Report and Reaction: Whitecaps burned by late Fire blast

Report and Reaction: Whitecaps burned by late Fire blast

After two battling draws on the road, in games where they deserved more, dropping all three points at home to the visiting Chicago Fire undid a lot of the good work Vancouver Whitecaps have done of late. But the in-form Fire were fully deserving of their victory after the ‘Caps served up one of their worst performances of the season.

Xherdan Shaqiri had given Chicago a first half lead, but Vancouver came out a different looking side for the second half and when Lucas Cavallini brought them level in the 54th you felt they’d push on and get the vital victory. But instead it was the Fire who regrouped and goals from captain Rafael Czichos and a stunner from Chris Mueller in the last 14 minutes saw the visitor’s victorious.

With an eye clearly on Tuesday’s upcoming Canadian Championship final against Toronto, Vanni Sartini made six changes to Vancouver’s starting line-up from the side that got a point last weekend down in Portland. Amongst them was the first start as a Whitecap for latest addition Julian Gressel in the right wingback role.

The ‘Caps edged the early play, with Cristian Dajome crashing one of the right post six minutes in.

Chicago were moving the ball around nicely though and they took the lead in the 13th minute when the Vancouver defence just stood off Shaqiri and let him fire home from 20 yards out.

The Swiss DP looked to be seeking out a pass and must not have believed his luck with the space that opened up in front of him and it was an opportunity he simply couldn’t pass up, even on his right foot.

Chicago took over after the goal, dictating play, and Federico Navarro nearly added to their tally with a long range drive that went just over in the 20th minute.

Brian Gutierrez waltzed through the ‘Caps defence and pulled a shot just past the left post on the half hour mark, before Mueller curled one just past the same post five minutes later.

Vancouver were living dangerously and never more so than when Mauricio Pineda’s shot came off the right post in the 38th minute, hitting off Marcus Godinho and out for a corner.

Cavallini had a half chance for the ‘Caps with the last action of the half, but Sartini’s side needed another of their stirring second half fightbacks if they were to salvage anything from this one.

The Whitecaps made three half time substitutions to try and spark this and within nine minutes of the restart it paid off when ones of those subs, Ryan Gauld sent a delicious ball in front of goal for Cavallini to finish with aplomb.

The ‘Caps striker timed his run to perfection and it was a sublime swivelling finish.

Gauld nearly poked the Whitecaps ahead in the 75th minute but he just too a slighty heavy first touch and the ball got away from him allowing Gabriel Slonina to smother the danger and it was to prove a costly opportunity not to take.

A minute later and Vancouver were behind again when Chicago captain Czichos rose between two ‘Caps player to head home past Boehmer.

Another goal that left a lot to be desired defensively, but if the Whitecaps were going to salvage anything from this now they were going to need another late, late show.

This time they couldn’t muster one, or much at all really, and the visitors added to their tally in the last minute of normal time when Mueller got the goal of the night with a spectacular curler into the postage stamp corner after taking a neat touch inside to make room for himself.

A fantastic strike worthy of wrapping up any match and it was game over for Vancouver. Chicago certainly deserved their win and extended their winning run to three, moving to within two points of the playoff line.

It’s a different story for the Whitecaps who have now taken just two points from their last four matches, dropping six points at home. That isn’t playoff material and with results elsewhere, Vancouver now fall four points back of the line. There’s still a lot of the season left to play, but these are the results you can look back on and see where things went wrong.

If the Whitecaps can go out and lift their second Voyageurs Cup on Tuesday night, then that will certainly make some amends. If they don’t, however, their season could have reached a critical stage and the pressure will mount.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 3 Chicago Fire

ATT: 14,984

Possession: VAN 39.1% – CHI 60.9%
Shots: VAN 8 – CHI 16
Shots on Goal: VAN 3 – CHI 4
Saves: VAN 1 – CHI 2
Fouls: VAN 13 – CHI 9
Offsides: VAN 3 – CHI 2
Corners: VAN 3 – CHI 4

VANCOUVER: Isaac Boehmer; Javain Brown (Tristan Blackmon 46), Florian Jungwirth, Jake Nerwinski; Julian Gressel (Ryan Gauld 46), Andrés Cubas (Russell Teibert 46), Leonard Owusu, Marcus Godinho (Ryan Raposo 73); Cristian Dájome, Pedro Vite; Lucas Cavallini (Brian White 67) [Substitutes not used: Cody Cropper, Ranko Veselinović, Caio Alexandre, Tosaint Ricketts]

