Tuesday night was “embarrassing”, to use the words of Vancouver Whitecaps striker Lucas Cavallini on a media call on Thursday. He felt things couldn’t get much worse than that and while the overall result and performance was better in Friday night’s 1-0 loss to Toronto FC, the ‘Caps were simply not at the races again.
Just how far behind TFC the ‘Caps are has been fully exposed in these two matches. They’ve managed two shots on target from a paltry total of 10 over the two games. They gave up 39 of them.
Only one went in this time, however, with Richie Laryea’s 15th minute strike from the edge of the box the difference maker on paper. The real difference was very visible for all watching.
Tuesday night showed all the Whitecaps faults in abundance from the lack of offensive threat, to no creativity in what was barely a midfield presence, to poor defending and switching off, to the seeming lack of any desire or passion to wear the shirt. There was a lot more.
Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos rang the changes, bringing in centre back Derek Cornelius in a 5-3-2 formation, with Tosaint Ricketts and Lucas Cavallini leading the line, and young homegrown midfielder Patrick Metcalfe coming in for his first start.
But the biggest pregame talking point was the absence of Yordy Reyna, who was disciplined by the club for being late once too often and was left out of the matchday squad. Another blot in the Peruvian’s already heavily ink stained copybook. The final one? At this stage, I hope it is.
The first real action came 11 minutes in when ‘Caps keeper Thomas Hasal produced a spectacular point blank stop from Auro, who had got on to the end of a Jonathan Osorio cross to the back post.
It was just to be a temporary postponement of what already felt the inevitable, and the home side took the lead four minutes later.
Pablo Piatti waltzed through the Whitecaps defence and although it was a fortunate deflection off Alejandro Pozuelo that saw the ball break to Richie Laryea, the Canadian buried it with aplomb from the edge of the box to make it 1-0 TFC.
It was a good finish, and excellent build up play from Piatti, but Andy Rose will be disappointed that he let Laryea lose him on the edge of the box to get the chance to fire home.
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) August 22, 2020
It already felt like another rough night loomed for Vancouver.
Piatti forced a save out of Hasal two minutes later as TFC piled the pressure on a Whitecaps side that simply could not get anything going again.
All the ‘Caps could really muster was a game of pinball in the box that lacked the chance for anyone to get a shot on goal.
But TFC didn’t really test the ‘Caps again either and the game just plodded along to half time, with Toronto moving the ball around well and dominating possession 68% to 32%. Vancouver were looking better on the ball than Tuesday, but the amount of time they were getting on the ball wasn’t really conducive to getting much going.
The second half started much as the first half finished, with neither team really threatening to add to the scoreline. The closest either team came was when half time sub Patrick Mullins blasted over a Pozuelo cross in the 63rd minute.
TFC looked comfortable, allowing Vancouver to have much more of the ball, but likely not feeling they were going to do anything with it.
And they were right, aside from a few forays forward, there was no real danger.
Toronto had a great chance to put the game to bed inn the 89th minute when Pozuelo was sprung, raced in on goal, but Hasal tipped his weak attempt at a chip over the bar.
That was all she wrote and TFC made it six points from the two matches, consolidating their second place in the East Conference standings and putting them in pole position for this year’s Canadian Championship final.
Greg Vanney will be fairly happy with his lot, while knowing that his team should have been much more clinical with all the possession they had. They didn’t really have to come out of second gear for this win.
As for Vancouver, they have to just get on with it and try and make the most of the limited resources they currently have. Nothing but another complete overhaul down Whitecaps way is going to turn this team around and make them contenders. With quarantine, that’s unlikely to happen this season, so it’s just a case of seeing what they have and who they want to continue with.
For fans, that’s going to be hard to stomach again. Nothing seems to change, nothing seems to improve. It’s rebuild after rebuild. The Whitecaps are like the Winchester Mystery House of MLS.
Next up is Montreal on Tuesday. They’ve not played since Orlando, whereas Vancouver at least have some legs going. Will there be further improvement? Will there be enough to take something from this game? Without controlling the middle of the park and getting some shots on goal, it’s hard to see it. But we only have four days to wait and find out.
