It took a while but seven was the lucky number for Vancouver Whitecaps as they defeated the previously undefeated LAFC 1-0 at BC Place on Wednesday evening.
A first half goal by Inbeom Hwang, his first in MLS, and a clean sheet by Max Crepeau, his second of the season, would be the difference in claiming the full three points, securing Marc Dos Santos his first MLS win as head coach and easing some of the pressure on the team after a tough start to the campaign.
It was a impressive opening 20 minutes for the ‘Caps as they controlled the flow of the match, with Yordy Reyna forcing Tyler Miller into a diving save just before the 15th minute followed up by a curling shot by Hwang that just missed the far post.
Max Crepeau came up big in the 26th minute denying Peter-Lee Vassell on a free header when the midfielder moved into the box and connected on a cross from Carlos Vela.
That save proved massive as a minute later the ‘Caps opened the scoring when Hwang connected on a rebound from a fierce shot from PC that crashed off the right post, firing the ball past a helpless Miller.
That technique 😍
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 18, 2019
Just before halftime LAFC had a couple of opportunities to draw level, with Crepeau denying Vassell’s shot from the middle of the box and then Vela just missing the net.
But the Whitecaps held firm and took their slender lead into the half, delighting the blue and white faithful, or at least those that were still in their seats at this point.
Hwang’s goal had sent BC Place into rapture only for the stadium to fall quiet mere minutes later when the Southsiders and Curva Collective supporters’ group staged a walkout at the 35th minute in protest at the Whitecaps’ handling of the abuse scandal that has dogged the club the last few weeks.
— AFTN (@aftncanada) April 18, 2019
With everyone back in their seats after half time, the ‘Caps almost doubled their lead minutes after the restart when Lucas Venuto was sent free on a break but his shot was batted down and gathered by Miller.
The visitors had a five minute period between the 70th and 75th where they came close on three separate occasions just missing the net, but their normally potent attack was looking impotent on this occasion and were being held at bay by a dogged Whitecaps defence.
Vancouver spent an overwhelming majority of the final ten minutes and injury time without the ball and hanging on as there was a wave after wave of attack from LAFC.
Fortunately for the ‘Caps the final whistle blew after a questionable six minutes plus of injury time and Marc Dos Santos earned his first victory as a MLS coach, sparking joy and relief from the coaching staff, players, and supporters, who had been on their feet in the closing minutes of the game, roaring the team on to get over the line.
While Vancouver were under tremendous pressure in the final 20 minutes of the match they were full marks for the victory as they kept their opponents chances to those from distance.
For the most part they kept both Vela and Rossi from creating any chances in the area and didn’t allow them to connect when the ‘Caps defended.
As Dos Santos commented afterwards, this is just one victory. They haven’t won anything, and there’s still a long road ahead if they are to climb into the playoff places. But baby steps, and right now, this win was needed by the club on so many levels. If they can build on it in Orlando on Saturday, then it truly will be a Happy Easter.
FINAL SCORE: Vancouver Whitecaps 1 – 0 Los Angeles FC
VANCOUVER: Maxime Crépeau; Jake Nerwinski, Érik Godoy, Doneil Henry, Ali Adnan; Inbeom Hwang, Jon Erice (Felipe Martins 79), Russell Teibert; Lucas Venuto (Lass Bangoura 74), Yordy Reyna, Victor “PC” Giro (Fredy Montero 90+2) [Substitutes not used: Zac MacMath, Joaquín Ardaiz, Derek Cornelius, Scott Sutter]
LOS ANGELES: Tyler Miller; Shaft Brewer, Danilo Silva, Eddie Segura, Niko Hämäläinen (Mohamed El-Munir 65); Peter-Lee Vassell, Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing (Mark-Anthony Kaye 42); Carlos Vela, Christian Ramirez (Josh Pérez 65), Diego Rossi [Substitutes not used: Pablo Sisniega, Jordan Harvey, Steven Beitashour, Adrien Pérez]
MARC DOS SANTOS
On how big the win was:
“It’s not about me, it’s about the Vancouver Whitecaps and it’s big because for the people that go to training, and follow the team closely, you guys know that players were frustrated but never had their head down, never were negative. We stayed the process and a lot of times we did a lot of things well and we only got out of games with a tie or with a loss and [tonight’s win] is important now because it has paid off, all the work, all the consistency of the players in training. The effort they gave today, especially in the last 15 minutes against a team that, when they have Carlos [Vela] or Diego [Rossi] on the field it’s going to be dangerous at any moment but they stayed compact and fought. There was a feeling of fighting together. It was big for the club. The win is for everybody that has been working so hard.”