CHICAGO: Gaga Slonina; Boris Sekulic, Carlos Terán, Rafael Czichos, Mauricio Pineda (Fabian Herbers 85); Miguel Navarro, Federico Navarro; Chris Mueller (Jonathan Bornstein 90+4), Xherdan Shaqiri, Brian Gutierrez (Jairo Torres 61); Jhon Durán (Chinonso Offor 90+4) [Substitutes not used: Spencer Richey, Missael Rodríguez, Victor Bezerra, Andre Reynolds, Javier Casas]




On the match:

“Tonight was our worst performance, I think, of the season. We take full ownership of the performance. The distance between lines was too big, always too easy for them to play. It’s a pity because we were able to put it to 1-1, we also had the chance to get 2-1, but we didn’t deserve to win because the first half was really bad. It’s strange compared to the last two games, the last 10 games. Maybe the thought of the final, maybe there were wrong choices by us, as a staff. For the lineup today, maybe we will look at a million things, we’ll analyze – but they go away with the three points and they deserve it.”

On what was said at half time:

“At half I said that I didn’t like the performance. Normally in-between our lines, there’s 10-12 metres… So we wanted to be a little bit more aggressive and to be honest, we did the first 25 minutes of the second half, we were the best team, but it’s the only moment. Through 60 minutes they were the best team. That’s what I told them at the end, if we don’t go with the idea that we have to totally perfect, it’s really hard for us to make results. We knew that they were a big team, and we were going to suffer – we are not a big team, we are pretty small as a team – on the second and third balls on the cross and unfortunately they scored on a cross.”


On the match:

“After going down 1-0 I thought we came up with some fight in the second half and then there’s a big chance there for us to go up 2-1. Unfortunately we don’t capitalize and then we get scored on the second phase of a set piece. But that being said, I mean you know it’s fine lines. That’s what sport is, if you know capitalize on your chances, the other team capitalizes, and the third goal was a heck of a finish. The bottom line here is we’ve got to be better, and we will be much better. It’s not always the easiest thing to do to turn the page, but we will, because there’s a cup final on Tuesday, and there’s an opportunity to win a championship. So as much as we want to speak about this game, I think we, as an organization, need to try as best as we can to turn the page to Tuesday and set our sights on winning another Canadian Championship.”

On moving on from the match:

“At the end of the day, we’re human beings, right? Just like you guys, when you go through something that’s tough, it takes a little bit to get over. Believe me, every single guy, every single person in this organization cares. It’s not easy to turn the page, but that’s something you have to do when you go through hardship. That’s something we have to do when we go through a loss. Because we know it’s a game at the end of the day, but we all care about this. We want to put this club in the best position possible throughout the season. On the field and off the field, what we do in the community. We want to be the best Vancouver Whitecaps we can be. That being said there, there is no 10th place, 11th place, 9th place, or a playoff line on Tuesday. That is a cup final. It’s its own separate entity. It’s a cup final for us, every single person that steps on that field on Tuesday is at the same level. There’s no difference in standings. There’s no race to the playoffs. This is a cup final and that’s where the focus has to be.”


On moving on from the match:

“This was a huge opportunity for us. The cup of course, we want to win the cup, but getting into playoffs is important as well and we had the opportunity to really close that gap today, and unfortunately we didn’t.”



Overall thoughts on the performance:

“Well, it’s a very big win for us, probably one of the bigger wins that we’ve had this year. We just wanted to be consistent and continue with this momentum that we built at home, and the boys came out tonight and did just that. Even when the game was tied 1-1 in the second half, I had no doubt that we were going to win the game. Just because we were playing so well, and I knew that eventually we’ll get the goals that we needed. And you know, wow, two good goals, Rafa again, scoring on a header; and then Chris, that awesome goal.

So I’m very happy for the guys. I’m very proud of the way the team is playing, and it’s just good to be back in that playoff hunt. That’s where we wanted to be all along the entire year and we’re happy we’re here. As I told them just now, we have to continue to do this. Don’t become complacent. You know, don’t think that we have reached because there’s a lot of season to play. But we are happy right now and we are going to enjoy this one.”

On which win has been the most important from the last three games:

“Probably the Toronto one. Because what happened in the game prior to that could have been devastating to us for the rest of the season. But the boys dug deep. We met together as a team the next day in practice and we just talked about what’s going on, what are we doing wrong, how are we not able to close out games. There was a coming together. A lot of guys spoke up and we went out against that Toronto team and scored early, fourth minute.

Yeah, we made some changes in the lineup but I think the team as a whole, coming together like that, after such a devastating loss at home against Columbus was big for us, and I think that gave us renewed belief that we are doing the right things, and if we continue to play the way we’ve been playing, we’ll win more games than we lose. And that’s what it’s about right now for us.