FINAL SCORE: Toronto FC 1 – 0 Vancouver Whitecaps
TORONTO: Quentin Westberg; Auro, Omar González, Chris Mavinga, Richie Laryea (Justin Morrow 67); Pablo Piatti (Laurent Ciman 84), Liam Fraser (Marco Delgado 57), Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio (Nick DeLeon 83); Alejandro Pozuelo, Jozy Altidore (Patrick Mullins 46) [Substitutes not used: Alex Bono, Eriq Zavaleta, Tsubasa Endoh, Erickson Gallardo]
VANCOUVER: Thomas Hasal; Jake Nerwinski (Cristian Dajome 71), Andy Rose, Ranko Veselinovic (Theo Bair 88), Derek Cornelius, Ali Adnan; Patrick Metcalfe, Leonard Owusu (Ryan Raposo 71), Russell Teibert; Tosaint Ricketts (David Milinkovic 78) , Lucas Cavallini [Substitutes Not Used: Bryan Meredith, Cristian Gutierrez, Jasser Khmiri, Georges Mukumbilwa, Michael Baldisimo]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On the improvement in the team performance:
“Yeah, it’s very fair, you know, we had two days to evaluate so many things because it went very wrong in the first game. Still tough to explain that. We addressed a lot of things tactically, that allowed us to be in the game. Our possession was better, we didn’t create as much chances as we wanted but still, you know, we we put ourselves in a position to create things and then defensively it was more difficult for Toronto to get in between our lines so those two things was an improvement and we could build on that right now.”
On the extra player in midfield:
“I agree with you and that was one of the things that we evaluated right now. You know, right now you have to remember that [Janio] Bikel is still out and he’s an option to play in the midfield for us and we lost midfielder Inbeom [Hwang] that was also an important player for us and not replaced yet. So playing with two midfielders in the last game without maybe the characteristics that they have to play with two midfielders that was on me and I took that one on me. You know, it was my mistake to decide to play with two players with those characteristics and we struggled a lot. Then when we evaluated the type of play and the type of characteristics of players we have right now, we felt that playing with a third man there and play with three in the back really allowed us not only to have more options in possession, but also allowed us to to defend better into not concede as much space in between the lines so that’s why there was the decisions decision to play Pat [Metcalfe]. I’m happy for Pat, young Canadian player another one that we have given an opportunity to show his qualities and I think that for his first game in a stage, again, I have to congratulate because TFC has a very well built team team with experience a team with a lot of quality. And I’m even very, I didn’t know [Pablo] Piatti very very well before these two games a player with a lot of quality also. So I think in a stage like that in a game like that to be your first game, Pat did really well.”
On bouncing back from Tuesday:
“Tuesday was terrible, you know, I can’t lie to you guys, I’m very honest with you. Tuesday was not good at all and I took full responsibility for that. Tuesday, I thought that it would be easier to integrate the players that didn’t go to Orlando, and to put them right away in the same page. And it was, I was delusional in that because if it’s not true, we couldn’t have done, what I thought we were able to do and the type of preparation that we had. So we thought a lot about it. We evaluated everything and that allowed us in in 48-72 hours to have a total different type of team on the field.”
On creating more chances to score:
“Yeah, we need to create more volume of chances you need to have more ball. And our decision making in the last third needs to be a little bit better. I’ll give you an example. There’s a play where at the end, Cristian [Dájome] has the ball on the right side and, and he has the ability and time to put the cross and decides to go in a one v one and another ball that Ali played across in the air when he had a lone Cava in the middle. So these little things need to be better. We need to believe more in ourselves, be more aggressive in those moments. But what’s going to help us is allowing our ball possession to grow, allowing numbers to get in the opponent’s half. And that’s the only way we’re going to create more and more chances. Look, the other thing I would add on that is that we’re very aware of a need that we have in our team, you have to think that probably Inbeom was our, most creative midfielder. And now without him we have to find other type of solutions offensively until we get the right player.”