On the pressure they were under in the last 15 minutes:
“My heart was beating a lot, it’s going to take five hours to fall asleep tonight. It’s hard because you’re talking about a team that has scored 21 goals.”
On wanting more possession:
“In the first half our possession was good, we played out of the back. What I felt in the second half was that we dropped a lot. We started to defend a little bit too early and the result was that we had to suffer a lot to win the game. What I hope is that the progression for this team is to keep the ball for more and more minutes where we could be higher up on the field but that’s again, that’s going to be a progression.”
On Hwang’s goal and what it means to him because of the pressure he puts on himself:
“We spoke this week, and one of the conversations I had with him was that he cannot feel pressure. He doesn’t have the history of Carlos [Vela] or Zlatan or Wayne Rooney. Inbeom is a player that is not finished. He is still in development and he cannot play with the pressure that he has to carry the Whitecaps on his back because he cannot do that alone. He’s an important player on the roster, he needs to play with freedom in his role and if he focuses on that the team is going to get better and he’s going to get better.”
On getting a win:
“It’s important to realize we got a win. We didn’t win any trophy, we didn’t win anything. We got a win, and even if it’s positive, it’s a good step but we need to continue to build on that. In the last few games there is growth, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We need to win more games if we want to make the club grow and get to our objectives.”
On fatigue of game going into Saturday’s game against Orlando:
“We have this same group of 18 that will travel to Orlando, and on Friday morning we will make the decisions regarding the game. Of course the physical demands of tonight’s game were very high and will we see rotation in Orlando? There’s a big chance.”
On Yordy Reyna:
“What I liked about Yordy was his workload. I think that a number nine has to stay moving, needs to press the opponent, needs to try to make diagonals in behind. [He] doesn’t need to be 6-foot-6, he needs to be a player that is dynamic and always in movement and I think Yordy was a very big part as to why the team got the 3 points tonight.
On his early tackle leading to a yellow card:
“Sorry Latif. I didn’t mean to hit him. I thought I’d seen the ball, seen the opening. After that I just had to be more patient in my defending and make sure that I didn’t make anymore mistakes.”
On the strength of back end:
“Communication, commitment. We understand our role, we do it everyday in training; working on where we should be, how to make blocks, how to defend as a unit instead of individually and I think we do that really well. We defend a lot, but that’s normal. I feel like we’re trained [well] and we’re always mentally on-point to handle the situation pretty well.”
Any deja-vu from the last 10 mins as LAFC pushed hard to equalize:
“No, I just continued defending until the referee blew the final whistle. This time around there’s no surprises or anything crazy that happened. I’m just happy we got the three points.”
Key to shutting down LAFC’s potent offense:
“I feel like as a unit we defend really well as a back five. Individually, a team like this [LAFC] can kill you. They have quality and if they can isolate players one-on-one or get guys in free [space] that’s where they beat you. As a unit we always know where each other are and we know how to defend as a collective unit. So I think that’s where we find real success.”
Thoughts on first half cohesion:
“You take our last three games before tonight, beginning against Seattle, the first half against LA [Galaxy], and even being able to grind out a result in Chicago obviously with the controversy in the end. We’ve been playing some decent football, but never for 90 minutes. It’s coming together. I think we’re building confidence to know that we haven’t won enough games. Sometimes this kind of energy in the changeroom kind of wears on players and you get a little bit nasty, but I think that’s good because the guys came out here tonight and we were all on-point and we all wanted to do whatever it took to win and I salute the boys because everybody’s effort and mentality was right tonight.”
Thoughts on defending too deep, too early:
“No, they changed their tactics in the second half and what they did. We’re always mindful of who we’re playing and what kind of danger they can compose. They want to get two, three passes in, maybe that’s why we pushed off a bit, maybe also a bit of fatigue playing our second game in [five] days. I think that regardless of if we were protecting the win or not, we didn’t concede, we got our second clean sheet and now we just go from here.
INBEOM HWANG (THROUGH INTERPRETER)
On his goal:
“When PC shot it, I thought it was going in. But as it was going, I thought it might hit the post. So I was going for the second ball, and luckily it came to me. I shot it, it was a goal and a great moment.”
