Report and Reaction: Whitecaps missing grit and heart, and not just personnel, as they capitulate to KC

Report and Reaction: Whitecaps missing grit and heart, and not just personnel, as they capitulate to KC

It was going to be a tough task for a team missing six regular starters, but the makeshift Vancouver Whitecaps line-up held together for the most part before a collapse in the final part of the match led to a 4-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City, all but ending their already faint playoff hopes.

The Whitecaps took the lead in the latter stages of the first half as Felipe scored his first of the season, but the visitors shocked Vancouver with a four goal second half barrage, with Yohan Croizet getting them back on level terms just past the hour mark before Daniel Salloi hit a brace and 16-year-old homegrown player Gianluca Busio grabbed his first ever MLS goal to complete the capitulation.

The Whitecaps simply crumbled in the closing stages of the match giving up three goals in the final eight minutes plus stoppage time, and their night was made even worse when Kei Kamara was given a red card after the final whistle for appearing to grab Johnny Russell by the throat.

The opening 15 minutes saw the visitors with two excellent chances to take the early lead, Stefan Marinovic catching a shot from Gerso Fernades and then a try from distance by Salloi that just grazed the post.

Sporting keeper Tim Melia was tested for the first time a few minutes later, parrying a swerving long distance shot from Felipe over the bar.

Fernades had another chance in the six yard area almost collecting a spilt save from Marinovic to put it into an open net until Brett Levis got to the ball first to clear it from danger, as the visitors pushed and looked the more dangerous side.

Just before the half hour mark Brek Shea was sent in alone on Melia and it looked as though the ‘Caps would strike first but the keeper came charging to cut down the angle forcing Shea to send the ball wide.

The final five minutes proved to be a positive period for the ‘Caps for once as a poor clearance by Sporting was brought down by Kamara to Felipe who fired the ball into the net giving Vancouver an important lead going into the half.

His first goal as a Whitecap and one which will possibly just add to his frustrations rather than placate them.

While not able to get anything on target, the opening ten minutes after the break saw the Whitecaps get a number of counter attacks which led to close calls in Sporting’s box.

They were finally able to muster a couple of chances on goal at the hour mark leading to Melia stopping Nicolas Mezquida from in close and Shea sending a header wide of the post.

Moments later those misses would prove costly when Sporting took advantage of a poor turnover allowing an injured Croizet to convert a Matt Besler cross from outside the box to even up the scoreline, before immediately being substituted.

Once again the Whitecaps looked positive and kept on the front foot but their inability to make that final pass would cost them in the final ten minutes when Salloi took a pass from Khiry Shelton to slot the ball past Marinovic and give the visitors a lead in the 82nd minute.

Vancouver had to push forward, leaving their already fatigued defence out to try and an invigorated KC side punished them with two stoppage time goals, the first from Busio, with an easy tap in from a Russell pass, then a second from Salloi to rub the salt into the Whitecaps’ wounds as they saw their playoff chances diminish.

Where do they go from here? Well LA on Sunday, but in reality, barring a near miraculous set of results, their season is done.

FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 4 Sporting KC

ATT: 18,689

VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinović; Jake Nerwinski, Jose Aja, Aaron Maund, Brett Levis (Marcel de Jong 77); Jordon Mutch; Erik Hurtado, Felipe (Russell Teibert 69), Nicolás Mezquida, Brek Shea (Cristian Techera 68); Kei Kamara [Substitutes not used: Brian Rowe, Sean Franklin, Anthony Blondell, Roberto Dominguez]

KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Ike Opara, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic; Roger Espinoza, Ilie Sánchez, Yohan Croizet (Gianluca Busio 63); Gerso Fernandes (Johnny Russell 63), Diego Rubio (Khiry Shelton 57), Daniel Sallói [Substitutes not used: Jaylin Lindsey, Adrian Zendejas, Brad Evans, Andreu Fontas]




On the match:

“I thought for 60, 65 minutes, we were in control of the game. We frustrated them, they didn’t really know how to break us down. We thought they would high press, but they were indifferent in their pressing, tried to kind of midblock us. Again I think we were right where we needed to be for 60 minutes. We concede a couple of goals from our possession. But hopefully players will reflect on that and look, they could have made better decisions. In the last 15 minutes they altered the game plan and went after it and shape changed, and some tired legs crept into the game. It was a disappointing end, but the fight was there for 60 minutes, 65 minutes. Four or five of those boys on the field haven’t played 90 minutes for a while, so I think they emptied their tank. On another day Kei maybe finishes that chance he had. Another couple close opportunities where if we tap one in for 2-0 I think we ride the game out on a high.”

