Match Report #1: Vancouver Whitecaps fall short in MLS home opener against Sporting Kansas City

The Vancouver Whitecaps were back in action this weekend, kicking off their MLS season with a matchup against Sporting Kansas City. Here is a look at how things went down at BC Place.

Welcome back, Whitecaps fans! We are delighted to be back for another exciting Whitecaps FC season.

The boys in their new blue “wave” kits started their regular season with a February 29th leap year match at BC Place against Sporting KC. 

Things started off in a new fashion this year with the fans welcoming the players outside of BC Place as they stepped off their team bus. This welcome was a way for the fans to interact more personally with the players, which was non-existent in previous years.

Before, the players appeared at the stadium through an entrance at the back of BC place. It seemed a bit rushed this time as the player bus was a bit late to arrive at the stadium, causing them to rush their way to the field, but in the long run this change will be a positive one. 

The ‘Caps started off the match aggressively, with their full backs at the half line, filled with lots of energy. There was lots of action along the left flank early on. The Milinkovic and Adnan relationship on that side is one that looks like it could blossom into something special going forward this season, as the two of them work together well, and are both very attack-minded.

With this early Whitecaps excitement came nerves, and the ball started to be increasingly in the feet of SKC players. A half-chance arose from this SKC pressure and fell to Alan Pulido, who showed his impressive finishing abilities with a header that somehow generated enough power to kiss the post and go past a diving Max Crépeau.

This was a serious vibe kill for the Whitecaps, who seemed to have trouble connecting passes from here on out, and couldn’t find much action for Cavallini. There weren’t only negatives though. The fans who were wondering how the Whitecaps’ midfield would operate this season. In possession, we got a glimpse of the situation, which wasn’t all bad. Russell Teibert nestled himself in between the two centre backs, Inbeom played some incredible Pedro Morales-esque long balls, and Yordy Reyna made some threatening counter-attacks.

Eventually, a dashing David Milinkovic run set up a back-post Jake Nerwinski tap-in, but before Jake Nerwinski could celebrate with the Frenchman, he was already past half celebrating with the Whitecaps coaching staff.

Shortly after, we saw a SKC golazo from Gadi Kinda – not a bad first goal in MLS for him. There was not much Crépeau could have done about that shot, and the Whitecaps were chasing again. 

At halftime, the main thoughts on my mind were: 

  1. The Whitecaps need to stop leaving SKC so much time on the ball when they’re in dangerous positions. 
  2. Offensively, there were sparks of promise from Milinkovic, Reyna, and Adnan, but not many balls were being played to Cavallini. 

As the second half commenced, we wondered if we’d see the same energy as the first half from the Whitecaps, but it was quite the opposite, as both teams seemed to start the second half at a slower pace.

On the right wing, Cristian Dajome never really got involved in the match. The Whitecaps proceeded to see more success in possession, with some great build-ups from the back. The ‘Caps seemed to be able to get the ball to their wingers to launch attacks, but didn’t ever find Cavallini’s feet to launch attacks.

The Whitecaps then made a couple switches which made me raise an eyebrow. They moved Yordy Reyna to the wing, and also took Milinkovic off. For me, Reyna and Milinkovic were the two bright spots for the Whitecaps in a sea of darkness, and seeing those two moves was where I realized that there was no way they would be able to threaten going forward.

To add some final salt to their wounds, no one other than Erik Hurtado sealed the deal for Sporting KC with a thundering volley at the back post, as Cornelius got caught ball watching and forgot to mark his man. That was the final kick of the game.

Man of the Match : David Milinkovic 

Milinkovic flying by his defender as he did many times vs. SKC. (Keveren Guillou)

Newcomer David Milinkovic made a big impact for the Whitecaps today. He caused havoc for the SKC defenders with his runs on the ball, and provided a wonderful assist for the Jake Nerwinski goal. Along with Yordy Reyna, Milinkovic seemed to be the only one who could get things done for the blue and white tonight. I look forward to seeing more of Milinkovic, who has a lot to prove in Vancouver. Along with Ali Adnan, that left flank is looking like it might be dangerous this season for the Whitecaps’ attack. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch : Yordy Reyna

Yordy Reyna showed us his ball control and speed today in with some nice counter-attacks. (Keveren Guillou)

In many respects, Reyna rose to the occasion today in his attacking midfielder role. He was quick on the ball, made some good turns to evade tackles, and created some chances. Hopefully, he convinced fans that he can be the man for the illustrious #10 role that the Whitecaps have been craving so desperately. We will see in the next few matches how he grows into this role.

Lucas Cavallini : Frustrated but motivated

“El Tanque” had a frustrating night. (Keveren Guillou)

Cava’s 4 game goal streak came to an end tonight. This isn’t very concerning – it’s clear that “El Tanque” can score goals for the caps. What is concerning, however, is that Cavallini only got 22 touches on the ball tonight. He wasn’t at all involved in the Whitecaps build-up play or connecting with the midfield – the majority of these touches came from one-off chances or long balls up to his head. I hope that the Whitecaps can try to find his feet more often and launch their attacks from there, because an outlet was really needed for the midfielders today.

Looking Forward: 

The Whitecaps will head to LA to face the Galaxy next Saturday at 7pm, in what should be a very interesting matchup. The Galaxy’s new signing Chicharito wasn’t able to get on the board this weekend much like the Whitecaps’ Cavallini, so the two number 9s will both be itching to get their names on the scoresheets.

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