Another week, another controversial penalty decision going against Vancouver Whitecaps, some more poor defending, and sadly another defeat. That was the tale of the Whitecaps third straight defeat to start the new MLS season, as they fell 3-2 to a Houston Dynamo side that’s attacking prowess was simply too much for a new look Vancouver defence to handle.
A brace from Memo Rodriguez and that contentious penalty from Alberth Elis did the damage. Goals from Fredy Montero and Lass Bangoura had seen the Whitecaps fight back twice after falling behind, and while that will provide some solace for Marc Dos Santos, this is a Vancouver side who still very much look a work in progress and with a lot of work to turn things around in the process, as they fell to their worst ever start in MLS.
Dos Santos rang some changes for the third straight week, this week going with a 3-4-3 formation, bringing Scott Sutter in for his first start as a Whitecap and bringing Derek Cornelius into the starting line-up against as part of the back three.
Houston had a great opportunity to open the scoring in the sixth minute when Alberth Elis sent in a cross that Max Crepeau could only parry into the path of Rodriguez, but the midfielder blasted over from six yards out with the goal gaping. A lucky escape for the ‘Caps, but a lesson they weren’t to learn from.
The ‘Caps were getting forward well, and had a couple of half chances through a Montero header that went across goal with no takers and then an Erik Godoy header from a corner that flew over, but the Dynamo went straight up the pitch and took the lead through a 15th minute Rodriguez tap in.
Slack defending saw Cornelius give the ball away horribly to Elis in the corner, and the Honduran sent in a perfect ball to a wide open Rodriguez, who made no mistake from four yards out.
Houston were looking the far more dangerous team, with their attack threatening to rip the Vancouver defence a new one every time they poured forward, and Elis nearly made it two in the 24th minute, crashing a header off the bar.
Then from nowhere the Whitecaps got themselves back in it in the 34th minute. Adam Lundkvist brought down Fredy Montero in the box and the Colombian picked himself up to drill home the penalty for his first goal since his return as a Whitecap. 1-1 and somehow, game on.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 16, 2019
It was a soft penalty. Montero went down very easily but there was contact, and after how the last two weeks have played out for the ‘Caps in terms of penalties, you take that call every day of the week.
But what goes around comes around and three minutes later Elis went down in the other box to claim a soft penalty of his own.
As Elis raced into the box, Cornelius knocked the ball away and the Honduran seemed to throw himself on to the ground. Referee Nima Saghafi pointed to the spot amidst Whitecaps ire as ‘Caps players implored him to go to VAR. He eventually did, reviewed it, and stayed resolute to his initial decision.
For me Cornelius got the ball, not the man, and Elis made the most it. The only slim consolation, if you can even call it that, was that at least the ref went for video review this week. Let us know your thoughts on the call below.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 16, 2019
Elis picked himself up and tucked away the penalty and that was how it stayed till half time, with the home side heading in with a 2-1 lead, which on the overall balance of play was at least deserved.
MDS shook things up at half time, bringing on Bangoura for Cornelius, as Vancouver moved to a back four, and the ‘Caps started the half brightly with Inbeom Hwang forcing Joe Willie to tip over a long range free kick five minutes in.
Vancouver kept on the pressure and they tied things up once again in the 54th minute when Bangoura pounced on a misplaced Houston pass just inside the ‘Caps half, raced in on goal, taking a touch inside in the box before curling a beauty into the bottom right corner.
Banger from Bangoura.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 16, 2019
The game now opened up and Houston had a chance to go back ahead on the hour mark when the ball fell to Aljaz Struna, in the box from a corner, but the Slovenian blasted over.
Boniek Garcia received a pass in the box in the 72nd minute, but shot weakly at Crepeau. The Dynamo kept the pressure on and Crepeau was called into action again, this time to keep out a fiercer shot from 10 yards out.
But Houston weren’t about to be denied and they went ahead seconds later when Rodriguez grabbed his second of the game, sweeping home another inch perfect low Elis cross.
Ironically he was about to be taken out of the game for Romell Quioto, and this proved to be his last action of the afternoon. A nice way to bow out.
Things soon got worse for Vancouver, with Andy Rose forced out of the game with a bleeding head injury after a clash of heads in the box. With the ‘Caps having just used their third sub, they were to see out the rest of the match with ten men.
Houston were lucky to keep 11 players on the pitch themselves minutes later when Quioto only picked up a yellow for a horrible looking forearm smash into the face of Montero.
There was to be no third comeback and the ‘Caps made it three straight defeats to start the Marc Dos Santos era in Vancouver. There were some positives, and some signs that the attack is starting to get there, but the defending continues to be very concerning and needs to be addressed as a matter of priority. At least they have a week off now to do that.
