards. In the second half he made a double save. Even the free kick at the end, it wasn’t easy. It is what it is. We need to be better and we go on.”

Will he take anything from this game when he looks back?

“I think it’s a game that should be cancelled because the referee was a shame. So that’s what it is. We’ll take all the positives. The second half was fantastic. We destroyed them. We closed them in their half. We had a lot of chances. Unfortunately when you’re 2-0 down, the first two goals we made a gift. It’s a beautiful new stadium. It’s like we gave them a housewarming gift.”

On the result:

“We don’t need to make the silly mistakes that gave them two goals. We gave them two goals and we need to be better. We need to be more prepared. We need to know that we come here and there’s 22,000 fans that are against us because we’re a better team than them. That’s pretty simple. That’s without question, we showed during the game, we played better than them, but at the end the result is 3-1 so we don’t need to make those silly mistakes.”

On the upcoming home stretch:

“First of all, we need to win all the games at home like we’re doing so we need to continue doing this. Unfortunately, we put ourselves under pressure, losing away. Winning helps, winning brings the mentality on and that’s how we will try to go there, be positive, not being shy on telling us the mistakes that we did, but also conscious that, again, today is not a bad performance to be honest, we need to be better in some moments of the game, especially this game today. At the end of the first half, they had basically zero shots, because the goal is not a goal, zero shots and we lose 2-0 and it cannot happen.”

RYAN GAULD

On the result:

“I think over the course of the game we played pretty well, we created a few chances, we gifted them their goals and apart from that, they never broke us down really, especially second half, we had a lot of the ball. It’s the kind of game that will look back on, we’ll be disappointed, we’ll be wondering for a while how we didn’t leave with at least a point. Fair play to them, they’re doing well, I think they’re up near the top of the league now, so fair play to them, but it was definitely a winnable game.”

On the upcoming home stretch:

“We’re all coming out of this game frustrated with how it’s ended. But at the same time, I think all the boys are aware that we played well and if we keep playing like that, we’re going to get some good results and especially at home, that’s where we’ve been getting the majority of our points so everyone will be looking forward to it and I think it’s a good thing as well, we don’t have to wait seven or eight days until the next game. It’s coming like Wednesday, Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday, so when you lose the way we did tonight, you just want to be playing again as soon as possible to try and do things right.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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