With everything that went on preseason and all the obstacles they faced, if you’d told me that Vancouver Whitecaps would be unbeaten to start this season and feeling disappointed to only have four points on the board instead of all six, it would have been hard to believe. Yet here we are.
The Whitecaps headed to Florida for a Canadian derby and fought through the heat and humidity to battle it out to a 2-2 draw, and left rueing the self inflicted damage and missed late opportunity that would have seen them walking away with all three points instead of just the one.
Trailing at the half to an early Luke Singh goal, the ‘Caps fought back through a Cristian Dajome penalty and an Andy Rose header to take the lead heading into the final quarter of the game. They couldn’t hold on though and a series of unfortunate events led to Jonathan Osorio being credited with the late equaliser that saw a share of the spoils.
To the surprise of no-one, Marc Dos Santos kept an unchanged line-up to the team that beat Portland last Sunday in Vancouver’s season opener. The good news for everyone of a blue and white persuasion was that some key pieces has returned to the matchday squad to take up a place on the bench, in particular new signings Bruno Gaspar and Caio Alexandre.
Going from the altitude of Utah to the heat and humidity of Florida was always going to be a test for Vancouver and it was a sluggish first half performance from them in the most part, one which saw them struggle to get their attack fully flowing and with some defensive lapses at the back.
And it was one of those defensive lapses that saw Toronto take the lead seven minutes in when Vancouver switched off at a free kick, with three players caught napping and out of position as TFC whipped the ball into the box. The ball eventually came to a wide open Omar Gonzalez at the back of the box and his header was palmed away by Max Crepeau, eventually falling to Singh, who drilled home his first MLS goal.
7' | A HOMEGROWN GOAL! Get in there, Luke!
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) April 24, 2021
There was a lot of blame to go round in this one, and while you can take some solace from it being a makeshift backline, it’s not an inexperienced one and it’s not acceptable defending at this level.
TFC looked comfortable after taking the lead, happy to knock the ball about without really posing much of a threat to add to the scoreline, while Vancouver’s attack wasn’t clicking the way we’ve already seen this year.
Nick DeLeon flashed a low long ranger just past the ‘Caps left post and Deiber Caicedo saw a great free kick turned away by Alex Bono in the TFC goal, but that was pretty much that for the first half.
Something had to change for the Whitecaps to get back into this one, but I’m not sure anyone would have expected such a change of trajectory after the break. While it wasn’t a poor first half performance, it wasn’t exactly an inspiring one that they were going to trouble the scoreboard.
But the ‘Caps got themselves back on level terms within 10 minutes of the restart.
Lucas Cavallini showed some fancy footwork in the box, dancing through the Toronto defence before being brought down by Richie Laryea and earning a penalty for Vancouver. Up stepped Dajome, who drilled a beautiful spot kick in off the inside of the right post to tie things back up.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 24, 2021
The goal gave the ‘Caps an immediate boost in confidence and they upped the tempo considerably, as TFC started to fade and look leggy, even with the introduction of a triple substitution.
Vancouver were now clearly in the ascendency and looking the more likely to take the lead and they did just that in the 70th minute.
Cristian Gutierrez whipped in a free kick from the left and Andy Rose lived up to his surname to head powerfully past Bono and put the Whitecaps into the lead.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 24, 2021
It was quite the turnaround for Vancouver, but the job now was to hang on.
As the ‘Caps tried to close out the game, TFC found themselves a second wind and started to enjoy their best spell of pressure of the game. The Whitecaps still seemed comfortable to come away with the win, but a calamitous defensive series with seven minutes to go let the home side level things up.
Rose tried to clear the ball from the ‘Caps box, but only managed to hit it off Michael Baldisimo, back into the danger zone, and Osorio pounced on the loose ball.
The Canadian’s first time shot was saved by Crepeau but the ball spun over his body towards the goal and despite the ‘Caps keeper’s last ditch efforts the claw the ball off the line, it ended up spinning into the net and Toronto were back on level terms.
