It certainly seems to be that when the going gets tough, Vancouver Whitecaps start to get going. Playing in their sixth match of the month, and still with a slate of injuries, the ‘Caps put in an assured performance that was far more comfortable than the final scoreline suggests.
An absolute beauty from Ali Adnan, his first as a Whitecap, and another excellent finish from Lucas Venuto, had the ‘Caps 2-0 up at the half and seemingly coasting to another three points at home.
This Whitecaps side don’t seem to want to make things easy from themselves, however, and when Venuto squandered an excellent opportunity to make it a three goal cushion, only to see Dallas go straight up the pitch and make it a one goal game from an 85th minute Dominique Badji goal, that set up a nervy finish, but one Vancouver saw out fairly comfortably in the end.
Marc Dos Santos stuck with the three at the back formation that worked so well midweek, but Vancouver struggled to get much offense going in the early going.
Dallas had the first real chance when Jacori Hayes just failed to get his outstretched leg onto a dangerous ball across goal in the 11th minute.
The game settled into a pretty tame affair but Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira almost brought the match back to life in the 26th minute when he showed nice footwork in the box to fire a dipper onto the roof of the ‘Caps net.
But if we’re talking about nice footwork, it doesn’t get much better than the skill shown by Adnan to grab the opening goal at the half hour mark that put the Whitecaps ahead.
The Iraqi defender got the ball on the left wing, looking up before deciding to go alone and showing some terrific trickery to get through Reggie Cannon and Bressan before curling an absolute beauty past Jesse Gonzalez into the postage stamp corner.
.@MLS Goal of the Year?
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 25, 2019
His first MLS and one that you feel if he sticks around will be the first of many. Will he be though? That’s one of the burning questions surrounding the squad right now as they head into the summer.
The goal seemed to come out of nowhere, with the ‘Caps struggling to show much creativity once again the final third. It was an even bigger surprise then when they doubled their lead six minutes before half time.
The ball fell to Fredy Montero in the box and his neat backheel to Venuto was brilliantly curled low into the bottom corner by the Brazilian.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 25, 2019
Vancouver were now coasting but the half ended on a sour note when Adnan had to be subbed off with an injury. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious as his influence on the team has been excellent so far.
The Whitecaps were in complete control now, but knew a goal for the visitors would quickly change the game, and Dallas nearly grabbed it in the 56th minute.
Michael Barrios left the ‘Caps defence in his wake, but his cross into the box was parried by Max Crepeau into the path of Pablo Aranguiz but the Chilean crashed his shot off the bar from 10 yards out.
It was to prove to be a costly miss for Dallas. One that could, and you feel would, have been a gamechanger.
Montero had taken a knock earlier in the half and was replaced just past the midway point by homegrown signing Theo Bair, making his MLS debut.
And Bair nearly made it a dream one when he acrobatically connected with a Jake Nerwinski cross in the 75th minute, but it went straight to Gonzalez in the Dallas goal.
With the ‘Caps almost home and dry, the game was suddenly turned on its head in the 85th minute in the space of a crazy few seconds.
Venuto closed down a horrible attempt at a passback from John Nelson. Gonzalez was committed outside of his box and the winger knocked the ball past him, just a touch too hard though, and by the time he collected it in the box, the Dallas defence had regrouped, Nelson closed down, and ultimately blocked the Brazilian’s shot.
And the Whitecaps angst at that squandered opportunity was confounded when the visitors went straight up the pitch and pulled one back through Badji.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 26, 2019
That set up a nervy final few minutes for the ‘Caps faithful but ones they saw out with relative ease in the end. A few scrambling moments but no real danger.
It would have been unfair for the ‘Caps to not take the three points from this one. They were seldom in any real danger and although it took them a little while to get going, once they did they were the only team that looked like winning till those frantic final five minutes.
It’s been a good spell for the Whitecaps, in one of their busiest and toughest spells of the season, not helped by some injuries to key players. That’s just one loss in their last seven now though, with three of those wins. They’re sitting one point back of the playoff spots at the time of writing this, currently occupied by Dallas.
They have played some more games than most of the others around them, but as we said last week, to get these points on the board now, when the team isn’t fully firing, is very important for when some squad reinforcements come in the summer window.
