What a difference a goal makes. Vancouver Whitecaps were two minutes away from what would have been a pretty decent week or so, one which would have seen them unbeaten and taking five points out of nine.
But then Sasha Kljestan’s shot deflected off Nani to give Orlando City an 88th minute lead and subsequently the win, and all of a sudden, the ‘Caps ended two pretty dismal away performances with just one single point.
I think Carl Robinson had a term for such things.
Marc Dos Santos rang the changes for the Whitecaps third match in nine days. A spell that has seen them travel an energy sapping 8.776 (if you’re just looking at straight airport to airport, and not taking into account connecting flights and other travel). That’s 17% of their total of 51,210 miles in just over a week.
It would have been easy to keep the same team together that beat LAFC on Wednesday night, but what their energy levels would have been is questionable. That led to five changes to the starting line-up from that match, with a change of formation to 5-3-2 coming with it.
Orlando had the better of the possession in the early going, but weren’t threatening the Vancouver goal or forcing Zac MacMath into much action, in his first start as a Whitecap.
The ‘Caps were looking fairly comfortable at the back, shutting down Orlando attacks quickly, but offering little creativity or attacking threat going forward. They did come the closest to breaking the deadlock, however, in the 35th minute, when Ali Adnan’s low free kick forced a save out of former ‘Caps keeper Brian Rowe in the home goal.
A former Orlando player kept the home side at bay with two minutes of the half remaining, when Scott Sutter cleared a header off the line, as the Lions tried to turn the pressure up to try and find the breakthrough.
MacMath had to make his first big save in stoppage time to deny Joao Moutinho, as the teams headed in to the break all square and scoreless.
Both teams were looking dangerous on the counter to start the second half, creating a couple of half chances, and MacMath was called into action a couple of times, tipping a fierce Nani shot over the bar on the hour mark.
There was another close call ten minutes later when a Chris Mueller shot from outside the box was deflected onto the roof of the ‘Caps net.
Vancouver were starting to look tired, and it felt like they were under non stop Orlando pressure, but the home side’s shot were being kept to ones from distance or flashes across goal with no takers.
Then from nowhere, the Whitecaps nearly took the lead on a quick breakaway in the 72nd minute when Fredy Montero’s back heel was met by a stretching Inbeom Hwang, who could only direct ball over.
With the game seemingly heading to a stalemate, Orlando finally found their breakthrough in the 88th minute and it came in a slightly fortunate manner, with Kljestan’s shot deflecting off Nani and redirecting the ball past MacMath for what was to prove to be the winning goal.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) April 20, 2019
It was an unfortunate way to lose the game and a point, but ultimately, a dogged defensive effort didn’t really merit the ‘Caps to get anything from this match. It wasn’t as bad as last week dismal performance in the draw in Chicago, but they were outpossessed (61 to 39%), outshot (16 to 6), and outplayed for large spells of the match.
Once again the Whitecaps felt pretty impotent in the attacking third, as the heatmap from WhoScored.com below clearly shows.
There were some strong defensive efforts on display again, but the midfield feels a place where creativity goes to die, with the service to the front men woeful on too many occasions.
In amongst that they only had a 67% pass accuracy in the final third compared with Orlando’s 80%. And those came from Orlando having 235 passes to Vancouver’s 100.
Yes, there were some mitigating factors in terms of the travel and number of games, and yes, they knocked off the Supporters Shield leaders on Wednesday night, but there still feels such a long way to go for this group that has been showing flashes of what they could be, but are needing to starting finding that in consistent enough spells to make a difference pretty quickly to avoid falling off the playoff pace to far, too soon.
They have a tricky test coming up at home next Saturday when an in-form Philadelphia Union come to BC Place. The Union looked good in their 3-0 dismantling of Montreal today, but they did lose starting goalkeeper Andre Blake to a groin injury and left back Kai Wagner to a red card. Early days, but it already feels like this needs to be a must win to steady the ship a little more.
