There’s a famous quote from baseball player Rico Carty that goes “They say you have to be good to be lucky, but I think you have to be lucky to be good.”. Wherever Lady Luck was on Sunday evening, it wasn’t as BC Place.
Luck and finishing deserted Vancouver Whitecaps, with more than a bit of help from San Jose Earthquakes goalkeeper Daniel, as the visitors scored on their only shot of the match in a 1-0 victory that very much came against the run of play.
Cristian Espinoza was the hero of the hour for San Jose, finishing off a quick counter attack for the Quakes that punished the Whitecaps for not converting a slew of chances both before and after the goal.
The Whitecaps came into this one 16 days removed from their last match, a Leagues Cup loss to Tigres. For the Earthquakes it had been five further days of inactivity after their Leagues Cup exit, with their last game also coming against the Mexican giants.
Vanni Sartini went for a 3-1-4-2 formation, handing Richie Laryea his first start, with Sam Adekugbe on the bench alongside Ryan Gauld, who was being used sparingly as he recovers from hamstring tightness.
Both sides took a few minutes to find their groove but once they did, the Whitecaps carved out a number of chances.
A free Laryea got the ball 30 yards out and was allowed to run into the box unchecked, getting off a shot which was spilled by Quakes keeper Daniel. Sergio Cordova pounced on the loose ball, which was knocked back into the danger zone for Alessandro Schopf to fire in a shot but Daniel saved.
Daniel was called into action again two minutes later, first saving a Cordova shot, after the Venezuelan twisted and turned his way in the box to create the chance, then denying a Brian White header off a Pedro Vite cross with a sprawling save.
The ‘Caps were dominating play but had to wait till the 34th minute for their next clear chance, with Laryea blasting wide from a good position.
San Jose responded with a great cross in from the left that just eluded Espinoza.
Cordova was played in for the ‘Caps moments later, rounding Daniel, but he could only look on in anguish as Rodrigues got back to coolly clear the ball off the goalline.
But for all their dictating and domination of play, the Whitecaps found themselves trailing with three minutes of the half remaining following a quick, and deadly, Earthquakes four-on-three break.
Jeremy Ebobisse got the ball on the left and sent a lovely ball into the box, behind Tristan Blackmon, who stuck out a leg behind him to try and knock it away. Missing it completely, the ball ran through to a wide open Espinoza, who made no mistake to bury it past Yohei Takaoka.
Cristian Espinoza opens the scoring for @SJEarthquakes! Now 0-1 against Vancouver.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 21, 2023
It was a horrible goal to give up from a Vancouver perspective, particularly as it was San Jose’s first shot on target for the entire match.
Trailing now at the half, Sartini gave Adekugbe his first minutes upon his return to the club to try and add a spark.
Ryan Raposo swept home a pass from White in the 57th minute but the flag was quickly, and correctly, up for offside on the American.
Daniel kept out a deflected Cordova shot on the hour mark, as Vancouver pushed hard for the equaliser, while San Jose were happy to sit deep and reduce the little attacking threat they had.
The ‘Caps kept pushing, with White getting in good positions but not connecting on balls played to him.
Vancouver came within inches of levelling in the 81st minute with stunning curling Adekugbe free kick that crashed off the left post with Daniel rooted.
