Report and Reaction: Vancouver Whitecaps hit top spot in the West after dominant win over Toronto

Report and Reaction: Vancouver Whitecaps hit top spot in the West after dominant win over Toronto

Another week, another derby win for Vancouver Whitecaps, this time of the Canadian variety, as the ‘Caps put in a dominant display to dispatch Toronto FC back east on the end of a 4-0 defeat on Saturday afternoon. It was a victory that send Vancouver to the top of the Western Conference standings, leading the way by a point and with a game in hand over the two teams immediately below them.

Vancouver were once again quick off the mark, opening the scoring just six minutes in from the returning Brian White. When Fafa Picault made it 2-0 with his third of the season just before the half hour mark, the ‘Caps were in cruise control, but lessons were learned from last week where they gave up the same half time lead before grinding out the late win over Portland.

The Whitecaps comfortably saw out the second 45 minutes, adding to their tally with nine minutes remaining with a breakaway Ryan Gauld goal. A Ranko Veselinovic flick to the back post in the 89th minute was the icing on the cake for Vancouver, and summed up the poor defensive effort on display from the visitors in a tough afternoon for them at BC Place.

Vanni Sartini freshened up his line-up after last week’s Cascadian derby win, with Bjorn Utvik getting his first Whitecaps start, coming in for Tristan Blackmon in the back three, and White returning from a concussion to lead the line.

And it didn’t take long for White to make his mark, as the ‘Caps striker blocked an attempted pass by former Whitecaps Deybi Flores, raced ahead of the Honduran and coolly slotted it past Sean Johnson in the TFC goal for the opener.

Another fantastic, fast start but Vancouver then sat back a bit after the goal, allowing Toronto to come into the game.

The visitors twice came within the width of the right post to levelling things up in the 18th minute. Deandre Kerr saw his near post shot turned onto the woodwork by Yohei Takaoka, the ball rebounded back into the six yard box and off Veselinovic, back onto the woodwork and then out.

A huge let off for the ‘Caps and they had another one in the 27th minute when Pedro Vite played his side into trouble with a dangerous backpass, allowing Kerr to get off a shot but Takaoka was quick off his line, making himself big and turning the danger away.

That was the last Toronto were to really threaten in the half with Vancouver turning the screw.

Gauld sent a fantastic long ball forward for White to knock down and past Johnson, but the TFC keeper recovered in time to dive on the ball with the ‘Caps striker poised to shoot.

That just delayed Vancouver getting their second and they eventually got it in the 29th minute after a sustained spell of pressure ending with Alessandro Schopf delicately floating the ball to the back post for Picault to rise between two defenders and head home.

Fafa really is on fire right now, as the ‘Caps new goal song intimates, and MLS defences should be terrified.

Gauld had a low one whizz past the far post in the 35th minute and Schopf saw an effort saved by Johnson at the near post as the ‘Caps finished the half in the ascendancy and looking in control.

Could they hold on to that two goal lead this week without any issues? Absolutely was the answer and fairly comfortably at that.

TFC started the second half on the front foot but without really troubling the Whitecaps goal.

Picault had a nice run and shot into the side netting in the 58th minute, which was the closest the ‘Caps came to adding to their tally, with Tyrese Spicer heading wide in the 64th minute for TFC.

White had a flick on from a Gauld cross saved by a scrambling Johnson on his line in the 74th minute.

The ‘Caps got their third, and finally put the game to bed, in the 81st minute. With TFC pressing, the ball came to Andres Cubas on the edge of the Whitecaps box, he sent a long ball up the pitch to a wide open Gauld, who was able to outpace the two chasing Toronto players to slot it past Johnson and make it 3-0.

Ryan Raposo nearly made it four minutes later after a neat play in by Picault, but Johnson came up good once again at his near post to deny the ‘Caps substitute.

The fourth was to come in the 89th minute, with an element of fortune to it.

Raposo in a corner to Veselinovic, who flicked it on towards the back post and with Picault running in to meet it, the ball carried in off the post to complete the rout.

Toronto nearly got a stoppage time consolation when Ayo Akinola sent the ball across goal for Cassius Mailula, but Takaoka pulled off a superb sprawling leg save to keep the ‘Caps clean sheet.

It was a very complete performance from the Whitecaps. They rode their luck with two chances in the first half but those aside, the ‘Caps looked like the only team that were going to come out of this one with all three points.

Toronto were made to look like the work in progress they clearly are. John Herdman needs to be given the time to rebuild this side and while so much talk has been about the drastic need for a number nine and probably a creative 10, they showed this afternoon that they have a lot of work to do on the defensive side as well.