On finding the right balance between attack and defence:
“Yeah, everything is connected. The way if you have more the ball, they don’t have it, you could control more the game, they get less chances to, to shoot t our goal and everything is connected. Right now I think one of the two things we have to continue working and improving is us without the ball, making sure that when we don’t have the ball, the opponent has very little space and that was a step forward today. And the other thing is continue improving in our possession that it will allow us not only to create more chances, but also not to have the opponent in situations where they can attack our goal.”
On Yordy Reyna sitting the match out and availability for Tuesday:
“Yes it was a one-off today because he has to understand that we have rules inside the locker room and those rules are important. But it’s not a big drama or soap opera. It was a situation that happened, and we just want to move forward. He knows about it, he knows what happened, he knows what we were not happy with, and at the end of the day with these rules you have to think about the team all the time and you have to respect everything around the team. That’s all.”
On preparing for Montreal on Tuesday:
“Again it’s going to be very fast because tomorrow is Saturday. And you have to react very fast, again video, prepare, recover, and make sure we go to Montreal to get points so we could go back home with points.”
Thoughts on the match:
“After the last match against Toronto, it was definitely not the way we wanted to play offensively, defensively. There weren’t pretty much any positives we could take from that. But over the past two days we’ve done a lot of video, worked a lot on training and what we had to do to maximize our chances of getting points against Toronto today. Unfortunately we didn’t have the little bit of luck going forward, so we weren’t able to get any points today.”
On making his first MLS start:
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve definitely had a youth career with a lot of setbacks, but over the past couple of years I’ve believed in myself, haven’t given up, I knew I’ve always had the ability to play for the first team and have a role in the first team. I couldn’t be more happy to get my start tonight and get a full 90.”
On the midfield battle versus Toronto:
“We knew Toronto was one of the best teams in the league, we knew we were probably going to have less possession than them. The way we set up was more defensive, but one of the things we worked on in training was that we had to keep the ball once we got it, secure the first and second pass. I think we worked a lot better today defensively than we did the first game. I think just going forward we need that little bit of extra spark, we needed that last pass to get the end product.”
On the next few days preparing for Montreal:
“We have a travel day to Montreal tomorrow. We just have to prepare as much as we can for Montreal. We leave this game behind. Obviously we look at film, look at the positive, look at the negatives, pretty much everything – work on it in training, work on it in video. We have to do our best to maximize our chances of getting points against Montreal, which I am 100 per cent sure we can.”
On the mood of the team after Tuesday, and the absence of Yordy Reyna:
“After the last game it was very disappointing to say the least. We’ve been working very hard in training for the past couple months, coming back from quarantine. I think we’ve improved as a team a lot in many aspects, but I think it’s just one of those days where we were disconnected and it just wasn’t coming for us. You know Yordy [Reyna] is obviously a great player, we missed him tonight, but the team is made up of 23 players we have here, so that’s the most important thing.”
On mentors for him on the team:
“It’s hard to pinpoint just one guy, pretty much everyone has been there for me, supporting me. Some of the veterans like Andy [Rose], Tos [Ricketts], [Lucas] Cavallini, have all been very good at helping me acclimatize myself into the first team and starting to slowly get minutes. Basically the message from them is to take my opportunity when I get it, cause they don’t come that often.”
On the team’s performance:
“It’s a tough one you know because, just coming out [of the match], it feels like we could have gotten something. Of course it’s a better performance, it’s a better team work ethic. But at the end of the day it’s the same points that we’re ending off with. I mean it’s a little bit bittersweet, but we’re looking to continue to improve so that we can get something to show for these performances.”
On playing with three centre backs:
“We’re comfortable playing in both a four and a three, and today the boss thought that a three was better for the team in order to get a better performance, better to close the gap from Tuesday, and I think it was a good call.”
On Patrick Metcalfe’s first MLS start:
“Nobody is surprised by it. We train every day with these players. Patrick has been improving every single day and everyone knows that he can play at this level. I don’t think it was a surprise to any of the players that he wasn’t out of place and he really fit right in with what the team was doing.”
