It was just what the doctor ordered for Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Wednesday evening, as the Canadian champions returned to CONCACAF Champions League action for the first time since 2017. After a poor start to their MLS campaign, the Whitecaps were looking for a confidence boosting win and they got it in some style, turning in a five star performance to dispatch Honduran side Real C.D. Espana 5-0 in the first leg of their Round of 16 matchup.
A first half header from Tristan Blackmon set Vancouver on their way before second half tallies from Ryan Raposo, a Devron Garcia own goal, Pedro Vite, and Brian White saw the ‘Caps go nap and take complete control of the tie as they head into next week’s second leg.
Vanni Sartini made four changes to the team that started the loss in San Jose, with Raposo and Blackmon coming into the backline and Cristián Dajome and Sergio Cordova coming into the attack, and there were to be some key contributions from the additions.
As comfortable and as dominant as the win was for Vancouver in the end, the first 10 minutes of the match told a different tale, with Real on the front foot trying to force an early away goal. Jhow Benavídez brought two strong saves out of Yohei Takaoka in the opening eight minutes, but that was to be as good as it got for the visitors and the MLS side started to turn the screw.
A short corner in the 21st minute saw the ‘Caps take the lead. Dajome played the ball to Julian Gressel and the the German claimed his third assist in as many games with a pinpoint delivery onto the head of Blackmon, who rose well and powerfully headed home.
GOAL 🇨🇦@WhitecapsFC OPEN THE SCORING! 🎯
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) March 9, 2023
After that there was no looking back for Vancouver.
Pedro Vite should have doubled their lead on the half hour mark but a Dajome pass came at him a little bit too quick and he couldn’t direct his effort on target.
The ‘Caps had to settle for a one goal lead at the half. Real Espana had to endure a 22 hour trip to Vancouver from San Pedro Sula and the fatigue started to show in the second half, as Vancouver ran rampant. So much so that one of their players collapsed in the dressing room after the match and had to be transported to hospital. His identity and condition is currently unknown, but we wish him all the very best for a speedy recovery.
Ryan Gauld and Cordova had chances to increase the ‘Caps lead but they had to wait until the 59th minute to finally add to their tally and it was a nice team goal, with excellent build up play and an even better finish from Raposo, who got the ball, cut inside and fired past Luis López to make it 2-0.
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) March 9, 2023
Six minutes later it was three, when Devron Garcia turned a Dajome cross into his own net in the 65th minute. Pedro Vite made it 4-0 five minutes later and Brian White finally rediscovered his goalscoring form to round off the scoring with 12 minutes left.
It was an excellent and much needed victory for Vancouver, easing the pressure on them for next week’s second leg in Honduras, and allowing them the opportunity to not go as full strength as they would otherwise have gone with, a boost for a tough spell of MLS games coming up.
Is this the win the team needed to finally kickstart their league season? I guess we’ll find out on Saturday.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 5 – 0 Real Espana
Possession: VAN 53.9% – RES 46.1%
Shots: VAN 27 – RES 10
Shots on Goal: VAN 11 – RES 2
Saves: VAN 2 – RES 7
Fouls: VAN 13 – RES 5
Offsides: VAN 3 – RES 0
Corners: VAN 5 – RES 1
Yohei Takaoka; Mathías Laborda, Ranko Veselinović (Karifa Yao 79), Tristan Blackmon, Ryan Raposo; Julian Gressel (Sebastian Berhalter 71), Andrés Cubas (J.C. Ngando 79), Ryan Gauld (Russell Teibert 71); Cristian Dájome, Pedro Vite; Sergio Córdova (Brian White 62) [Substitutes not used: Thomas Hasal, Isaac Boehmer, Déiber Caicedo, Luís Martins, Ali Ahmed, Javain Brown, Simon Becher]
REAL C.D. ESPANA: Luis López, Getsel Montes, Franklin Flores, Devron García, Carlos Mejía, Júnior García; Jhow Benavídez (Aaron Zúñiga 79), Gerson Chávez, Juan Vieyra (Exon Arzú 70); Ramiro Rocca (Pedro Báez 70), Darixon Vuelto (José Reyes 89) [Substitutes not used: Michael Perelló, Maikel García, Marco Aceituno, Darlin Mencia]
On the opening minutes of the match:
“We knew that it’s a team with not too much intensity, but with skills. They have players that can do some things. We knew the clock would have been in our favour, in the sense that we also because of the quality of the league where we play, we are obviously used to playing longer bouts at a certain intensity. We did a mistake on the first chance because Yohei called the ball and I don’t remember who didn’t leave the ball to him. It’s an easy cross. And the second one was actually a great play from them and a good save by Yohei. Then after that, I think we had like 20 chances to score and you know, we’re still not in the ideal where it is an ideal thing to score at least one out of two. At least today we finished in the second half. We were much more clinical than we’ve been in the last two games and I’m very happy. Of course the work is not finished. Everyone saw the game yesterday of Austin being smashed 3-0. When there was a 3-0 they had the chances at the end, Austin had a couple of chances to do 3-1, 3-2. But on the 3-0 they had the chance to score the 4-0, the other team. So qualification is not yet reached, but of course, it’s much better to go there with five goals advantage and being I would say enormously in charge of our destiny.”
On managing competitions with two legs:
“These kinds of games where we have two games to play and we need to, I would say, plan a half at a time. So the first half will be: let’s try to win the first half again in San Pedro Sula. Then we can talk about game management in the second half there if things hopefully, they’re going in the right direction. But for sure we won’t make the mistake of underestimating their team. Because you know soccer is a crazy game, so we’ll go there with the best lineup possible. So we want the best lineup possible also because we fly on Monday to Honduras then we stay away until the Saturday game in LA. So we’ll bring all the team and now the objective is not yet reached, to reach the quarterfinal.”
On the starting formation:
“Yes, ideally, of course scoring as many goals as we can. First of all, I’m happy, the first time in my year and a half tenure that we have never scored five goals. So it’s the fact that a lot of players arrived to have chances. It means that we are there, we’ve seen even against Salt Lake a lot of players had a lot great chances. If we would have scored more than one goal, it would have been multiple goal scorers too because it’s not the same players who had the same chances. That’s the kind of idea: we arrived and created in that position because of the way of playing, it’s not about relying on one player to make the magic.”