(Photo Credit: @CFMontreal/Twitter)
Vancouver Whitecaps were denied their own Easter miracle in Montreal on Saturday afternoon when they thought Tosaint Ricketts’ dramatic 93rd minute equaliser had brought them back from the dead, but video review stuck the sword in them once again. It was the correct decision, but still a cruel one for the ‘Caps to take.
VAR’s intervention gave CF Montreal a 2-1 victory after goals at the starts of both halves from Djordje Mihailovic and Romell Quioto. Brian White had given Vancouver some hope with 25 minutes remaining, but the ‘Caps just couldn’t complete their resurrection and fell to their fifth defeat in their first seven matches, with a lot of work ahead of them to start to turn things around.
Vanni Sartini made three changes for the Whitecaps for this one, with Tristan Blackmon, Jake Nerwinski, and Javain Brown all returning to the line-up, but it couldn’t have been a worse start for the visitors who found themselves behind just 59 seconds in.
It was another poor defensive goal to give up, with Mihailovic starting and finishing a move that saw him ghost in unmarked behind Blackmon and Ranko Veselinovic, with a deep Brown playing him onside, to volley home the opener.
— CF Montréal (@cfmontreal) April 16, 2022
It was Mihailovic’s fourth goal of the season so far, just one less than the entire Whitecaps combined.
Neither team were really to test the opposition keeper for the rest of the half, however, with Montreal having efforts from Sunusi Ibrahim and Quioto just past the half hour mark the best of it.
Vancouver were struggling to get much going offensively, with White being kept very quiet, and their quest to get back on level terms was made all the harder in the 41st minute when Ryan Gauld was forced off with a possible concussion after hitting his head off the ground in a heavy challenge with Alistair Johnson 12 minutes earlier. With Gauld previously suffering a concussion in the preseason, it’s a concerning possible reoccurrence.
With Gauld off, Sartini changed his side around for the second half with Lucas Cavallini replacing Deiber Caicedo and the team switching to play with two number eights. The new look line-up didn’t really have time to settle and they got another half off to a terrible start and found themselves two down two minutes in.
Sebastian Berhalter was dispossessed by Mihailovic at the halfway line and Montreal powered forward. Some quick interplay picked the Vancouver defence apart way too easily, with Mihailovic, Ibrahim, and Quioto all given far too much space, and it was the Honduran who poked the ball home from seven yards out to double the home side’s lead.
47' ROMELL DOUBLE L'AVANCE!
— CF Montréal (@cfmontreal) April 16, 2022
It was a long way back now for Vancouver, but not for the first time this season we only got to see the best from them once the hour mark had passed.
Cavallini had the ball in the net with a nice finish in the 63rd minute, but the flag quickly, and correctly, went up for offside.
Three minutes later though the ‘Caps did pull one back when Cavallini missed an acrobatic attempt at a bicycle kick but the ball ran through to White, who finished with aplomb for his first of the season.
Brian White's first goal of the season! 🔥
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 16, 2022
The ‘Caps were now back in it but they were lacking any real threat that made you feel that an equaliser was coming. Montreal, who were facing a side ready for the taking, also lacked the lethality needed to put the game to bed and Vancouver were somehow still in with a chance of salvaging a point.
Cristian Guiterrez whipping in a delicious free kick with 10 minutes remaining, and that was about all the ‘Caps were mustering, but with the game in the last throes of stoppage time it looked like they’d won a last ditch point when Ricketts brilliantly headed home a Russell Teibert cross, but replays immediately showed that the veteran had moved back from an offside position to meet the cross, a fact soon confirmed via VAR.
The final whistle soon followed and the Whitecaps fell to another defeat that leaves them firmly rooted at the wrong end of the Western Conference.
It would be easy to just dismiss some of these results and performances to the missing personnel. There is no doubting that some key players are out and being badly missed, but you have a squad for a reason and the depth of this current ‘Caps one is severely lacking.
Some of the line-up decisions and substitutions are baffling. The Whitecaps finished today’s game with no actual centreback on the pitch. Players are being played out of the positions that they excel in best. The three at the back formation is simply not looking like a viable option with the current talent at their disposal. It’s a mess.
A trip to Austin now awaits, so it doesn’t feel like things are likely to get better any time soon. The pressure is certainly mounting on Sartini and the team. A defensive midfielder arrival in Andres Cubas seems imminent, but they need much more than that and moves should be made before the current transfer window closes. Failure to do so will signal a long tough few weeks and months ahead. It’s not where anyone hoped this team would be right now.
