It’s still very early in the season to call a team desperate, but with five of their next six MLS matches coming up on the road, Vancouver Whitecaps were already bordering on desperate times just a few weeks into the new campaign.
Winless in March, scoreless at home, and starting this match bottom of the Western Conference after Minnesota’s first ever MLS win at home to Real Salt Lake, the ‘Caps badly needed a win against LA Galaxy to not just turnaround their season, but to kickstart it.
They got it in a 4-2 come from behind victory over a Galaxy side that feels, in the words of their head coach Curt Onalfo, that they “pissed away” three points. Forget LaLa land, this was Laba land for the ‘Caps.
Vancouver started brightly, and capitalised on it in the 19th minute when Cristian Techera did well to take advantage of the first of several poor judgement calls from LA keeper Clement Diop, who rushed out as ‘the Bug’ got on to a great diagonal ball from Sheanon Williams, and the diminutive Uruguayan showed a calm head to knock the ball past the keeper and composed himself to slot home into the empty net.
The ‘Caps were pushing for a second, with the visitors not looking to be too much of a threat in the early going, and Alphonso Davies should have had a penalty when clipped by Jelle van Damme in the box, but that was soon to change with their new French DP Romain Alessandrini stunning the Whitecaps and the crowd with two goals in a four minute spell that left you fearing that Vancouver’s dreadful home form was about to continue.
The equaliser came in the 26th minute when the Frenchman cut inside in the box and unleashed a fierce strike that crashed off the right hand post, off David Ousted’s head, and over the line as the Dane desperately tried to claw it out.
LA doubled their tally on the half hour mark when Alessandrini clinically buried from the edge of the box after some nice build up play by the Galaxy.
Vancouver nearly tied it up right on the stroke of half-time when Diop again came flying out of his box, this time clattering Erik Hurtado. The ball broke loose and ended up with Techera who just couldn’t get his shot on goal under pressure from a number of LA defenders.
The Galaxy headed in to the half with the one goal lead and the Whitecaps headed out after the break with a sub on, after Hurtado was forced the leave the game with a foot contusion, later leaving the dressing room on crutches. Fredy Montero coming on to the replace him.
LA had the better of the second half and had a couple of chances to add a third, and possibly put the game out of sight.
But the ‘Caps brought on new addition Tony Tchani in the 64th minute and things started to change. Two minutes later and the ‘Caps were level, a minute after that and they were in the lead.
Montero grabbed the equaliser, pouncing on a rebound from a Diop save off a Techera shot to score from close range, and just as the crowd were still celebrating, Vancouver piled forward, catching the LA defence all at sea and allowing Laba to drill home a great finish from the edge of the box to put the ‘Caps ahead for the second time in the game. It was a move that was started by Laba dispossessing LA from the kick off.
Vancouver were now in the ascendency and it looked like Christian Bolanos was about to put the game to bed, only to see a fantastic last ditch goalline clearance from Ashley Cole deny him.
But the ‘Caps weren’t to be denied and grabbed a fourth three minutes from time, with Laba popping up once again to head home a rebound from close range, his first ever headed goal of his career, after Diop parried a Montero shot.
It was a massive win for the ‘Caps. No-one was talking publicly about the pressure on the team to get their first win of the new MLS season, but you know they knew how important it was.
It moves them to four points for the season, one behind the playoff places (I know it’s too early to be talking about that!). Most importantly it gives them some massive momentum and confidence heading into Wednesday CONCACAF Champions League semi-final second leg against Tigres.
They’ve scored four goals against LA. Can they do the same against the Mexican giants? They may have to.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 4 – 2 Los Angeles Galaxy
VANCOUVER: David Ousted; Sheanon Williams, Tim Parker, Kendall Waston, Jordan Harvey (Marcel de Jong 90+2); Matias Laba, Andrew Jacobson (Tony Tchani 64), Alphonso Davies, Christian Bolanos, Cristian Techera; Erik Hurtado (Fredy Montero 46) [Subs Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Christian Dean, Russell Teibert, Nicolas Mezquida]
LOS ANGELES: Clément Diop; Nathan Smith, Daniel Steres, Jelle Van Damme, Ashley Cole (Dave Romney 82); Jermaine Jones, Romain Alessandrini; Emmanuel Boateng (Bradford Jamieson IV 79), Giovani dos Santos, Joao Pedro; Jack McBean (Gyasi Zardes 67) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Baggio Husidic, Rafael Garcia, Jose Villareal]
On whether this is exactly what the doctor ordered:
“That’s a good English pun. Yeah, I think we deserved it. I thought we played very well. I thought from the first whistle we set out to play with intensity on the front foot and I thought we were very unlucky in the first half to be 2-1 down because the attacking football we play didn’t have the reward because we conceded two silly goals, un-needed goals, against a very good team. I said to them at halftime, ‘Keep doing the same things, get into the same areas, keep believing and show passion.’ And they did, they got a reward.”