FINAL SCORE: Houston Dynamo 3 -2 Vancouver Whitecaps
ATT: A shockingly poor 13,549
HOUSTON: Joe Willis; A.J. DeLaGarza, Aljaz Struna, Kevin Garcia, Adam Lundkvist; Matías Vera, Boniek Garcia; Alberth Elis, Tomás Martínez (Tommy McNamara 71), Memo Rodríguez (Romell Quioto 74); Mauro Manotas (Marlon Hairston 90) [Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Alejandro Fuenmayor, Ronaldo Peña, Darwin Cerén]
VANCOUVER: Max Crepeau; Doneil Henry, Erik Godoy, Derek Cornelius (Lass Bangoura 46); Scott Sutter, Jon Erice (Joaquin Ardaiz 74), Andy Rose, “PC” Giro; Yordy Reyna (Lucas Venuto 67), Inbeom Hwang, Fredy Montero [Subs Not Used: Zach MacMath, Jake Nerwinski, David Norman, Felipe Martins]
MARC DOS SANTOS
Initial thoughts on the game:
“I think as a team if you want to get results on the road, then you can’t give up the type of goals we gave because then you’re always chasing and that’s what happened today. Of course the mentality of the guys was good in the second half—not only did we tie the game but also before they scored the 3-2 there was a good chance for us where Fredy (Montero) get a shot that blocked and could have been dangerous, but overall that’s the story of not only this game, the first three games where it’s all played by one goal and it’s all situations that as a team, we need to be better at not giving goals to the opponent, if not it’s going to be very difficult.”
On the adjustments at half time:
“We went from a back there to a 4-3-3 once again and having more speed and more weapons wide, but again we don’t think that the goals that we conceded had something to do tactically in the first half, it was much more decision making that brought us to be down on the score at the half.”
On what Lass Bangoura brought to the game:
“You guys saw what Lass brought. He brought energy like he’s been and even Lucas (Venuto) when he comes in. We can’t just bring energy from the bench we need to bring that every from the start.”
On what the key is to bringing energy from the start:
“It’s work. It’s work. It’s also been more man and more composed and less genuine and that what we have to be.”
On if the national break comes at a good time:
“No, it doesn’t come at a good time because after you lose when you’re in a moment like that you want to play right away so the international break comes at a bad time.”
On starting the season off with three losses and if he thinks this has been the best performance so far:
“No. No, no I think it was a lot by pockets. We had good pockets of moment against Minnesota than our second half against Real Salt Lake was good. Then again today we had pockets. Of course I do feel that it’s more and more of the team growing but if you want to make points, you can’t conceded the way we conceded.”
On getting the disappointing result:
“Yeah, obviously this has felt like we could of gotten more in the game, I think we deserved to lose the point. We got harped on by the penalty call unfortunately but it’s just the way it is at the moment, things aren’t going really our way and you know there is not much missing. We’re really, really close. This is the third game that we lost by inches really, so there is not much I can say just keep plugging away really.”
On getting his first start playing in the position that he is more familiar with:
“It’s always good to play. The way this season is set up there is going to be a lot of games and lot of midweek games—it’s very condensed. So there will be rotation and if I play then Jake is there to support me and if Jake plays I’m there to support him. So definitely a team effort and I think that goes throughout the whole squad. There will be rotations every now and then. Like you said, it’s good to get my first start. It’s good to get my first 90 minutes. It’s been awhile—I think October last year. So, it’s definitely something to build on.”
On what it will take to get a full 90 minute consistent effort:
“Just having 90 minutes of dominance from the opposition. The more we keep the ball, the less they have the ball and the more we can kind of circulate. I think we need to be a bit more patient sometimes and have a bit more confidence with the ball and building out and kind of really keeping the ball. Occasionally, we win the ball and then we lose it back too quickly. So, it’s kind of hard on everyone to really get into the rhythm throughout the game but it’s definitely something that we strive for and hope we do get into in upcoming games.”
On areas that the team needs to improve on during the break:
“I think a bit of everything really. It’s still early in the season. We are still kind of feeling each other. We all know that. It’s a very new team and a lot of new faces, myself included. We will definitely use these two weeks to work hard and analyze the game today and the past couple of games to see what we kind of can improve on and work hard for the next two weeks. It should be good. It’s quite a time that we can regroup and correct some of the issues.”
On the outcome of the game:
“I think we played a very good game despite the two goals that we received. Those two goals, we are going to fix those. It was penalty kick where Adam (Lundkvist) was trying to mark, but he lost sight of the ball, and then when he tried to turn he lost the sight of Montero. When you’re defending corners you cannot lose both, and he recognizes that. For a moment he lost that but that happens. The second one, Matías (Vera) tried to switch the ball and he passed the ball to us. We were in a bad shape in the moment, we were exposed and Lass took advantage of that situation. But we can fix those easily. Now, the other side is that we were very good with the ball. Our passing, our power combinations, for moments, were great. We were very good. And the front three were very good. Alberth Elis had almost a perfect game. Memo (Rodriguez), he was very good and he scored two goals. Mauro (Manotas) was moving the whole day and he was unlucky that he couldn’t score, but the whole time the combinations and unselfishness from everyone to try to score, pass and move the ball was very good. I’m happy about that. We scored three goals which was very good in the way we play normally as a team.”