FINAL SCORE: CF Montreal 2 – 1 Vancouver Whitecaps
Possession: MTL 54.3% – VAN 45.7%
Shots: MTL 12 – VAN 6
Shots on Goal: MTL 5 – VAN 3
Saves: MTL 2 – VAN 3
Fouls: MTL 13 – VAN 20
Offsides: MTL 0 – VAN 3
Corners: MTL 1 – VAN 7
MONTREAL: Sebastian Brezza; Joel Waterman, Rudy Camacho, Kamal Miller; Alistair Johnston, Ismaël Koné, Victor Wanyama, Lassi Lappalainen; Sunusi Ibrahim (Ahmed Hamdi 74), Djordje Mihailovic; Romell Quioto (Kei Kamara 63) [Substitutes not used: James Pantemis; Gabriele Corbo, Zachary Brault-Guillard, Jojea Kwizera, Rida Zouhir]
VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Tristan Blackmon (Cristián Gutiérrez 74), Ranko Veselinović (Tosaint Ricketts 88), Jake Nerwinski; Javain Brown (Ryan Raposo 57), Russell Teibert, Sebastian Berhalter (Michael Baldisimo 57), Cristian Dájome; Ryan Gauld (Pedro Vite 43); Brian White, Déiber Caicedo (Lucas Cavallini 46) [Substitutes not used: Cody Cropper, Marcus Godinho, Florian Jungwirth]
On the match:
“I’m very disappointed, I think it’s on us in the sense that we slept for the first 10 minutes. We went through a tough time saying that the first 15 minutes should have been really, really important. We conceded the goal immediately after having the ball, losing the ball in the worst possible way. So I’m very pissed, because after that, we actually played pretty well and we deserved the goal. Maybe we deserved even the second goal. We had a couple chances where we were pressing very well but I told the guys at the end of the game ‘We are the Vancouver Whitecaps, we cannot afford to give up chunks of the game, to sleep at the beginning, being always the team who needs to chase.’ In this way, it’s going to be really hard and I hope that it’s going to be another wake up call.”
On the late VAR decision:
“I think maybe I’m wrong. I think that there’s two ways of interpretation. If the cross of Ryan and the touch of the Montreal defender, it’s considered a flag, just a deflection and he is offside. If the touch on the field from the defender is considered a voluntary touch, and it starts another play, in that case Tos wouldn’t be offside because when Ryan touched the ball, we can see from the image, the right leg of Tos, unfortunately is a little over. The referee thought that was a deflection. To be honest, I think it’s the right call. I think it’s the right call and unfortunately it went against us but that’s the reason why we have VAR, so we have to be honest with it.”
On the locker room reaction:
“Of course we were very down. I was angry, I was angry because we need to focus on what we can control, and I cannot control the referee calls, I cannot control the VAR, they can’t control how the Whitecaps play. We need to have a better approach going to Austin in order to win the game in Austin and start playing from minute one and start preparing the game there from Tuesday to be the best version of ourselves. So we don’t have to cry or complain, we just have to work and be better.”
On the two goals conceded:
“Obviously it’s very frustrating when you come out and you want to set the tone, you want to come out strong and then you kind of get punched in the face like that twice to start the game. We need to look at what happened because that can’t happen, games [where] we give them two minutes and two chances and we lose the game. So we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and we have to react better to the beginning of the first half and throughout the whole game.”
On his partnership with Lucas Cavallini:
“I think it’s been good, obviously he came in and he brought out a huge momentum shift for us in the second half. The way he plays with a strong physical look for goal, getting runs in the space we connect on. Just one chance and yeah, we’re looking forward to continuing building that relationship and managing those movements more and hopefully we can do some goals together.”
On managing starts in the first half:
“As I was saying before, we need to stop waiting to get slapped in the face to wake up and play well. We gave up goals in the first 90 seconds of both halves, which is unacceptable. We turned it on in the second and we played well, we put pressure on them. We were the better team for the entire second half, it’s just frustrating to see because if we can put that together for 90 minutes I think we’re a good team.”
On the second goal called off:
“I mean it was awesome and I think for a guy like Tos who is one of the best locker room guys that I’ve had in my team. He’s one of the hardest working guys and to see him come in when he doesn’t get that much time and score, it just kind of brought everything together. We were very happy and if you saw how much we pressed and how much we pushed for that second goal, I thought we deserved it. I really did. We didn’t play well for 50 to 55 minutes, but I think that with the last 30 minutes, we were the better team, they had nothing going forward. We pressured and forced a lot of mistakes. For that to be called back, it’s very upsetting because we could have come out here with a point when we didn’t even play our best.”
“We started the two halves well today and scored two good goals. But I don’t like when we force things. The players have improved and will continue to do so because I am going to help them read the game a little better. We lacked control of the game at times but this is a learning experience. It is the only way to get better. The values of this team are to attack. And attacking means recognizing the moments and managing the game. We want to defend well but we couldn’t do that because we didn’t have ball possession. We don’t have a team designed to sit deep nor is this my way of thinking. We gave Vancouver the possibility to come back. That is why the objective is always to play high on the pitch and keep the ball.”
“At the start of the season we had games where we scored but didn’t have luck on our side. Things are going our way now. Sometimes finding that decisive goal to kill the game is difficult. If we push too hard, we risk making wrong decisions and conceding instead. The past three games we’ve done well in defending our leads.”
“Sometimes we base someone’s performances solely on statistics. Today I felt more comfortable. Playing in front of our home crowd was great. The energy was there. Everyone looked calm on the ball, especially in the first half. We came out strong early. Personally, I’m starting to get more acclimated to the team’s system of play. We want to keep this momentum going into next weekend. We’re going to continue to build. There are still some shaky moments, but we want to get to a point where we can take a 2-0 lead at halftime at home and then go push for the third to kill the game. That is the next progression for us.”