On whether the team can breathe a little easier after this match:
“I think you always want to get your first win, you know. Each season, we’ve put a lot into the early part of the season with regards to Champions League. We’ve had two disappointing performances at home, it’s fair to say, but I’m not making excuses but when we’re two days, three days out from playing in a Champions League game, they’re not easy and I said to the guys, ‘You have no excuse today.’ We’ve had two weeks off, I’ve given them four days off out of two weeks. They wanted more; I’m glad I didn’t and I thought they looked energetic, they looked fresh, a good team.”
After Manneh’s trade earlier in the week, does it leave the player’s worried about their own spots and whether this motivates them in a match:
“I think one of the coaches in there said to them today that it’s hard to push for a Man of the Match. Who do you pick? You have two centre-backs that I think were outstanding. You’ve got a holding midfield player that scores two goals and obviously Fredy made a difference when he came on. The Bug was electric as well. You know, it’s about playing, it’s about playing well and it’s about being together. Sometimes you’ve got to make decisions, rightly or wrongly, because everyone will have a difference of opinion in this game and it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. You just deal with it, you accept it. We’re in professional sports, now. So I said to the group, ‘You’re fighting for your places; we all are. Show them what a good team you are.’ And they did today, but it’s about consistency. It’s about doing it week in and week out, and game in and game out. We have a decent squad so it’s something to build on.”
How important was it mentally for the club to take and hold on to the lead:
“Listen, I’ve just said in there to the guys, LA are a top team, they’ve got top players. Jermaine Jones, what a quality player he is today. I keep reading about him and whether he should play for the US, 100 per cent he should. But until there’s anyone better than him, you know, it’s a no-brainer. Belief, energy, passion, that group in there has got it. We just need to do it more consistently. I’m pleased with them today. It sets up nicely for Wednesday, for ‘Mission Impossible’ as someone said to me the other day and someone also reminded me when we went out for the second half that we never come from behind. We did today.”
On why Fredy Montero didn’t start the match and came on at halftime:
“He picked up an injury, a hamstring injury. He trained for 1.5 sessions. If I throw him in and he gets a reoccurrence of the injury, I’m not doing my job correctly. So I spoke to Fredy, he wanted to play. I didn’t plan on bringing him on for 45 minutes, it was maybe 30 minutes, but at halftime, the way the game was, we needed a goal. He’s a goalscorer and Erik did a great job tiring them out. But Fredy likes to be in the box and score goals, and it made a difference because he brought a calmness to our team.”
On Tony Tchani’s debut:
“I thought he did well. You know, he showed what he’s about. He showed really, really good things and other things, which I expect when you take two flights and arrive on Friday morning at 2 a.m. through Vancouver airport. So, that’s why I didn’t start Tony. I thought AJ and Mati were outstanding in there today and I left Rusty out as well, who has been very good. Positive debut for him. It’s nice when you win and everyone has got smiles on their faces. We’re the same team today as we were yesterday, and we’re going to be the same team tomorrow, but it sets us up nicely. We’re beginning tomorrow, we’re training tomorrow because we’ve got an unbelievable opportunity on Wednesday night to try and over turn those two goals.”
On the attacking play of Matias Laba and whether Tony Tchani coming will unlock more of that side of him:
“Bringing Tony in, he’s a box to box player. Mati saw him sitting, holding. I told him Tony when he sees those areas being vacated to make sure he fills them and let Mati have a little license as well. Mati scored two great goals today. The first goal’s an outstanding goal. [Cristian] Techera’s in the right, correct defensive position in the attacking half, Fredy shows his vision, and Mati hits a great strike. It’s nice for him. He’s celebrating with his wife and his little boy. Hopefully there’s more to come.”
On tonight’s comeback win:
“That shows the hard work that we do every single day. Today we got the result and the three points.”
On getting the first win:
“We’ve had very good games but we couldn’t get the result. Tonight’s three points are very important to us to make us more confident for the rest of the week.”
On his first goal:
“Fredy passed to me, it was a very good assist. In two touches, I finished it.”
On possibly joining the attack more:
“Maybe I can help in attacking more and help the team in this part of the field.”
On Manneh-Tchani trade and what Tchani brings to team:
“Kekuta [Manneh] was a part of the team for a long time and was very important for us. It was a decision by the coach. It’s a good move because Tony [Tchani] is a good player and is going to help in the midfield. He’s a very good player and I remember [Gershon] Koffie when he played, it’s the same style. He’s a very good player.”
On Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match vs Tigres:
“It’s very difficult but we can do it. If we get an early goal, maybe we can do it.”
On tonight’s win:
“Yes, for sure we are very happy, we were looking for this big opportunity at home and today we had the opportunity to celebrate so yes we are happy for this game.”
On his performance:
“I just came in and try to do my job, what the coach told me to do. Try to find space, move forward and when I had the chance, score. For me it was a good position in the box and Techera was going one-on-one, he shot on goal and the goalkeeper saved it. I was there took one touch and just scored the goal.”
On Matias Laba’s goal:
“Well I’m happy to be in Mati Laba’s video. I was talking to him in the locker room, he told me he has four goals, and two of them, I’m in the replay. I’m happy for him, he’s one of those guys that runs 200% every single game, and you want to match him. For us he’s a good player.”
On coming off the bench:
“I feel much better. Whenever I’m able to play, I will. Today, we just wanted to take it easy because we have many games coming, and I had the opportunity to play 45 minutes. I decided with the coaching staff to play the second half, it was good for us.”
On Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League match vs Tigres:
“Well for us it’s going to be super important what we bring to the game. We don’t worry about what they’re going to do. We know they are a top-level team in Central America, and North America, and we are looking to score the first goal as soon as possible. Then we have to believe that we can go and score the second one.”
On getting some players back but not the result:
“Yes, I mean we gave the game away. We were 2-1 up, and from the 46th minute to the 65th minute we were really good. We were controlling the game, we created two more chances, we should’ve put it away. The game should be 3-1 at that point, instead we just gift them a second goal which gives them life, and then just gift them a third goal. So we just gave the game away. Credit obviously to Vancouver for their will to win the game, but it’s a game we gave away. That’s three points we just pissed away.”
On the second-half performance:
“We gifted the second goal and then we just gave them a third, literally just passed the ball to their player. And so it’s as simple as that. Good teams are going to punish you when you make errors like that.”
On goalkeeper Clement Diop’s performance:
“No, I don’t want to comment on that, I’m not going to assess my player to the world.”
On missed chances:
“If we sensed that the game was there for the taking we could’ve just put it away. But even so, you’re on the road, you scored two goals. You got to find a way that you don’t concede and give the game away. We gave the game away.”
On conceding four goals:
“I think if you came back and your 2-1 in front and you’re playing away, you have to bring it home. But we made too many mistakes, if you see how the goals happen, it’s too easy. We have to discuss when we come back to LA and we have to step it up. I don’t say names but I think inside, we have to talk clear what we have to do better.”
On converting on chances:
“If you see how we have to fight for chances, we have to play those chances out. And then you see the other teams most of the time, they kick only the ball up front and they run up and they have a chance to score goals. It’s too easy, and especially if you’re LA Galaxy and you see the squad that we have it cannot happen.”
On midfielder Romain Alessandrini’s performance:
“He played well but end of the day it doesn’t count. He scored goals, he did everything he had to do but we messed it up in the end.”
On turning it around:
“Everybody has to know their role on the field and that’s the part. You have to bring to the team your part and not try to make more. If you try to make more, you see you make mistakes and then we lose games. We’re not going crazy right now. We know at the end of the day like this game today, normally we have to bring it home. We make mistakes, we lose the game. We know what we have on quality, we know especially in this league. I would say like most of the time, the beginning of the season is not that important than the end of the season to slide in the playoffs. We want to try to win every game especially when you go on the road and score two goals and you lose it.”
His thoughts on Alphonso Davies:
“I think he’s young, I thinks he’s got lots to learn, I think in this league he’s going to be dangerous, he kind of never stops working but I think the way the team plays, it helps him.”
On coming off in the second half:
“I’ve been out for two weeks not playing and then two weeks training. Of course, you’re always disappointed to come off but I said I felt good in the game and looking forward to playing the next game. It’s a tough place to come here but we thought we had the confidence to go 2-1 up. We should have been good enough to see it out but now we have to look forward to Friday.”
On conceding the first goal to Cristian Techera:
“I’m going for the ball. Usually the ball keeps going through but the ball bounced back to the player. It’s on me. I take the blame on the first goal. This is on me and no one else. The guys scored two goals. I should’ve done a better job tonight. There is no one else, no coaches, no one. This is all on me. I can’t concede four goals. This is not about the communication. It’s on me, I should have a better read on the game on this one.”
On moving on from the loss:
“There is nothing to forget, I need to learn from it. That’s it. Tonight’s on me. The team backed me up and got the lead, 2-1. I was not able to keep the score at 2-1 so the guys did their job and I didn’t do mine.”