On how he is making his lineup:
“To be honest with you, I think it was until we lost in the CONCACAF competition, that we were trying to balance those minutes and give enough rest to the players, especially the older ones. But at this point we want to be competitive and we need to present a team that is competitive enough to win games at home and also win games away. That is the goal for this year and we cannot change our mentality. We are pushing and we need the depth. We need everyone to be ready and we need everyone pushing and I feel the group, everyone, is trying to do that.”
On decision to keep Dynamo Memo Rodriguez out of the starting lineup before:
“That is important. That’s why Memo played today. The last game he played very well and he scored a goal, a beautiful goal, and he did well. I saw the possibility to give a little break to Romell (Quioto), because he was working hard throughout the other competition and it was just a matter of now, Memo, you’re going to play and Romell you’re coming from the bench. When Romell came in, he’s strong, he’s dangerous. He came in with a lot of energy and he was pushing. I think that is important for us, because the biggest issue at the time is the team. If Memo is playing, he plays with his style and scores goals and pushes. If Rommel is playing, Rommel is pushing, knowing how dangerous he is, and that is important for us. The same thing with Alberth (Elis), Mauro (Manotas), Tommy McNamara and Tomás Martínez. It is a healthy competition but at the same time it creates possibilities for us because throughout the season we need everybody.”
On starting with seven points out of nine at home:
“It has been very important for us. That is why I have to congratulate my players. I am proud of them because not only were we competing, but the main goal and all of our efforts was with the CONCACAF Champions League, it wasn’t a secret. But at the same time, we were competing with the three games in the MLS, and had two wins and one tie against Real Salt Lake, but we were a solid team, we were good at home. We need to continue with that mentality. Now we have a break and we’re going to lose five players that are traveling with the national team. But the ones that stay, we are going to try to keep that level and make sure we play the next game that is away against Colorado Rapids with solidness and continue getting points.”
On what the fans can expect from away games:
“We have to fix that form if we want to qualify for the playoff. Not only do we have to improve at home, what we did last season, but we also need to improve away in order to get the necessary points. Last season we were good, but we were dropping points the last 10-15 minutes. We dropped about 15 points and with those, we would could have made the playoffs. That’s something that we didn’t do. We changed things, we changed players and we are identifying as a team. Now, we competed in the Concacaf (Champions League). We went to Guatemala and we won the game 1-0. We went to Tigres and it was a very solid game against one of the top teams in the whole Americas. That shows that we are working on it and hopefully we can do that against Colorado Rapids.”
On being prepared to score goals at any point in the game:
“I think I have to start my run a little bit faster because Alberth Elis is faster than me and I have to get ready for that ball.”
On his confidence after scoring:
“I’m good. It’s motivation for me. I have to come out with that fight from the start. I have to come out with the right mentality that I’m going to help the team win. I think today, thank God, it was a good team effort and I scored two goals.”
On what his quality playing means to him:
“I think I came with the right mentality this year in preseason, that no matter what was going to happen I was going to keep pushing to earn a starting spot. I think this year I credit it to the team. They helped me score the goals. I’m not going to pass the ball to myself, I credit it to them. We are going to keep on pushing as a team and I think we’re going to do well this season.”
On his three goals so far this season:
“You want to come into games and obviously score, but it’s crazy how in two games I scored three goals. I’m going to keep pushing and with the help of the team everything is going to be fine and we’re going to have a good season this year.”
On the team being solid at home:
“I think we have been doing good job of possessing the ball this year and working as a unit defensively. Obviously we have to be a little bit better and have zero in the back. We don’t want to get scored on at home. We have to have that mentality. It’s football, you get scored on but you have to have that mentality to go out there and get goals and win at home.”
On his message to the fans:
“I think they’re doing a great job. We hear them with the guys and the fans that are out there right now. Obviously we want the stadium more packed, but we are going to keep on moving forward as a team. We can’t focus on that and we are going to keep fighting as a team and keep winning.”
On the match against Colorado Rapids:
“We are going to have the same mentality we have at home. Obviously we had a struggle last year but this year is looking different. We are possessing the ball a little bit more and if we possess the ball more in road games, obviously if we have the ball we have more opportunities to score goals.”
On proving themselves as a team:
“Everyone has that right mentality. If people don’t start they’re not frustrated or anything like that. I think everybody is ready to help the team out and win games.”