On the relief of scoring his first goal:
“It’s going to be a lie if I say I did not have any pressure on me. I know I’m an international player and also a DP for the team, so I did have a little bit of pressure. But at the same time, yesterday March [Dos Santos] wanted to have a chat with me. He said that the team and the coaching staff, the entire team, we don’t want you to feel pressure. So what Marc told me was you are not a finished player, you are a developing player, so even if you’re an international and even if you’re a DP for the team, you are not Wayne Rooney, you are not Zlatan. What Marc told me was that I want you to be Inbeom on the team. So that really helped me to set the mindset. So I want to thank the coaching staff, to the fantastic fans, and hopefully we can get the momentum going from here on.”
On facing LAFC:
“As all of us know, LAFC is the hottest team in the league right now. We studied a lot, especially as Marc was the assistant coach at LAFC last year. We had a great first half, and even though the second half was tough, at halftime Marc told the team that we were playing very well, and to keep it up. Without a doubt it was the complete team effort. I want to thank all my teammates for their hard work on the field.”
On the hard tackle on Diego Rossi:
“Next question [laughs]. First of all, it was part of the game. I want to apologize to Diego Rossi for quite a hard tackle. But things were heating up because one of the LAFC players actually hit me in the process. But it’s all part of the game. Again I want to apologize to Diego Rossi, but from the get-go the team and the fans got together, so I think it was a good moment [to come together].”
LOS ANGELES FC
Thoughts on the match:
“I didn’t think we started well. Too many guys late on plays, came in second on additional plays. I thought we picked it up at the end of the first half, pushed hard in the second half. But then when you need to make a play, for the whole game we weren’t sharp enough in key moments.”
Did making the defensive changes cost them or we they focused on Seattle?:
“We made changes. The field is shit, so it’s a hard game to play, and we don’t have enough guys that play well, so nothing to do with Seattle.”
On the team’s lack of attack:
“Again, I think we started poor. Our ability to connect passes early on, to make the right decisions, I thought that part was poor. I thought it picked up later in the first half. I thought in the second half we did a good job of applying pressure, creating some good advantages. But when we needed to make the right play at the right time we weren’t sharp enough. Sometimes we shoot and maybe the decision should have been to make one more pass. So, not good enough in key moments.”
On the team’s defensive play:
“Early in the game, again, we were late to too many plays. So I think that was our downfall. Late in the game, when we were pressing up the field, I didn’t think we did a good enough job when they cleared balls. There were too many times that we didn’t read the moment and we didn’t come away with the next plays, so they were able to still go into transition and we had to work very hard to regain possession. I didn’t think we did a good enough job of coming away with loose plays that came out of the box after our attacks broke down.”
Did Marc Dos Santos know how to undo LAFC?
“Well of course he know about our team but I think the game played out as one would expect. A home game for them where they need points. They put a lot into it. They were organized, as always. Marc does an excellent jon on that end. I think we were slow to play our way into the game. Some of our young guys in terms of pace of the game, some of them were a little bit below the pace, but that’s why they need games. In terms of an all round team effort, that part wasn’t as good as it would need to be. That’s what games are like here. Honestly, the field’s terrible. If you want to try and play football, playing football on that field is not easy. For me, that part drives me crazy. In this league, we all want quality of play, quality of play. It’s impossible on that field. You guys never write that but I’m just telling you it’s impossible. Absolutely impossible.”
Thoughts on the match:
“Obviously it’s difficult whenever you go to someone else’s stadium. They were searching for their first win, so they were going to come out with a lot of energy. I think that we needed to understand that and match that at the beginning of the game. I think overall we didn’t play too bad, but we can’t give them that early goal because then it’s tough and they put a lot of numbers behind the ball. I think at the end of the day we could have done a little bit better.”
On the quick turnaround against Seattle on Sunday:
“Seattle is a top team in MLS right now, so obviously it’s going to be another big game and I think that the guys are going to be up for it. We’re going to want to put this one behind us very quickly so that we can get ready for the next one. We’re lucky enough to play at home in our next game and we’re excited to play in front of our fans.”
Thoughts on the match:
“I think tonight was not our best night. We started a little bit slow in the game. We let them come up, have chances. After in the second half, we tried to push more to have options. But in the end it was not a good day for us. We have to start to think of Seattle and come and play like we did the last couple of games.”
On Marc Dos Santos knowing the team:
“Of course he was working with us and he is a good coach, so he did a good job. I focus more on our job, and we didn’t [play] a great game. When you play not good, we had a lot of changes in the lineup. Everything was difficult. Not a good day.”