Vancouver Whitecaps headed into DC minus the injured Pedro Morales, Christian Bolanos, Octavio Rivero and Nicolas Mezquida, along with the suspended Matias Laba. That wasn’t just a weakening of the team, it was a ravaging of it. Five big impact, senior players missing, but a chance for some formation tinkering and for the fringe players and young guys to step up and try and stake a claim to a starting spot.
Well in theory. In reality it was a terrible performance from the ‘Caps, devoid of any creativity or attacking threat and woefully exposed at the back by a rampant United attack that had a real hunger to try and kickstart their season.
It was a hunger that simply couldn’t be matched by Vancouver, who turned in probably their worst performance yet under Carl Robinson’s tenure in a 4-0 thumping.
Here’s our match report and postgame reaction from both locker rooms.
The Whitecaps must have had high hopes heading in to DC to face a winless United side that was struggling to get any offence going. The ‘Caps were unbeaten in three games, with back to back clean sheets, but you came out of this one wondering just how that had been possible, as the home side turned in an impressive performance, banging in four unanswered goals. If it wasn’t for David Ousted, it could have been a lot, lot worse.
Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio got a brace apiece, with the latter only being on the pitch for 11 minutes.
The ‘Caps offered basically nothing in return, and although some of the display can be pinned on the missing personnel, you can’t blame all of what went wrong on being understrength.
Vancouver were decimated by injuries and suspension heading in to this one, but the absences led to an exciting looking starting eleven, with two strikers in Blas Perez and Masato Kudo and the first MLS start for Marco Bustos in the number 10 role. With that creative quality, and with a solid backline, the Whitecaps were confident they could come away from the match with something.
The ‘Caps enjoyed their fare share of possession in the opening exchanges but it was the home side that were creating the better chances.
Nick DeLeon had the first chance of the game in the 10th minute, forcing a good save from David Ousted after the ball fell to him in the box, 12 yards out. Ousted was called into action moments later, saving easily from an Espindola shot from inside the box that lacked power.
DC came their closest yet in the 15th minute when Steve Birnbaum got his head on a free kick floated in by Marcelo Sarvas, but flashed it wide right.
Ousted was being kept busy smothering and dealing with dangerous balls into the box, as Vancouver struggled to get any real offence going.
The Whitecaps soaked up the continuing DC pressure without too much trouble, as the game fell into a bit of a lull. It almost sprang back into life in the 33rd minute when the ball was cut back to Espindola on the penalty spot, but Ousted produced a fantastic leg save to deny the Argentine and keep the game scoreless.
Vancouver had their first chance in the 36th minute, when Perez ran on to a neat Kudo layoff, before firing a fierce one wide of the right post.
The Whitecaps resistance was finally broken six minutes before half time. Ousted did well to get down to a Chris Rolfe shot, but couldn’t hold on and Espindola was on hand to poke home the spill and give the home side their deserved lead.
It looked like a big ask for Vancouver get back into this one but they nearly did that in the 42nd minute when Fraser Aird forced a save from Travis Worra after a neatly worked breakaway.
That was it for the first half, and the ‘Caps were now left chasing.
Kekuta Manneh came on for Marco Bustos at the break, but DC were at it again straight from the restart, with Ousted being forced to make another leg save from Espindola two minutes in.
It was just putting off the inevitable and DC made it 2-0 in the 54th minute. Birnbaum outjumped Tim Parker at a corner, but crashed his header off the bar. The rebound fell to the feet of Espindola who easily buried it high into the net.
The only two real questions remaining for Vancouver now were could they hold it to just two goals against and what were the chances of grabbing that first goal of the season from open play?
The latter nearly came in the 67th minute when Manneh finally ran at the DC defence and his low cross came out to sub Erik Hurtado who rattled the left post with his first touch of the game, and the season.
Hurtado had another great chance ten minutes later when the ball came to him open at the back post but he horribly scuffed his effort.
DC added a third two minutes from time, when they broke quickly from a ‘Caps corner and substitute Alvaro Saborio was played in by Luciano Acosta and easily clipped the ball over Ousted.
And Saborio cut the Whitecaps apart again a minute into stoppage time, coolly finishing after Acosta played him in once more to make it four.
All in all, it was a terrible performance from the Whitecaps. They may have been missing some key, senior players, but Carl Robinson has long maintained that he has a squad for a reason. On tonight’s showing, that squad is simply not good enough when a lot of them have to be called upon at the same time.
Ousted and Jacobson were the sole shining lights, as both defence and attack struggled. Still no goal from open play for the Whitecaps in 540 minutes now and some serious work is needing done before next week’s trip to Real Salt Lake.
Let’s just hope they’re a bit healthier for what will be another tough one.
FINAL SCORE: DC United 4 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
DC: Travis Worra; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp; Patrick Nyarko (Rob Vincent 86), Marcelo Sarvas, Nick DeLeon, Lamar Neagle; Chris Rolfe (Luciano Acosta 77), Fabian Espíndola (Alvaro Saborio 79) [Subs Not Used: Tally Hall, Kofi Opare, Luke Mishu, Jared Jeffrey]
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey; Andrew Jacobson, Russell Teibert (Kianz Froese 61), Marco Bustos, Cristian Techera; Masato Kudo, Blas Perez (Erik Hurtado 67) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Jordan Smith, Sam Adekugbe, Pa Modou Kah, Kekuta Manneh]
On the overall outcome of the game:
“They out-forced every department; the midfield areas, defensive areas, attacking areas and they outshot us. So credit to them, they got what they deserved and we got what we deserved. “
On the absence of players:
“You can use the weather conditions, the travel, the two flights we took to get here, you can use missing players…I don’t use excuses. We’ve got good enough players in there to get a result and unfortunately we didn’t today. As I was saying, we were the second-best team the whole game.”