Vancouver are flying right now. They’re full of confidence and are causing teams so many problems with the pace they have on the wings, while also looking very solid defensively, for the most part.

They now sit top of the West and lead the Supporters Shield standings in points per game, sitting second overall right now on actual points earned. After a shaky start they can now really put this four-game home stand to full effect with a top of the table clash with LA Galaxy next weekend. Three points in the Vanni/Vanney derby will set them up nicely for a busy spell coming up with midweek matches in both the league and the Canadian Championship.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 4 – 0 Toronto FC

ATT: 24,678

6’ – VAN – Brian White
29’ – VAN – Fafà Picault (Alessandro Schöpf)
81’ – VAN – Ryan Gauld (Andrés Cubas)
89’ – VAN – Ranko Veselinović (Ryan Raposo)

Possession: VAN 48.1%- TOR 51.9%
Shots: VAN 14 – TOR 7
Shots on Goal: VAN 7 – TOR 3
Saves: VAN 3 – TOR 3
Fouls: VAN 11 – TOR 18
Offsides: VAN 2 – TOR 0
Corners: VAN 5 – TOR 5

45’ – TOR – Tyrese Spicer
53’ – VAN – Andrés Cubas
54’ – TOR – Deybi Flores
69’ – TOR – Alonso Coello
78’ – TOR – Kevin Long
83’ – VAN – Alessandro Schöpf
90’+6 – TOR – Federico Bernardeschi

VANCOUVER: Yohei Takaoka; Mathías Laborda, Ranko Veselinović, Bjørn Inge Utvik (Tristan Blackmon 72’); Ali Ahmed (Ryan Raposo 62’), Andrés Cubas (Ralph Priso 84’), Pedro Vite (Sam Adekugbe 72’), Alessandro Schöpf; Ryan Gauld (Levonte Johnson 85’), Brian White, Fafà Picault [Substitutes not used: Isaac Boehmer, Sebastian Berhalter, Damir Kreilach, Javain Brown]

TORONTO: Sean Johnson; Shane O’Neill (Kosi Thompson 45’), Kevin Long, Nicksoen Gomis (Ayo Akinola 79’); Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty, Matty Longstaff (Alonso Coello 65’), Deybi Flores (Prince Owusu 71’), Jonathan Osorio, Tyrese Spicer; Deandre Kerr (Cassius Mailula 79’), Federico Bernardeschi [Substitutes not used: Luke Gavran, Aime Makiba, Sigurd Rosted, Kobe Franklin]




On his team’s dominant performance:

“I think that we outplayed them for the entire game, so that was never in discussion. What we did much better in the second half at the beginning, because, I’ll be honest, there was only the first 15 minutes of the second half last week that I didn’t like. This week, it was like having a clear plan. I told the guys, the two chances, because TFC had two chances in the first half, only because we were doing those mistakes or not being humble when we won the ball back. We were trying to win the ball back and trying to play immediately into traffic, and then they have the counter and one time it hit Yohei, the post and then went out, and one time we gave the ball back and we almost scored. We need to be very, very humble. If they come with 15 players, because we are winning 2-0, 15 players pressing us and we win the ball back, if we have the possibility we play, not kick the ball long and we go. We go short and we go, and that was the right way to do it also because in the space we were killing them. It was a beauty of a game, to be honest.”

On his team being top of the Western Conference:

“It’s beautiful. I was actually thinking about quitting my job and resigning so I can say that we were first when I was there! But there is a lot of games to play in a lot of time, but it’s amazing to be there. It’s amazing to be on top of the standings also because we deserve it. We played very well every game and we are doing really well, but at the same time, we realized that the harder things are coming. Because now we are no longer just the nice Canadian kids, we are now the team that is at the top, and everyone is probably going to look at us in a different outlook. And in order to be on top, you need to be winning because, you know, to go from eighth to fifth, maybe sometimes you can miss a game but in order to stay at the top, you need to win every game so its going to be extremely hard. So what we will do is enjoy tonight, enjoy tomorrow and then from Monday night, Tuesday morning we are going to start thinking about the Galaxy, because its going to be extremely hard and we’ll to keep playing well.”


On his newfound form as a hybrid wingback?

“It doesn’t matter where I play, I always try to help the team the best possible way. I’m defending out wide, and also sometimes if we have the ball I also drive out wide, so I try to create from there. Today, and in the last games, I think I did very well and I helped the team and it’s all about the team because, I think we play together very well, so it’s also easier for me to create something, to get chances in front of the goal, to get shots on target, to get some repetitions like in the offence and today we scored four goals so it was very good, our attacking was very good. Hopefully we can continue it.”