FINAL SCORE: Orlando City 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
ORLANDO: Brian Rowe; Ruan (Kyle Smith 90+8), Lamine Sane, Robin Jansson, Joao Moutinho; Will Johnson (Sacha Kljestan 76), Oriol Rosell, Sebastian Mendez; Chris Mueller, Dom Dwyer (Tesho Akindele 71), Twat [Subs Not Used: Greg Ranjitsingh, Kamal Miller, Cristian Higuita, Josue Colman]
VANCOUVER: Zac MacMath; Scott Sutter, Erik Godoy, Doneil Henry (Lass Bangoura 90+2), Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan; Inbeom Hwang, Felipe Martins, Russell Teibert (90+2); Yordy Reyna, Fredy Montero (Joaquin Ardaiz 79) [Subs Not Used: Max Crepeau, Jake Nerwinski, Jon Erice, Lucas Venuto]
MARC DOS SANTOS
Thoughts of the match
“I think overall, tactically our organization was good. We approached the game well, being a game that is our third one in eight days and a lot of traveling involved. We approached the game well. Before they got the goal, we got the two best chances. A very clear one within beyond that we could have scored and then at the end Nani gets the rebound and the ball ends up going in. Overall, I can’t fault the players on their effort, on their mentality, on what they’ve given these eight days. Flying to Chicago, playing in Vancouver, flying to Orlando, I just think we deserved a little bit more at the end. Now we have to move on, go back to Vancouver and prepare for the game against Philly that’s going to be a hard one at home.”
On compact from formation
“I think good. I think defensively, that wasn’t an issue. I just think that when we won the ball, we lacked composure to keep it and sometimes that put us in a tougher position or made us defend more but I don’t think that the problem was the structure or how we addressed the game. I think there was a lot of compactness and organization defensively. Now, when we won the ball we could have done a little bit of a better job of securing it and getting to our offensive organization. That wasn’t very good today, but again, overall I have to talk about the effort of the players, their commitment and again, we should have left here with at least a point.”
On first start
“It felt good. Very disappointed in the result, but I think as a team it was a very good performance. Obviously, after the week we had, it would have been nice to get away with a point but at the end of the day we just, unfortunately, gave up an unlucky goal.”
On defensive communication
“I’ve had that communication with throughout the last few weeks and I was confident I could work with them and build that chemistry throughout the game. I thought that the five guys in front of me, plus the other guys all did very well.”
On the tough save he made before the end of the first half
“It looked like they were coming up our right side quite a bit and [Joao] Mountinho had found himself I think a little bit free. He’s right there to man the first post and thankfully he shot it right at me.”
On the match and having five men in the back
“It was overall a solid performance by the guys. Obviously, we are all disappointed that we didn’t come away with a draw, which I think we deserved. It was tough, especially the second half going into the last 20 minutes, you could see that we were starting to get tired. It’s been a long week, many miles traveled, so we kind of felt that in the end. I think overall disappointed we didn’t get a draw.”
On three matches in eight days and securing four points
“Yeah, I think so. I think anything that we would have got here in Orlando would have been a bonus. With the game on Wednesday and a hell of a journey straight after on Thursday, it’s never easy but that’s the way it is in the MLS. These away games are tough and I think four points from those last eight days are pretty good, but we want to build on it.”
On containing the Orlando attack
“Just a collective team effort really. It wasn’t easy, like you said they’ve got quality. I know the quality better than most guys so it wasn’t easy but I think we did a good job collectively as a team just like we did on Wednesday against LAFC. Definitely positives to take from that, unfortunate that we lost, but life goes on.”
“Obviously really, really pleased to get the three points. I thought Vancouver made it obviously very difficult for us. I think at times we showed some decent passages, but I think we could have played a little bit cleaner, a little bit crisper, but I think it’s a massive win for us. I think with games like that it’s really important that you go and you win the game. The players deserve enormous credit for doing that, for going and getting the win.”
On what Vancouver did to minimize the attack
“I think they were very intentional and it’s difficult for them. They obviously played on Wednesday, they’ve traveled cross-country. It became pretty apparent that they wanted to sit very deep and make it very, very hard for us and deny space. I think when you have sort of two defensive lines that are as deep as that protecting the goal, I think it’s important you take the ball. I think it’s important you try to show some patience, but you need to move the ball really quickly. I think that was something that we did at times and then there was a couple times where we put it in there and we’ve got one man in the box and they’ve got three center backs that are protecting the goal. So again it’s trying to be patient, it’s trying to make good decisions when we have the ball and manage the transition moments because they’ve got a couple of quick guys up front. They’re trying to catch you sleeping and hit a long ball in behind and try to catch us out.”
