MLS is back, as their Twitter hashtag proclaims, but it wasn’t to be an ideal season opener for Vancouver Whitecaps as they fell to a 3-2 defeat against Minnesota United in front of a lower bowl sell out 27,837 crowd at BC Place on Saturday afternoon.
It all started so well for Vancouver, who went ahead five minutes in from debuting defender Eric Godoy, and while his centre back partner Doniel Henry got his first goal as a Whitecap with nine minutes remaining, sandwiched in between them were three Minnesota goals from Darwin Quintero, Francisco Calvo, and Romario Ibarra.
Whitecaps fans headed into the stadium unsure of just what to expect from Marc Dos Santos’ much rebuilt squad, but any fears seemed quickly dispelled in the fifth minute when Godoy ghosted in unmarked to tuck away a delicately lofted Yordy Reyna free kick from six yards out.
It was horrible marking from the Minnesota defence, but a dream debut from the Argentine defender.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) March 2, 2019
Vancouver dominated the early going, without really carving out any clear cut chances, and while they also had their moments in the attacking box, Minnesota’s first shot towards goal came after the half hour mark when Calvo turned beautifully in the area before unleashing a thunderbolt that crashed off the bar and over.
It was to only be five more minutes before Calvo would factor in the match again, earning a penalty after being fouled by Jake Nerwinski, which was converted by Darwin Quintero in the 37th minute to send the teams into half time on level terms.
The ‘Caps may have controlled the play for most of the opening 20 minutes of the second half but they didn’t do anything with it and it was United who took the lead in the 66th minute.
Calvo was in the thick of the action yet again, heading a perfectly weighted Quintero cross in from close range, after Minnesota quickly broke forward following a cheap and lazy giveaway from Reyna.
The visitors doubled their lead four minutes later when Romario Ibarra’s shot deflected off Godoy, sending Max Crepeau the wrong way and squeezing into the near post.
Frustrating lapses but full credit to Minnesota for fully capitalising on them.
Vancouver pulled one back with nine minutes to go when Henry headed in a beautifully chipped cross from second half sub PC in the second phase of a corner kick. It gave them some hope but it was to be in vain.
Doneil Henry scores his first goal as a member of #VWFC to bring the 'Caps within one.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) March 3, 2019
There was definite a push from the ‘Caps to get the equalizer but in the end there wasn’t enough in the final third, which was the story of the whole game, and most of what we’ve seen from the squad in the preseason.
The Dos Santos era did not get off to best of starts. Disappointing, a little disheartening, but not all that unexpected considering it was the first time this starting 11 had ever played together. The chemistry and understanding of where balls were to be played seemed lacking on too many occasions.
Perhaps the biggest issue in this match was that these ‘Caps seemed to get away from the style that they had worked on, especially in the first half when they tried to go for the easy long ball.
Vancouver will have a chance to get back on track, and their season’s points total off and running, in their second match of the year when they RSL next Saturday. It’s early days, but you certainly don’t want to start falling too far off the pace from the get go, both in terms of points and what it may do to the team mentally.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 3 Minnesota United
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Jake Nerwinski, Érik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Derek Cornelius (Victor “PC” Giro 76); Felipe Martins (Joaquín Ardaiz 71), Jon Erice, Inbeom Hwang; Yordy Reyna, Fredy Montero, Lass Bangoura (Lucas Venuto 69) [Substitutes not used: Zac MacMath, Andy Rose, Scott Sutter, Simon Colyn]
MINNESOTA: Vito Mannone; Romain Métanire, Michael Boxall, Ike Opara, Francisco Calvo; Jan Gregus, Osvaldo Alonso; Miguel Ibarra, Darwin Quintero (Hassani Dotson 90+3), Rasmus Schüller (Ethan Finlay 80); Romario Ibarra (Angelo Rodríguez 83) [Substitutes not used: Bobby Shuttleworth, Brent Kallman, Mason Toye, Chase Gasper]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the 3-2 loss:
“We had a strong start to the game. The goal we scored was a hidden moment. It was good to start like that but we were never able to take a grip of the first half. Our decision-making in possession, sometimes we rushed too much. Maybe it was anxiety, a lot of guys have been waiting for this game. It became a game that was not about us. Even if it was 1-0, I didn’t feel like it was about us. In the second half, we were able to connect more passes in possession, be more in the opponents’ half, be more aggressive in our kind of movements.”
On the goals conceded:
“What’s more disappointing than the result was the kind of goals we gave away. The 2-1 and the 3-1 are kind of sloppy and I think we could do a much better job there. We score the 3-2, we react, we push, everybody was committed until the end but a little bit too late. You can’t give away goals like that and win games in MLS. We know we need to do a better job there.”
On the first-half penalty:
“I think it’s a penalty. I just think we could’ve done better. Jake was a monster in the first half. He was probably one of our better players in the first half. He had a lot of good defensive actions And then comes this play over the top. His body position misread the moment. I didn’t watch the replay yet. It’s how I saw it from the bench. It’s too bad because he was having a very good first half.”
On improving the decision-making:
“There’s a lot of moments that we have possession and suddenly we make the decision to go over the top, looking for Fredy between Boxall and Opara. That’s bad decision-making. We know that if we’re just a little cleaner in those moments, then we’ll have players like Felipe, Jon, Inbeom more in the opponents’ half. That’s where you can originate more offence. I don’t want to make the excuse of chemistry, we know it’s a real thing, but I want to focus on the soccer part. Sometimes, we speak a lot in North America about the general, and not about the soccer part. We had spaces to play sometimes. Instead of connecting short passes that the options were on, we decided to sometimes go over the top, especially in the first half and that disconnected our game.”