On D.C. United’s performance and the dynamics of the game:
“The league is very close, the teams are very close and there are teams without wins and D.C. picked up their first win today. It’s a good team with experienced MLS players and you go through runs in this league; good and bad. We knew that if we could go the first 30 or 40 minutes without conceding, we’d have a chance to weather the early storm with a good goalkeeping performance. Unfortunately, we conceded one goal. We wanted to push, but gave away another silly goal. At 2-0, the dynamics of the game changed and we probably had our best period after 60 or 65 minutes, but 20 or so minutes we hit the post and things didn’t fall for us in the box and then conceded in the 34th, 88th and 90th minute.”
On David Ousted’s performance:
“He’s good every week and if you’re a goalkeeper, you need to come up big sometimes, especially in tight games. Today wasn’t a tight game. Today was a very one-sided game with D.C. United, but you still come up big and he made a number of good saves on 20-plus shots and we had six or seven. So, when that happens, you’re more than likely not going to win the game.”
On the overall result:
“I’m very disappointed, obviously with the result, but even more with our performance. We didn’t look like a team that came here to play. We were slow with starting and it wasn’t a performance that was up to the standards that we try to hold ourselves to, so I’m not happy.”
On the team’s injuries and holes in the midfield:
“It’s no excuse. I’ve said all along that this squad has depth; the guys from the bench are coming in and are talented soccer players. This is about mentality, this is about stepping up when you get a chance to step in the lineup and today, collectively as a team, we failed.”
On Fabián Espíndola’s second goal:
“The second one changed the game because we’re not suddenly chasing one; we’re chasing two. Again, with the second one, he gets a header off, I get a little bit of it, it goes off the bar and into one of their guys and it’s those little details that change the games. We have to be honest with ourselves. Today we didn’t deserve it; we weren’t good enough.”
On the pieces all coming together:
“Satisfaction is a good word. I’m glad we hung in there with that group of guys and continued to grow and not panic. We are better off for it. We created a ton of chances in the first half and we were unlucky not to get more than one. There were no poor performances and the guys connected passes and read the game very well. When we play like that, we are a very talented team. And when we play as a team, on both sides of the ball, then we will get results.”
On playing with an increased sense of urgency:
“I think we played with a sense of urgency last week. I don’t think that part is new to tonight but I do think it was a good night overall. I thought everyone, from an effort and soccer standpoint, was at a high level. When you put those together you will have a night like this.”
On Birnbaum’s performance:
“His confidence is very high right now and I think he’s pushing himself internally to having a bigger role on and off the field. He has good leadership qualities and going with the national team definitely helps. He’s brought the high level of the national team back to us and that’s not always the case when people come back. And for a young guy, that’s important.”
On Saborío and Acosta off the bench:
“They did exactly what we needed them to. When we create space for them to move, guys with their qualities can do what they did. There are a bunch of different ways to skin this thing and it’s good for them get points on the board.”
On Rolfe’s and Espíndola’s performances:
“Both were fantastic. Rolfe doesn’t get enough credit with that partnership because Fabi [Espíndola] starts to fade out wide and create plus ones and very few players understand how to play with him in the right way. I thought both of them were very good tonight. Fabi [Espindola] played what was there; he played simple when he needed to and when he needed to pull some magic out he did that as well. From a defensive standpoint they set a very good tone and he [Fabi] doesn’t usually get the number nine scrappy goals and that’s just a product of hard work and being hungry.”
On the difference between today and the past few weeks:
“We scored. I think we’ve been building up to this moment. We knew it was going to happen eventually. We love playing here at home and I think over the past two years we’ve had some great games at home and a great record here. Overall, I think everybody had a great game, we believed in it. We’ve had some good halves this year, and that was a big challenge coming out in the second half and getting a good start to that half; I think we did a great job. I think the first ten minutes of the second half we put them under pressure; we were composed on the ball and made them defend a little bit. After that it made the rest of the half pretty easy.”
On the first goal:
“All I can remember was that I was off the shoulder of [Kendall] Waston as Patrick [Nyarko] had the ball. Whenever Patrick [Nyarko] has the ball you know something good is going to happen, so you’ve just got to get in a good spot. We combined a lot like that when we were in Chicago together, so I knew at some point the ball was coming. It was a fantastic pass and I took a shot and tried to hit it back post just like our coach teaches us. There’s a rebound, Fabi’s [Espíndola] there and it’s a great effort by him and that all comes back to Patrick [Nyarko].”
On the overall result:
“We were going to take it to them from the get-go, make them feel uncomfortable, press them and I think we achieved the game plan to a T. Like I said, we’ve just got to get a couple of days off to recover, go back to training and move on to Toronto next week. We build on each other by making practices sharp, high focus and high intensity and if we continue to do that throughout the week we’ll be in really good shape moving forward.”
On the overall result:
“Now we finally got the win we want and it’s definitely one that we needed. It was a 4-0 win where we got the shut out. We worked hard when it was a tough game towards the end when they were pushing and we were defending the ball together. So it was definitely a win we needed and it was nice to do that at home.”