But a couple of half chances was all the ‘Caps could muster, as the Earthquakes did a good job of breaking up the closing moments. A disappointing loss for Vancouver in a game that they dominated and on another day would have come away with a multi-goal victory. Instead they drop to 8th in the West, still above the playoff line but with a seven game road stretch coming up. How costly this defeat could be, we’ll know soon enough, but they’ve now made their push for the postseason that little bit more difficult.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 0 – 1 San Jose Earthquakes
42’ – SJ – Cristian Espinoza
Possession: VAN 58.3% – SJ 41.7%
Shots: VAN 19 – SJ 3
Shots on Goal: VAN 8 – SJ 1
Saves: VAN 0 – SJ 7
Fouls: VAN 10 – SJ 8
Offsides: VAN 2 – SJ 1
Corners: VAN 6 – SJ 1
VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Mathías Laborda (Levonte Johnson 81’), Ranko Veselinović, Tristan Blackmon; Andrés Cubas; Richie Laryea (Sam Adekugbe 46′), Alessandro Schöpf (Ali Ahmed 70’), Pedro Vite (J.C. Ngando 81’), Ryan Raposo (Ryan Gauld 59’); Brian White, Sergio Córdova [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Sebastian Berhalter, Javain Brown, Russell Teibert]
SAN JOSE: Daniel; Carlos Akapo, Rodrigues, Tanner Beason, Miguel Trauco; Michael Baldisimo (Niko Tsakiris 64’), Carlos Gruezo; Cristian Espinoza, Jamiro Monteiro (Jonathan Mensah 73’), Cade Cowell (Paul Marie 73’); Jeremy Ebobisse (Ayo Akinola 85’) [Substitutes not used:
JT Marcinkowski, Matthew Hoppe, Tommy Thompson, Daniel Munie, Benjamin Kikanović]
On his team’s performance despite the result:
“It’s not the start that I wanted result wise, but it was the start that I wanted in terms of the way we played. I think we played very well, guys. I don’t know, its hard to really analyze the game without saying we were unlucky. I think we had seven, eight great chances to score. We should have done better, I would say, at least on two, three occasions. We have this principle called ‘patience, speed, patience’. So patient in the build-up, then if we break the first line then we go as fast as we can, then we arrive in the 18, let’s be patient again. Because most of the time we go, I think in the first half, at least three, four chances because of that, we were trying to keep going at a million miles per hour when we were in the box and we shouldn’t have done it. But the quality of the build-up, the quality of the way that we played, the amount of shots that we had at goal. By far the best player in the game was their goalkeeper, so that’s why I told him at the end with a smile, I say F you … he did a very good job. So what can we do. We have to go to Portland and win, and that’s the attitude. I told the players, if we play like this the chances that we win in Portland are very high. If you play like this, the chances that we win in Chicago are very high. If you play like this the chances to win in New York are very high, and I will stop there because then there’s the international break, so now we have these three away games that we need to make points, so it’s pretty simple. I’m really happy also for the performance of the two new guys, I think they did well. They didn’t have more than 45, and they both push, push, pushed, so hopefully they can improve their condition this week and maybe both start next week.”
On balancing positive performances with getting good results ahead of the away run:
“I think we don’t have even to balance, I think we have to go Tuesday aware that we made a great performance and go full speed in the next game, important, knowing that we need to finish our chances and we know that its going to be hard until the end. We need to win games, again, now it means that we need to win one game more in those seven. We were thinking about maybe one or two games away wins would be enough, maybe now it’s two or three. And we need to push, push and play the way that we played today, because I am very proud of the way that we played.”
On his first appearance and the team’s performance:
“It felt good to get out there, obviously. It’s been a little bit since I’ve played so it’s nice to get a little run out there, and be able to get 45 minutes. Obviously an unfortunate result, I thought we were dominant, we had a bunch of shots. I should have two goals on the day so, just a tough day in terms of scoring goals today but I think we’ve created a lot of really good chances. We played some really good stuff and I think they probably scored from one of very few chances that they had the entire game. Obviously they have the three points and we don’t so, we’ll just have to build on that, but we played very well, just missing the end product.”
On moving past this loss and the games ahead:
“I mean, I think in terms of playing we played well like I said, so I think we need to take the positives out of this. There’s no time to dwell on losing a game and there’s a bunch of road games coming up. That’s going to test the character of the group and I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to step up and have a really good stretch on the road now.”
On frustrations from the result:
“You said it, it’s frustrating in a game you dominate, a game you have more chances. I can only think of their goal as their only chance they really had. So it’s frustrating, the guys had been looking forward to this one for two weeks now. So it’s a tough one to swallow, but there’s still many games left to make up for it.”
On moving on:
“I think the only answer here is to move on. The game is behind us. We can work all this week training on finishing and being dangerous in the attacking third and making those attacking runs in behind them to pull them out of positions because as you see, they played a lower block and they did well. But yeah, we did have our chances and some nights things don’t go your way. But I think the maturity in the group has to be there and not dwell on this loss. We have, as you guys know, a bunch of road games coming. Statistically, we haven’t been the greatest on the road. We have to find a way to turn that around, and I believe we will. I’m confident we will. Like I’ve always said this year, it’s a great group of guys. We’re all pushing in the same direction. So I think we’ll get it done.”