On scoring on set plays:
“I spoke so much about us being fragile on set plays and we scored two goals on set plays. Their timing is good. We watched a lot of games of Erik in Argentina scoring out of corner kicks or set plays. He has good timing. Doneil has done it in the past also, a lot. It was two good deliveries, two good plays, but again, a little too late when Doneil scored that one.”
On Inbeom Hwang:
“He grew throughout the game. The first half wasn’t easy for him. He was growing through the game. In the second half, he got involved. He was cramping but he kept going. It was encouraging, I see a lot of positive things going forward.”
On the goals conceded:
“Little in it. I thought that we created the trouble for ourselves, but I haven’t had the chance to really look over it. We’ll definitely get it right in video and make it right for Salt Lake on the weekend.”
On the result:
“We’re frustrated. I thought that we controlled certain parts of this game. To see the numbers that came out today for the home opener, I’m gutted for the fans. I hope they continue to come and stay behind us. It’s a long season. We believe in what Marc is doing. We trained really hard and our attitude didn’t change from the first to the last second of the game. The guys have worked hard and we’ll continue to get better. With one week of training [with the full group] this is what we can do, we’ve seen glimpses of players doing really good things. So we’re trying to make it right for Saturday, and that’s what we continue to work for the rest of the season.”
On playing with Erik Godoy:
“We have a structure of how we want to play defensively. Erik’s a good player. You see what he can do, he’s tough tackling, fast, athletic. We take real pride in defending. We try not to complicate out game. We want to be the calming presence in the team when things get really hard. But like I said today, we conceded three, and we’re not happy about that. So we want to go into this week and figure it out, and make sure that we can tighten up shop back there.”
On playing out of the back in the second half:
“I think at a certain point a few people wanted to go long, others wanted to play out of the back. So we just have to be a little bit more on the same page here and stick to our principles where I think we can get out of there way easier than we did. But there’s room for improvement, that’s for sure. Doneil [Henry] just mentioned it, after a week we have to build it up, and now we’ll definitely work on it.”
On chemistry playing behind a new back line:
“Honestly it’s just paying attention to the little details. We saw it on the actions that were dangerous against us. It’s just little details, half a step, two steps to drop and be on the same line. To be fair, we did a good job defending as a block as well because they put in a lot of crosses, they didn’t go through us a lot, so it’s a good sign that we’re good and compact.”
On the third goal:
“It’s unlucky. It’s a cross where it’s not even a dangerous cross, it’s coming on my left side, takes a deflection, my weight is already shifted to my left. I tried to pull out my leg, but there’s nothing you can do there.”
Thoughts on the match:
“After the first goal I thought we were outstanding in the first half. We dictated the tempo of the game. I thought we dictated the play. We looked the more likely to score. So to come back to get it to 3-1 after you’ve gone down so early shows a lot of character. But as I said before the game, this is a different group than we’ve had before. These haven’t got any baggage from the last couple years, going on the road and losing games and not being able to dig themselves out of bad situations. This is a different group, and I said that before the game. I thought some of our play at times on the counterattack was outstanding. With a little bit of better finishing we could have killed the game off before we did.”
On the poise of the team:
“I think the two midfielders helped us enormously, Jan [Gregus] and Ozzie [Alonso]. Their composure to take the sting out of the game, to keep the ball, to play the right ball at the right time, play it forward when they have to, kill the game; they were terrific today. But I thought there was a lot of good performances. As I said before to the guys, its’ what it is, it’s a start, we’ve got a good start. Now we’ve got to go again next week at San Jose.”
On the shock of conceding the first goal after a good preseason:
“Well we didn’t look like we were going to do that in preseason, we’ve looked really good on set pieces. We’ll have a look at it, have a look at the good things, have a look at the stuff that was not so good, and try and correct it and get ourselves prepared for next week.”
On the poise after conceding the first goal:
“Kind of a shock. We went down on an easy goal on a free kick. I think after that we showed a great reaction, great character to stay composed, play well and create chance after chance.”
On being a new group and not giving up:
“This team believes in each other. We showed that today and we have to carry on doing it every week. Next week is another three points on the board to take, so that’s what we’re aiming for.”
On playing his first MLS game and his communication with centre backs:
“It’s good. We’re getting along a lot. Obviously with the time and with playing time, probably it’s going to get better and better. So it’s only a matter of time, working each day on the training field and producing great performances like today. Hopefully we’re going to improve, and we want more clean sheets.”
On the comeback victory:
“We believe in each other all the time. We trust in each other all the time. In other times, when the team we play against scores first, it would be a missed thing for us. But now, we showed a lot of character, a lot of personality. I always believed we were coming back.”
On adjustments after falling behind:
“It’s just more details. If you’re going to be a winning team, if you’re going to be a better team, we have to work on those details. With the personality we showed with the ball, with defending, we’ll be fine.”
On controlling the match:
“For 70 minutes, we controlled the game. At the end, it’s normal that we give the ball to them. They’re home, they’re trying to tie. We demonstrated character when we defend. The only way they could’ve scored was in set pieces. They did it in that way.”