On the team’s better game management in the second half:

“It’s always a learning process. Last week we were 2-0 up and we made it very easy, we dropped too much, we put no pressure on the ball and then you always get the problems because the crosses, there’s a lot of crosses and balls into the box and always, there’s something that can happen so we wanted to change that and I think we did that so we put more pressure on the ball. Today, the opponent couldn’t cross that easy like last game, and also we defended way better in the box, we didn’t drop too deep so we tried to defend outside the box and its always easier because inside the box a lot can happen. If you are too late and you’re following your opponent, you get a penalty against you, and even in this second phase, the balls that are dangerous. So we did it way better this week.”



Obviously not the result you were looking for today. What was it that was so difficult to break down?

Yeah, I think this Whitecaps team is very cohesive. Certainly, the length through that center spine with [Andrés] Cubas and the two centre-backs in the center and the right and Brian White’s goal, that’s fine. It’s a lot more difficult to break down when you actually face it when you look at the tactical footage you can see the opportunities but when you get out there live, you see the ground that [Andrés] Cubas can cover. I thought he was a real problem for us tonight. And then for us, I think just cohesively, you know, we’re still developing as a group. Players are coming back and trying to get that cohesion, consistency. We were just loose in that first half. I thought the first half, you know, we started the game quite well.

A little bit of a mistake that led to a goal. I thought we were right there and then we had a spell where our pressing, we just need it to get tighter and we fixed that I think for the first 15, 20 of the second half, and then the transition goal just killed us. I mean, that goal from [Ryan] Gauld is the moment that’s going to put you in a position where it’s going to be difficult to come back from. I think fair play to the Whitecaps. They are a very good team. They have been together for a good two and a half years, and there’s real chemistry there.

You talked about the consistency and that it was a little bit lacking tonight. Do the injuries that you have faced early this season contribute to that at all?

Yeah, I mean, of course, you go through a preseason with a squad that are consistently playing and they go into the first few matches playing consistently, and you know, you lose some players. But that’s normal in football. I think you’ve got to accept that you are going to lose players through injury. We’ve had a bit of bad luck at the beginning of the year but at the same time, you’ve got to close the gap on that as a team. We lost I think six players when we got a result against Atlanta, that’s for us, the next man up. Tonight, it was a balance of everything, some of the tactical elements we have to get better at. You know, making sure that coming into a place like this, we are more disciplined with our set defensively, and I think we just got too loose, and that’s on the coaching staff. That’s on the players at the same time but we’ll get back. It stings, the loss. But we’ll get back, we review, and get back at it. I think that’s the mentality we’ve instilled in this group that this season is going to be a tough season, no doubt but it’s a tough season for every team. They are going to have their moments with injuries, and for us, I think we are only going to get better.

Can you talk about what you’ve learned from your group, not just tonight but over the last couple games here?

Well, they will keep fighting. That’s really important to see. There’s no quit in the team. The goals the Whitecaps scored, the two set piece goals, the transition goal from Brian [White], from Deybi, an error, the transition from Ryan Gauld I said this to my group where we are self-destructing in big moments and it happened in the previous game. Tonight we’ve done something similar. So if we don’t learn from that, we weren’t going to keep progressing in that Eastern conference. I think that’s the big step we’ve got to take. We’ve got to look at those moments and how we set ourselves up to be harder to beat as a starting point. We were probably the best defensive record in the League coming into the last two games and then conceding seven goals in two matches, it starts, and that’s where we’ll be starting our tactical review and looking to strengthen coming into a tough match against Charlotte.

Were you happy with the effort tonight?

I think it was an effort from players that I want to see the effort from for sure. When you look at a DP Federico Bernardeschi putting a big shift in, Kevin Long putting a big shift in, players in that central spine are putting a big shift in. That was something that was said in the huddle afterwards. One of the senior players was pushing that effort piece and I think that’s an important thing to raise. I think effort is easy to target, we finished top of the rankings and our work rate in MLS across the last two matches, only second to the Whitecaps, so this week we’ll review those data points and see if the effort was there. Sometimes it’s about intensity. Sometimes it’s about — you don’t have the juice to get set to attack with that same verve and power and explosiveness. I think to question the players is a starting point to review but for me I didn’t feel it was an effort attitude element tonight. I think it was more the clarity on when to get set defensively and to hold that line and to be tight, and then those — with it being a derby game, we were just too open which left a lot of lost cause chasing after the first 20 minutes. I think effort was there, but they started to lose the energy levels they are required to maintain a tempo.