On the first half:

“I think it was a little bit of a boxing match early on. We tried to impose ourselves, they did the same. Then as the half grew we were very comfortable, we started to believe at halftime. The lads came in and there was a ton of belief in the changing room. Obviously the goal helps, and we knew they would alter things in the second half. I felt at the start of the second half we were in control, they weren’t really dangerous creating any chances. And then 65 minutes came and the tides turned.”

On why the team has conceded so many goals:

“For the three games [since taking over] we’ve had better shape. We’ve collectively been better, we’ve looked better. I would assume that you guys have seen that too. Again our shape was right, we were forcing them into areas of the field that weren’t dangerous. At the end of the day the goals that we gave up, the first two goals, they’re preventable. It’s got nothing to do with our defensive shape and our understanding of what we’re trying to do, where we’re trying to force the ball, where we’re trying to win it. That was all good, that’s an improvement. And it’s got better over the three games. The score line doesn’t reflect that necessarily, but I was very happy with them for 65 minutes.”

On being mathematically alive for the playoffs and maintaining belief:

“Well they have to believe, we’ve just spoken about it. I want players on that plane to LA that still believe. And they’ll show me tomorrow at training. I’ve asked them to reflect and come into training tomorrow and let me know how they feel. Eighteen players that believe will be on the plane to LA, simple as that.”

On the psychological effect of the final score:

“All we’ve done for two and a half weeks, myself and my staff, is talk about the positives. We’ve plucked out everything positive from the game and reflected it back to them. We haven’t ignored the things that weren’t good enough, but we focused on that element, which is what we had to. Again, there’s still belief in that changing room. There’s still a lot of quality there. Obviously there’s players coming back into the squad that are coming off some pleasing performances for their countries, and that will add another element to us going into LA.”

On the play of Felipe and Russell Teibert:

“Both of those players, they bleed for the shirt, and you saw it tonight. Russell was anxious to get in the squad, he wanted to contribute in any way he could. Felipe, his first start for a few weeks now, he was outstanding. Great finish, his energy was great. Even when he came off he wanted to give more. He ran himself into the ground, so I’m really pleased for both those boys.”


Thoughts on the match:

“Let me just say this, I’ve been part of this team for quite some time now and this is the first time that I want to apologize to the fans and to the people at this club, because they don’t deserve what they just saw. That was a team that gave in and that’s not what we’re about here. I want to apologize on behalf of the team to the people that came and watched, to the people that support us. That’s not what this team’s about. We’re fortunate that we have two games left and we still have a shot, but we, all of us, that entire locker room, we need to take a long, hard look at ourselves in the mirror and figure out what it is and who it is and what we’re playing for. The end of that game, that’s disappointing. That’s disappointing for us, that’s disappointing for you guys, for the people that support us, and it’s not acceptable. That being said, we have two games to go, mathematically we still have a chance, but they’re two tough games and we know we need to turn that around because the way we ended this game, that can’t happen again. I want to promise you guys that that won’t happen again. You won’t see a team that gives up. We’re going to finish this season strong.”

How did it fall apart so quickly?

[After a long pause] “I’m not sure how to answer that. I’m really not. It’s not a part of our make up to give up, and that team gave up. We gave up and it’s unacceptable. So you want me to give you an answer as to why things happened the way they did, I can’t. Sometimes things can’t be explained, but I’m telling you now, as a promise. that’s not going to happen again at this club.”

Any positives to take into these last two games?