It was a mixture of bad luck and Keystone Cops style defensive play by the ‘Caps (Keystone ‘Caps anyone?). Unfortunate, but it is what it is.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) April 24, 2021
TFC now sensed blood and went for the winner, forcing Crepeau into a strong late save, but it was Vancouver that should have wrapped up the three points, as Ryan Raposo was sprung, bore down on goal, but could only look on in dismay as Bono got down well to turn his effort around the post deep into stoppage time.
And that was it. A point from a strong performance, that really could have been a victory, and should have been if it wasn’t for self inflicted defensive play.
But there were many positive to take from this one. The ‘Caps strong start to the season was cemented by an impressive second half and the signs continue to be there that they have something special brewing and to build upon.
Gutierrez continues to shine and impress and is looking better and better every week. Gasper and Alexandre got their first MLS minutes under their belt, even if Caio may have lost a tooth by doing so. And the attack, when in full flow, looks very, very dangerous.
Defensive errors were the clear downside, and the left wing looks weak and needs reinforcements in there asap, whether that be Adnan or a new addition.
But the building blocks are there and an exciting season looks in store. We’re trying to temper that excitement, we’ve been there before, but with two home games now coming up in Utah, these give the ‘Caps the chance to consolidate, fully integrate the new arrivals, and see where that takes them.
FINAL SCORE: Toronto FC 2 – 2 Vancouver Whitecaps
TORONTO: Alex Bono; Richie Laryea, Omar Gonzalez, Luke Singh, Auro Jr (Jacob Shaffelburg 61); Michael Bradley, Noble Okello (Ayo Akinola 78); Marky Delgado, Nick DeLeon (Jonathan Osorio 61), Jayden Nelson (Justin Morrow 46); Patrick Mullins (Jozy Altidore 61) [Substitutes not used: Quentin Westberg, Eriq Zavaleta, Griffin Dorsey, Tsubasa Endoh]
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Jake Nerwinski, Ranko Veselinović, Andy Rose, Cristián Gutiérrez; Déiber Caicedo (Derek Cornelius 87), Janio Bikel (Caio Alexandre 75), Michael Baldisimo (Bruno Gaspar 87), Russell Teibert ; Cristian Dájome (Ryan Raposo 90+4), Lucas Cavallini [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Evan Newton, Theo Bair, Javain Brown, Patrick Metcalfe]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On paying tribute to Dani Hoult:
“I want to make sure I highlight this. When I heard this story it broke my heart. As a club and us in the locker room, we can’t change anything, but we feel for the parents and we send them all our love, our strength. It’s hard for me to be talking about this now, but Danielle, everybody, we love them and we give strength to the parents, that’s what we can do as a club and we’re just there for them and I hope they could heal in the right way.”
On the game:
“I think that in the first half it wasn’t a bad half, I can’t call it a bad half in the circumstance of the weather and the humidity, I agree the game is a good game for the fans, it was a roller-coaster, it was kind of an equal game. When you’re playing a team like TFC you can’t give goals away like that to them. Then we spoke the moments we needed to be better, to build up better, to push up better, to get Baldi more involved. When we tied the game the team grew in confidence, it was a team that thought we could get the three points. When they tied the game, we never felt that threatened, we made a sub. I’m really upset that we conceded the second goal, it was a just a very unlucky goal to concede. The game changed when it became 2-2, when you get players like Altidore and Osorio it changes the game. We had two great chances at the end from Ryan and Cava. It would’ve been great to get one of those in.”
On the start of the season:
“I’m delighted with the start of the season, when I was at UBC with so many distractions of the players getting visas and players to go to play for the Olympics, every time we’re in training I see a group that it is incredibly humbled. We have a group of guys that enjoy being close to each other, and I think taking this season we have to embrace it. I think about the game looking back at it we could’ve gotten the three points there’s a lot we can build on.”