I was just going to ask you about the message in the huddle, and the third goal, is that something that comes from taking risks or does getting beat on a counter off a corner like that something that would get your attention?

Yeah, it’s got to get our attention. I feel like last week, big moments from KC [Sporting Kansas City] were very similar, set piece free kick and they get a 1v1 against our keeper. Tonight it’s the same. Again, it’s tension and focus from tactical and the technical staff who have that responsibility to make sure those lines are always set and organized against a team like the Whitecaps who are just brilliant in transition. For me, it was disappointing. The goals we conceded were very disappointing tonight from a recycle and a set piece, that’s a disappointing goal — five foot whatever, was able to get between two defenders and score a header that should never happen. So these are the things we will look at. We’ll look at collectively. I know the players are disappointed with those pieces, and again, our focus in our training has got to come back to the clean sheets and that mentality. That is when Toronto FC is at its best when we are able to manage those distances and keep the team tight, as well as manage those defensive transition moments.

You knew the task you were taking on when you took this job. Are you above where you thought you would be or pretty much where you expected to be at this point?

Well, as of last week, we were well above where the expectations were and the goals the team had set we were right on track. I think this week has been a bit of a body brow that we’re going to have to take, it stings, not only against the Whitecaps, it’s the Canadian derby, or one of them. It’a little bit of, okay, this is the real test now for this group. Can we regroup this week and focus on the growth and learnings we take from this game and go into the Charlotte game with a different intensity and mindset, that has to be the starting point. I think, again, just tonight when you look at coming off-track and we have come away from home and I felt we were just a little bit too gung ho trying to press the Whitecaps when we could have let the game come to us, I think conceding the first goal early might have sort of triggered — I feel like we’ve got to get after this game but I think we could have been way more patient and committed to a set structure.

Why did you decide to go back to [Sean] Johnson rather than stick with Luka [Gavran]?

Yeah, good question. You know, with Sean [Johnson], he’s the number one at the club. I think Luka [Gavran] has done a terrific job for Sean [Johnson]. He has a presence on and off the field. You know, for him, he’s one of the key leaders in this group, and it’s a young team, a very young team as you know with how we have unfolded that roster, and a new team, as well, a lot of different faces from [Nicksoen] Gomis to [Kevin] Long to [Matty] Longstaff, [Deybi] Flores, so players like that, the TFC DNA players who have experienced and seen a lot in football, are important to this team, and the preparation and the conversations that I had prior to games, that can bring experience in big moments like derby matches. That was the rationale behind it, just to bring, again, a first team keeper back to the first team and bring his experience to these moments. I can’t really knock on his door tonight. I think leaving a 1v1 with Ryan Gauld, and again 1v1 with Brian White off that first goal, and then the set pieces where we are not defending on the back post Sean [Johnson], what he was asked to do he did very well tonight, and we’ve got to ask questions in front of Sean Johnson tonight and that will be on the coaching staff as well.


Tough result today and obviously a bitter pill to swallow. How would you describe the team’s performance?

Yeah, it was a tough one obviously. I think the effort was there. You know, it wasn’t like guys weren’t giving their all. Guys were giving their all. It’s just we were a step behind in every play today. You know, key moments, key duels, we lost them. They were a little bit more hungry than us today and I think that’s where the game was lost. But as far as effort, the guys are giving everything. This team, we don’t lack effort. I wouldn’t want to say that. But yes, there’s lots to improve, definitely. And yeah, we will look at those things this coming week and look to move forward and improve and get better from this.

Do you feel like the team has strayed from the identity that you started the year with in these last two matches, and if so, what do you put that on?

No, I wouldn’t say that. Just, again, certain key moments that we are paying the price for I think, and you know, they are just things that we have to learn, as a team, the way to avoid collectively to not give away as many chances. I think we have been lacking a hundred percent concentration for the full duration of games. I think we are, at times, we are lacking concentration, again, in key moments that, again, those key moments can determine how the rest of the game goes, or how the game unfolds. So, you know, this is football and we are well aware that this kind of adversity and bumps in the road are going to happen. You know, we are ready for it, and we will face it and you know, this journey wouldn’t be what it is without these bumps. So yeah, it’s something that this team will learn from and get better from.

We saw the huddle on the field again post-match. What’s your message as captain to the group right now, and what’s your read on where guys are at?

To be honest, you know, the manager spoke, and Federico spoke. The message is to work, there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s time to be all in and if you’re not all in, then you shouldn’t be here, kind of thing. The message is very clear. If you want to be a part of this project, this process, you’ll have to be all in, and ready to go give everything, every day. You have to give everything and be all in, and yeah, that’s the clear message.

Authored by: Michael McColl

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