On his own performance and coming back into the lineup:
“It’s always a challenge. Of course every time there’s a game everybody always wants to be in the starting eleven. It helps with the rhythm of the player and just getting used to playing a game every week, so of course on that end it helps. But in terms of today I didn’t feel out of place, I didn’t feel that I had to take some time to get into the flow again, I felt good and I felt like I was ready to go.”
On preparing for Montreal:
“We have to fly first thing in the morning, we’ve got to recover, get our minds focused, take the positives from these two games against Toronto, see the negatives and see what we can be better on. It’s a different team we’re going up against now, different players, different dynamic. So we have to start shifting our focus towards Montreal, we can’t spend too long on these two games.”
On Thomas Hasal and relationship as a centre back:
“Similar to Patrick [Metcalfe], Thomas is a goalkeeper that I’ve seen now since I’ve been here. He’s been training every single day with us. You see the way he works both before, during, and after training. So again it’s no surprise to see him come in and look like he’s not out of place. He’s a young goalkeeper but he plays with a lot of experience and he’s open to listening to new things. I feel like we have a good partnership. He’s talking to me and telling me what he needs from me, and I try to do the same with him. I definitely feel good with him behind me there.”
On the team’s defensive performance:
“It’s not just the defensive performance but the entire team performance was better today compared to the last game out. It’s a small thing, but ultimately we lost the war twice, so it’s still a bitter feeling in our stomachs right now. We just have to continue improving and getting to the point where our performances can have something to show for it.”
On what the team can do to improve after not scoring in three matches:
“It’s a tough one. We came up against a good Toronto team and before that it’s a good SKC team. We’re getting little chances but we need to I think get clearer chances to create more, to keep the ball more. These are all things we’re aware of and it’s just a matter of sticking to what we’re doing – being free, playing free without any fear, and the chances are going to start going in.”
On the differences between Tuesday’s game vs tonight’s game….
The difference from Tuesday’s game is they sat off a lot more, they have five in the back line, it was our job to try and move those guys out of the back line and create some spaces to be able to attack. We did an ok job at times but times we were a little bit too impatient. It slowed the game down and then you have to be really patient to try and move people around. Still, it was a good performance, we stayed responsible, we did what we had to do, and it would have been nice to have finished one or two of the good chances we had.
On staying focused for a year and staying undefeated…
Our group is pretty mature, we ‘ve got some really young guys who have come through the academy and some veteran guys who have played a lot of games together. A lot of things click into natural gear quickly. Guys were motivated to play coming in from the stoppage and after getting to the final last year. There is a lot of motivation in our group to be successful this year.
On Altidore’s substitution at halftime, just a precaution….
It is a quick turnaround for Jozy, having played minimal minutes down in Florida and to have a turnaround in three days is not easy. We wanted to get him 45 minutes and to get the lead in the first 45 minutes. We wanted to start off where we left off from the last game. We’ll get him prepared for the next game.
How has TFC maintained consistency and kept a 17-game undefeated streak…
It comes down to us being a resilient group, this group fights to the end, this is a very big club in this league and guys want to compete for trophies every single year. We want to show why this club is where it is and why it has been for the last couple years. I think it is about us taking ownership on our own and making sure we are doing our own individual workouts.
On his goal…..
It was a good build up down the right side and I was pinching in to help with the transition and the ball was getting in the box and I didn’t have anyone near me so I was able to push forward a little bit more and I was able to get the ball in front of me and landed nicely for me and I was able to put it in the back post.
On how the team is playing in front of him in the last two games…
I think we have done well, and we have done well individually and collectively. We have been playing together for a while now and have established a good identity. I think it is a great collective effort. I think our playing values and our principles are very well established. We have a lot of the ball and create a lot of chances and are great defensively.
On playing at BMO without fans…
It is a shame to be here without fans as we know how special this place is with our fans. We try to respect our stadium and have a responsibility to perform well here, we have to perform well everywhere but it is very particular here to all of us. BMO is a strong part of TFC’s identity and is a very hard place to come with or without fans.