One game to go now in May, Friday’s Canadian derby at home to Toronto. After that they can finally have some time off to refresh.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 2 – 1 FC Dallas
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crepeau; Erik Godoy, Andy Rose, Derek Cornelius; Jake Nerwinski, Inbeom Hwang (Felipe Martins 82), Jon Erice, Russell Teibert, Ali Adnan (Victor ‘PC’ Giro 42); Lucas Venuto, Fredy Montero (Theo Bair 71) [Subs Not Used: Zach MacMath, Scott Sutter, Brendan McDonough, Brett Levis]
DALLAS: Jesse González; Reggie Cannon (Bryan Reynolds 73), Ryan Hollingshead, Bressan, John Nelson; Bryan Acosta, Jacori Hayes (Thomas Roberts 79), Michael Barrios, Pablo Aránguiz (Zdenek Ondrasek 59), Dominique Badji; Jesús Ferreira [Subs Not Used: Jimmy Maurer, Reto Ziegler, Carlos Gruezo, Callum Montgomery]
Possession: VAN 39.7% – DAL 60.3%
Shots: VAN 7 – DAL 20
Shots on Goal: VAN 4 – DAL 4
Saves: VAN 3 – DAL 2
Fouls: VAN 7 – DAL 13
Offsides: VAN 0 – DAL 1
Corners: VAN 0 – DAL 13
MARC DOS SANTOS
On tonight’s match overall:
“After the week we had, in the stretch of 16 days, five games, travel that was a nightmare, this is the reality, and coming in here [against Dallas] we knew the only way we would get something, was to not only follow up on what we did tactically against the Red Bulls, but to also have a level of commitment, passion and heart above anything else. And I think that was there. We like to suffer, we’re like that, and it’s good, but we go from a chance on one end from Venuto, to a counter from that, a goal from Dallas and then it becomes chaotic because one team starts believing they can tie, and the other starts protecting the result.”
On going undefeated in three straight matches:
“It’s hard. Soccer is an endurance sport, it’s explosive in big moments and you need to find time to recover. You need a certain amount of hours to recover and we were never really able to do that, but to arrive here today, with the passion and commitment, I knew that around the 60th minute it would begin to get difficult for us physically, and it’s what showed. But again, this group has slowly gotten to know more about each other over time and they’re coming together, and that’s good.”
On 3-5-2 formation:
“I think it’s very important for a club to be flexible, so we work two formations. We work the 4-3-3, which is our number one formation, and then we have the 3-5-2, which is our second choice, and I think it’s very important to have that tactical flexibility in a group. Why? Because of injuries and you don’t want to be forcing something when you don’t have the elements because of injury. When you have attackers like Lass Bangoura, Joaquin Ardaiz, Yordy Reyna all out, it becomes difficult to use the 4-3-3 for us. Also, we didn’t have time to train for the Dallas game as yesterday was a recovery day for us. So we felt it would be good to continue to use similar tactics that we did in New York. If you look at teams that have won an MLS Cup, they went from one system, to another, which allowed players to feel comfortable, and if we have to change then our players are ready for the change.”
On consistency, and making BC Place a hard place to play in:
“The fans were great today, it was a very good environment. I acknowledged them and they know how much we need them for us to succeed. It was great to see them pushing, and it was important. When you go through a stretch of games like we have, you need to have everyone involved, and you need everyone to be ready to play. So consistency is important, but the most important thing is to recognize that when you play at home, or away, that you’re always ready to represent the Vancouver Whitecaps identity, that we are trying to build here. At home it’s special, but away we need to keep that certain identity that we want.”
On Ali Adnan’s personality and what he brings to the squad:
“He’s great, he has a lot of passion in everything he does. So sometimes he answers to teammates in a strong way, but the teammates know that’s his personality. He doesn’t do it in a disrespectful way, he’s just very intense in everything that he does, including how he plays. But he adapted so well with the group, he’s such a good guy too. He loves the group, he loves being here, and we’ll see what happens in the future for Ali.”
On Andy Rose:
“Andy is a great guy, and we knew that when we signed him. We knew the personality he had, the type of man that he is, and what he could bring to the locker room. Starting or not, he always brings a positive environment into the locker room. He’s intelligent, and really knows the game. So when we made the decision to play him at centre back, it was no problem. You don’t do that with every player.”
On getting three points at home:
“It’s huge. We’ve had a heck of a week, eight days, three games, traveling all over the country, it’s great to come back to BC Place, be home, and get three points. It’s huge.”
On unity in the locker room:
“You saw this team today, we all fought for each other, it wasn’t individual, it was everyone fighting for a common good and I think that’s what’s keeping us going, that’s what’s driving us right now, and that’s what’s going to push us to the playoffs.”
On how excited the team is this year:
“It’s huge. It just shows our unity, how much passion these guys have, how much passion we have when we win and just shows how close we are together.”