On possession in the attacking third:
“I thought we could still grow a lot in possession on the offensive, we’ve could’ve made a better pass, stretched the field better. There’s things I was more pleased with but there’s also moments of pressure that were difficult for us. I think there’s still a lot of growth for the team in the attacking third with making the final pass, getting better movement but there’s still plenty of good.”
On whether it was two points dropped or one point earned:
“There was a moment in the game where I said this is a good point but when I spoke with the players in the middle of the field at the end of the game they were all upset, you could see they wanted the three points.”
On sticking with the same starting lineup:
“It’s going to depend. Sometimes you win and inside the [starting] 11 there’s two players or a player that doesn’t have a positive game. Sometimes there’s injuries. But you have to work with that confidence, you have to also work [if] you have three games in eight days. Now, when you have one game per week, you’re able to manage that more. Me, I believe in stability, but at the same time, I’m going tell you that players need to keep deserving their spot, they need to be consistent with their spots. This level of competition in the roster is very good and is very healthy. We wanted to get to this point.”
On Guti’s growth:
“I see him growing, I see him with a lot of qualities, what brought Guti to this position he is in now is how humble he is in this position. So sometimes as a coach I have to remind him don’t forget where you came from, there’s a lot of good qualities with him but he also has great qualities off the pitch as a man that I also look in my players.”
On building the team:
“We are in the market still for an attacking midfielder player that can help us in that last third. We’re still working hard on that area. And then we have another spot that we have to evaluate. Now in the long term, you know, what I like about where the club is, the club is in a place today that is constantly thinking about the medium [and] long term, that we have people working [and] thinking about that. We meet every day. I like the position of, we always want more. What’s next for our club? How do we want to grow? But one thing that I feel won’t be negotiable is that we’ll have a young team, we have young players, we’ll develop players and help them grow. That’s where we want to be as a club.”
On the match:
“Mixed thoughts. The two goals we conceded are sloppy, are very preventable. Obviously the second one off Baldi I could’ve done better with. Frustrated with that but I feel like to come down from 1-0 down, to be in a difficult environment against a team like them, to come back to lead 2-1, there’s a lot of positives to build on early in the season.”
On the fighting spirit of the team:
“I’m not surprised because everything we saw in preseason with a lot of guys missing in preseason with everything we went through, we go down, and not conceding a second goal helped us a lot. We trust guys like Cava, Dajo and Caicedo to get forward, they’re full of quality. I told the group at halftime to stay calm, that we would continue creating chances. The whole group has a spirit that we didn’t have last season. We’ve got a lot of quality.”
On having the next two matches at their temporary home stadium in Utah:
“Were excited about that, so to take four points is great. We didn’t pick up enough of these points last season against these teams, but we still have to be proud that we came into this game against a tough opponent in a tough atmosphere. To capture a point is big for us.”
On the match:
“I thought it was a hard game against a tough opponent with a lot of quality. We put up a great performance. I thought, during the game we attacked well through the middle, and we had to create more through the middle. That’s where I did most of my damage there, so I thought we could have done a little bit better, penetrating through the middle.”
On relationship with Cavallini:
Yeah, he’s a great player, a great person, him and my family are always together. Every day we’re doing our best to get to know each other on and off the field, we’re trying to get to know each other’s qualities on the field as well, as we did last year. But the most important thing is to try and make that relationship produce on the field as well, so that means more goals for me and more goals for him. That’s the main goal with our relationship.”
On scoring from set pieces and working on open play goals:
“Yeah, it’s hard. There’s players that came here late to preseason to join the team. But as for the set pieces, it’s something we’ve worked on a lot and that’s how we’ve been producing in these past two games. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter how we score, it just matters that we put the ball in the back in the net. Of course we’ll keep working to produce in all parts of the field, but that’s just my opinion, it doesn’t matter how the ball goes in the net.”