On Sacha Kljestan’s play off the bench
“Really important, but again I think the most impressive thing is, and I’ve said this before when it was [Chris] Mueller people were saying ‘Mueller’s come on and impacted the game,’ Sacha obviously has impacted the game. I think the most pleasing aspect for me as a coach is that we’ve got players that will accept the decision and then will be intentional about trying to go and impact the game. Sacha showed tremendous maturity in the way he handled it and the way he came on. We wanted to have him coming in from the bench because we felt if he could perhaps impact the game, whether that was deep in our half or in their half, he’s got a good football brain and he’s someone again that we’re really pleased that we have somebody like that on the football club.”
Credit for goal and what a victory means
“Yea, it’s big. You know at the end of the year points any way they come are important so today was a difficult game. I think if somebody didn’t watch the game and maybe just looked at the schedule and saw Vancouver play on Wednesday then flew across the country, they would say Orlando should win easily. But you know that’s not the case nonetheless. They came here and they set up very defensively and tactfully, they played behind the ball a lot and tried to hit us on the counter and they defended really well. So it was hard for us to carve out chances, so in the end to get a 1-0 win, I think at the end of the year, we’ll look back and think that this was an important game for us to win”
On coming from the bench and making an impact
“I think watching from the bench, I think that we were playing a little too slow with the ball throughout the course of the game. Anytime the ball turned over I think our best option would have been to go straight to goal because as soon as you slow it down and make one, two, three passes they got their whole 11 guys behind the ball and then it becomes difficult to break down. The things I tried to mention to the guys at halftime were continuing to work the ball on the wing, try to create 2v1’s or 3v2’s and then try to get crosses in the box but we needed more than Dom in the box. He was very isolated today and pretty much 1 against 3 center backs almost all game. We needed a little more action in the box and fortunately, the goal came that way. I think it was a cutback cross from Ruan and I think we had 3 guys in the box and so it created a bit of confusion in front of their back line and fortunately, it ended up in the back of the net.”
On keeping momentum
“ Yeah, we go to New York next week. Which we know they haven’t had a great start to the season but I still think they’re a pretty good team. So I think that will be a difficult game. And it’s just about getting these performances and getting on a role and trying to get in a rhythm. I think shut-outs will be very important for us. For us to keep things tight. We talked tonight about not really giving anything away in the first ten or fifteen minutes. And not really trying to win the game in the first ten or fifteen minutes. And not really opening ourselves up. So I think in that way we stuck to the plan and did a pretty good job of that because we’ve been going down 1-0, 2-0 in way too many games already this season.”
On his second clean sheet
“I feel great. Great team effort defensively. We talk about, the harder we can make it for teams to score, the more shutouts we can have, I think the more opportunities we’ll have on the field. As you can see today, we got opportunities and we were able to score. I think that’s going to be something to build on and it’s a great result, especially in a home game in front of the fans to get a win and a shutout, it feels extra good.”
On the difficulty in the oppositions’ attack being primarily on the counter
“We knew their game plan coming in that they were going to look for that counter and kind of sit with five in the back there. I thought we did a good job when Ruan and Joao [Moutinho] were giving us depth and kind of getting forward, but we always had an extra man in the back so they weren’t able to really spring with numbers. We were able to always kind of win that second ball in there and keep the pressure on them.
On the team’s performance offensively and the communication
“I think it’s just an understanding. Regardless of what the formation is on paper, we’re still executing the same way and you’re supposed to defend the same way. I think today we put our focus on just being smart in the back, getting ourselves opportunities to have numbers back there and not giving them many opportunities. Just really going out there with energy, putting the pressure on them early. Especially a day game, it’s hot, they’ve traveled across the country so we just wanted to get them on the back foot early and put the pressure on them.”