On ‘next-man-up mentality’:
“We’ve proved it over these past three games, we are an entire team, it’s not just XI guys, it’s not just XIV guys, you know three subs off the bench, it’s a whole team. We shifted lineups three different times in the last eight days and we’ve gotten results every single time, and it just shows how important every player on the team is.”
On taking advantage of home field:
“We started out at the beginning of this year saying that we wanted to win as many times at home as we can, we want to make BC Place hard for teams to come in and beat us and score goals and we did that against Portland and we set ourselves up to go on a long road trip in good spirits and were able to get two hard fought results. We come back here, and some of the guys are tired, I think most of the guys are tired, it’s been a long week, and we just came out and win again and it’s just huge, it really is.”
On playing the 3-5-2:
“It was a lot of running today, a lot of head down running back, head down running forward but I think it’s a good position for me personally, I like to attack, I don’t mind running a lot and I think that one of my attributes is my endurance and it is being able to get up the field and back when needed and I think Ali showed today that it really suits him as well, he was able to get forward and score a great goal, and I think that if we get more attacking from the outside I think that we’ll become really dangerous.”
On MLS debut:
“It meant everything. I worked really hard, this is what every player coming out of the Academy dreams of, and I got my chance and it felt great. Hopefully many more to come.”
On moments before getting subbed on:
“Just make sure that when I went on, I could help the team get those three points. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what went on in my head [before I subbed on] because I don’t remember. One thing that I can remember clearly though, was that I knew my Dad was watching back home, and that made me really happy.”
On hearing the support from the Academy boys in the stands:
“Again, it’s unbelievable. It’s every Academy players dream to make their MLS debut. And to feel their support was great, because those are my brothers.”
On scoring chance:
“I didn’t know my hip could turn that high. The ball came really quickly, and I knew I couldn’t take a touch, so I just swung at it and connected pretty well.”
On today’s result:
“Disappointing. It was a game that we had a lot of control of in terms of possession, service, shots, but not efficient enough. Shots were not hitting the frame, the service was not finding runners, it’s part of the game. Two goals down early, it’s difficult especially there were moments where we were imposing, and dominating the ball, and controlling the game. We give up goals in these moments, and now we have to climb into the game rather than initiating with meaning.”
On the second-half response:
“The boys responded well in the second half. They took risk and pushed. We got a nice goal from Badji. Good effort there. I think had we gotten the 2-1 goal earlier, Pablo’s shot hits the post and goes in. We have 30 minutes to score the second, or even the third. The 2-1 came late, then we had to have an onslaught to score the 2-2. Credit to Vancouver for how they defended in their box, getting to our crosses, and get things away from the box. Congratulations to them.”
On Dominique Badji:
“Badji’s had some injuries that didn’t allow him to compete a few weeks ago. He’s feeling better and better. He was active today. He played on the wing, he played in the nine. He had to adapt and showed he could get us back into the game. When he’s healthy, he’s a piece that’s important for us to get to create and be dangerous in the box.”
On his goal:
“It felt good to score, it always feels good to score. It was unfortunate we were down but it was nice to bring us back a little bit. It gave us a little bit of life but ultimately it wasn’t enough. I wish I could’ve gotten a second one to help us out but it’s just one of those games, but I’m very happy to have scored.”
On how to get back to winning ways:
“We have to aggressive from the start. We didn’t come out with energy that we want in this game, and they put two goals on us quick. If we start the way we finished in the second half, I think we’ll definitely be in a good position.”
On today’s result:
“I think in the first half, we dominated with the ball. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to win every time. They come down and get only two chances and they capitalize on them. For us, we need to put away our chances and be more aggressive in the box, be more lethal. Same with the second half, they sat back a little, they were up 2-0, and we went for the game. Credit to the boys, we didn’t give up. We push the game, and that’s just what happens sometimes. We need to be more aggressive in the box and stay positive.”
On the absence of Matt Hedges:
“It definitely changed it a bit. Matt is the leader on this team, so is Reto, he’s our captain. He gives us a voice back there. We stepped up and we did alright in the backline especially in the second half. We were giving them nothing. Winning the balls in the air, keeping the ball for us. I felt the guys stepped up.”
On how Ali Adnan coming off affected the game:
“He had a good goal. Once he came off, we could attack his side a little more which I thought we did especially in the second half.”
On how to get back to winning:
“We need to stay positive. We’re going through a rough patch. It goes with every team. Every team this season has had their difficulties with injuries and people going on an international break. Guys got to step up and we’re going to stay positive. This is a group that’s going to keep putting in their work. No matter what happens, we’re going to stay a family like we are.”