“Well we played a good 60 plus minutes. We were 1-0 up against potentially the Conference winners. So there’s positives you can take from this game. It was a good team performance up until [the goal]. There’s plenty of positives we can take forward. It’s just that last period of the game, again, it’s unacceptable.”

Was is a case of same again with not taking chances then defending poorly and that proving costly?

“Well again, we can say we were 1-0 up against potentially the Conference winners, so we did capitalise on a chance when we needed to. Again, we might not have capitalised on all the chances that we needed to, to maybe go 2-0 up, and then we gave away a goal. Then we faced a little bit of adversity and it pains me to say, but the team, we crumbled. I don’t take that lightly. The guys in the locker room, we don’t take that lightly, and I can tell you that that locker room is disappointed in ourselves and you guys should be disappointed in us and that’s why I’m apologizing on behalf of the team, and again, I’ll reiterate, it’s unacceptable.”

On why this team gives up at least two goals a game:

“If you take a look at the season on the whole we said, and our identity was, that we were going to score more goals than we were going to concede. So we knew we left ourselves vulnerable when we were going forward. Maybe that wasn’t the right approach. Maybe we need to sort out a solid foundation and seal up the back, but we’re a dangerous counter attacking team, and that was our identity. Conceding two goals a game, it’s a very hard recipe if you’re going to go out and concede that many goals, but again, our identity throughout the entire season was that we were going to score more than we were going to concede, and if you do that you tend to win games. But there needs to be a focus in these last two games. We need to keep clean sheets. I know we’ve said that all season long, but if we want to have a real shot, we need to keep the ball out of the back of the net. Simple as.”



On the match:

“I thought in the first half we were fine, I just don’t think that we were aggressive enough to go to the goal. I think we were just happy to be on the field and keep the ball and possession, but possession is nothing if you don’t go to the goal, and we lacked intensity, especially up front. We gave a silly goal away, and it was a silly goal on our part. I just told the guys at halftime, there was no tactics, it was more of ‘look, you have to have the desire in this game, you have to have the intensity’, and it was different in the second half. We had the desire and intensity. I think it overwhelmed them and put them under pressure. When we scored the first one the momentum came with us and it changed the game.”

On exploiting the Whitecaps desperation at 1-1:

“We knew that they’re obviously trying to get into the playoffs. They have to do whatever they can to attack and try to get numbers forward if they can. I think that we were smart, we were disciplined, but at the same time we started to win the balls and play between the lines, and then their back line was left on their own. I thought we created some great chances, and we got hungry in the second half. We were really, really hungry. The changes we made I think did a great job and they gave a big impact to the game.”

On overcoming early pressure from Vancouver to start the second half:

“On the one play where the ball went in front of the goal, that was the one I was concerned about because we couldn’t get out of our end. We were sort of lazy a little bit, nonchalant, relaxed. After that all of a sudden we started to play, we got the goal, totally different. We believed again. The mentality changed.”


On his first MLS goal:

“I am just happy, it’s my first goal, a big step for me. It’s a great feeling helping the team and getting on the score sheet is one of the best feelings. It’s what you do, you work 90 minutes to score goals. I’m just so happy, and I almost missed it.”

On his performance against the Whitecaps:

“I thought I did well. Obviously, I could have been a little bit cleaner, but I think always I can be a little bit cleaner. But the goal does not even grade my whole performance; I was just out there working and that is the main thing, once you work, everything else will fall into place. So I just tried to help the team win and I did.”

On his first season with the professional team:

“It has been a great learning experience for me, just learning from the older guys and playing against guys who have been in the league, playing in World Cups and stuff like that. It’s a great feeling. I feel like I can learn so much with all these older guys that are double my age. It’s just a great learning experience for me.”

On having Alphonso Davies’ as an example:

“He’s definitely one [example]. I mean he’s my age, so I can’t really look up to him, but I like him, he’s doing big things, moving to big clubs and stuff, so why can’t I do it? He is definitely paving the way for us young guys in the MLS.”

Authored by: Steve Pandher

AFTN Soccer Show co-host and Senior Writer

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