We know we have to win our home games and we have to come like this and pick up games on the road. That game right there gave us some renewed hope, renewed belief, and we’ve stretched it to three games now in a row. Hopefully we continue on this load.”

On Rafa Czichos’ importance to the team:

“Yeah, he’s our leader. He’s our captain. He leads by example, and I’m telling you right now, I don’t know how that guy is not an All-Star in this league. Maybe we’ll get voted in or something or added by the Commissioner, I don’t know, but he deserves it. We are talking about a center back leading his team in scoring and leading his team on a resurgence, so to speak.

Big time for him. I’m happy for him. He’s a very good player, very strong player. Tonight him, Shaq, Chris, all the guys that we need to play well for us, even John Duran, he don’t score tonight but he played well. He was a handful for that team, and going forward, we just need to continue to play like that. Rafa has had a great season, and hopefully he gets added on to that All-Star Team because it’s well deserved and he’s our leading scorer. He’s our center back. That speaks for itself.”

On the play of Carlos Terán:

“Yeah, Carlos, both center backs have been playing well. Carlos, has come in, he’s stepped up big time. You know, Wyatt going down with an injury like that, stepping in like that and playing so well, it’s been good for us. I think him and Rafa are forming a very, very formidable partnership back there, and we like to see that. When you have two guys that strong with enough pace back there, it’s going to be difficult for teams to score against us, and then you have Gaga behind them. It’s good to see how well Carlos is playing. I’m very happy for him. He’s still learning. He’s still a young guy. I think he’s 21, maybe 22 but he’s done well, really well for us.”

On Brian Gutierrez injury status:

“I don’t have any immediate update right now but I think he should be fine. So nothing too seriously I hope.”


Overall thoughts on the performance:

“I think it was important to start playing well because we know, and we had a long trip here, and we knew that we going to play on turf and it’s not always simple to play on turf. Yeah, the guys did very well. We have now three games in a row we won, so yeah, it was a perfect day for us.”

On the playing surface:

“Yeah, I played for sure in better turfs. Yeah, the ball was not bouncing. Yeah, sometimes it was slipping, you know. Some players slip. Me, too, the first half. So yeah, it was not best turf but we managed very good and yeah, we scored three goals. The guys played a good game. We won three games in a row, so yeah, we have to keep going.”

On what has caused this turnaround for the team:

“Man, it’s all about belief in yourself and every player belief has to stay confident and to try to work hard, first of all in, training, and to learn from mistakes, the most what I want from these guys because they are still young, and they need to learn from mistakes. Yeah, they get more mature in the game and yeah, we also like the game, how we played. The players, their understanding is much better than before.

So we have a game plan, and everybody stick to it more. So yeah, this is I think the key at the moment because everybody knows what is his work, and everybody has to do that good to bring that into this team. And then I think you can have success and win games, and that’s exactly what we did in the last three games. So we have to believe, we have to stay confident and to stay consistent what is the most important in football, and this is what the team at the moment is.”


Overall thoughts on the performance:

“I think that’s a great result for us obviously. Three points on the road after a long road trip, second away win of the year. So the guys are buzzing, man. It feels great. It was a really, really good team performance from start to finish. Had a bit of a lapse in the beginning of the second half which is something we need to work out moving forward, but we bounced back really well, responded, and obviously got a really, really big win, so I’m thrilled.”

On the importance of tonight’s win:

“It’s obviously a massive win for us and a big step in the right direction. We should have way more wins in a row when you look at Columbus last week. And then we responded again, kept believing, kept doing the process, and we are right where we want to be. We want to continue to push and keep pushing and keep pushing ourselves up the table. We know what we can do and what we’re capable of. It’s a big one, big step in the right direction. We have a big week ahead, but we’ll enjoy it now and get back to work.”

On the Fire battling to pick up a win on the road:

“I think it’s just a testament to the character of the guys. We just continue to do what we do. We had an amazing first half. We really played them off the pitch. I felt like we were dominating. We created a ton of opportunities, hit the post. Obviously they got that goal, but as long as we continue to do what we were doing; it was just a matter of taking them and finishing off the game.

Like I said, we responded really well. That’s what good teams do, what playoff teams do. You have to respond to adversity well and we’ve definitely shown that in the past couple of games that we are able to do that and that’s why we are continuing to get good results.”

On his goal:

“Yeah, just made a hard run up the pitch on the left side kind of in a transition moment where they had put some numbers forward because obviously they were trying to get back into the game. And Shaq drove with the ball, and he just kind of laid me in and from there it was a 1v1 that I just took the guy inside and did a pretty classic finish to the back post for a winger on that side. Feels good. I’ve been working on that shot for God knows how long. Feels good to do it at a good time for the team and help seal the win.”

Authored by: Michael McColl

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