Colorado Cruising: Rapids ride Rubio Rocket to 1-0 result over Vancouver Whitecaps

In their 3rd game of the MLS season, the Vancouver Whitecaps fell to the Colorado Rapids 1-0 via a Diego Rubio free-kick, giving them their first loss of the season. Here’s our match report from that one. 

It was a tough way to go down. 

The Vancouver Whitecaps might not have deserved to have picked up all 3 points against the Colorado Rapids on Sunday, but it certainly didn’t feel like they should’ve picked up none at all, either, as they fell 1-0 to the Rapids in Sandy, Utah to close out week 3 of the MLS season. 

In the first game between these two teams in nearly 2 years, the Rapids rode a golazo from Diego Rubio to a valuable 3 points in what was their first victory of the season, giving them a big boost after a slow start. 

On the other side, the ‘Caps picked up their first loss of the season, as they were just unable to build off of what they showed in their first two games of the year, where they picked up 4 out of a possible 6 points against the Portland Timbers and Toronto FC. 

“It’s disappointing because we all wanted to win this game,” Whitecaps head coach, Marc Dos Santos, said after the game. “Maybe we felt the pressure, I would say, that we really wanted this opportunity to win the game and to get to 8 points, so maybe that played something in our heads.”

He later added: “We were short tonight, and that’s it. We have to react to another game, an important one, on Saturday.”

But while the result was a tough one for the ‘Caps, the positive is that, as mentioned by Dos Santos, they have a chance to make up for it in 6 days against CF Montreal, who they’ll host in Salt Lake on Saturday. 

They missed a good opportunity to pick 3 points against a struggling Colorado side, and that’ll hurt, but in MLS, you can’t fall asleep against any team and still expect to win, and that’s a harsh lesson that they learned today. 

And with it being so early in the season, they’ll hope that this can spur them back to where they were to start the year, as the marathon that is this MLS season continues to roll on here. 

“Coach (Dos Santos) always says ‘the league is a marathon’”, ‘Caps defender Ranko Veselinovic said after the game. “We have 31 more games to play, from every game, even when we win or we lose, we have to learn, we have to become better in the next game, and I hope next game we will start from the first minute to press opponents, to be compact, to play better in possession and I think it’ll be better.”

Returning to the match, Rapids got off to a flying start in this one, as they looked to avenge that slow start to the season. In their hunt for their first victory of 2021, they came out looking to change that, and they came close to doing so early in the game. 

To start things off, Colorado winger Andre Shinyashiki found himself in some space on the right side in the 5th minute, and he sent a hard shot to the far corner, but Whitecaps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau stood tall to the task, getting a hand down to the shot to keep it out. 

Not long after, Shinyashiki continued to cause problems for ‘Caps left back, Cristian Gutierrez, as he once again found some space at the back post, but was once again denied by Crepeau on his low strike. Less than 3 minutes later, he once again popped up in that position, but was stopped again by Crepeau, this time on a high volley attempt. 

It was a hot start for Shinyashiki, who kept finding himself in some good areas, but he just couldn’t finish past Crepeau, who kept the ‘Caps in the game. 

“Yeah, they found (Jack) Price, and then it went to (Sam) Vines or (Michael) Barrios, and then they find the second post clipped (ball) to Shinyashiki,” Crepeau said post-game. “So to find that guy, and there’s a 1v1 there, but we kind of adjusted to that in the second half.”

Spurred on by the fact that Shinyashiki could’ve arguably had a hat trick inside 15 minutes, the ‘Caps found some life in the 18th minute, as Deiber Caicedo had a bursting run down the left-hand side, but he was unable to turn it into a shot, with his cross being comfortably cleared out by a Colorado defender. 

4 minutes after, though, Caicedo got the first real ‘Caps chance of the game, as he pounced on a terrible turnover from William Yarbrough in the Colorado goal, and positioned himself nicely for a shot, but he was denied by Danny Wilson on the line. Caio Alexandre then tried to follow up with a rebound, but his shot was also blocked, keeping the game scoreless. 

And having been woken up by that close call, the Rapids found their opener in the 26th minute, as Diego Rubio stepped up and took a free-kick that he won, and produced some magic. Despite being 25 yards away from goal, he smashed the ball right into the top left corner, tickling the ball off of the underside of the crossbar and in to open the scoring. 

“It’s a fantastic strike,” Crepeau said of the goal. “It is what it is. Great strike, great goal.”

For the ‘Caps, it was a tough blow, because although the Rapids definitely deserved the lead considering the chances that they created, to see Colorado score less than 5 minutes after they had a chance to open the score against the run of play certainly had to hurt. 

To give credit to Vancouver, they continued to push as the half ended, as Deiber Caicedo found his fellow Colombian counterpart Cristian Dajome off of a corner, but the ‘Caps winger’s goalbound header was saved off of the line by Yarbrough, who kept his team in the lead heading into half time. 

Overall, it was a below-average half from the ‘Caps, especially considering how they played in their first two games, but they’ll have certainly felt like they still had a chance to find a lead despite that, making the fact that they were trailing all the more frustrating. 

Luckily for them, they were still very much in the game, and had shown flashes of offensive life in the final third, but they just needed to turn that into some end product in order to dream of possibly picking up all 3 points.

Despite that, Colorado would be the team that came out strong to start the second half, as Michael Barrios made a fantastic run down the left-hand side, before cutting in and delivering a dangerous shot, but his strike sailed just over the goal.

Soon afterwards, the Whitecaps would find another great chance, as they continued to do damage off of set pieces. This time, Ranko Veselinovic would be the recipient of a fantastic Cristian Gutierrez cross, and he sent a great header towards goal, but his shot was saved off of the line from Yarbrough, who continued to save Colorado in net. 

After that chance, the game continued to open right up, as both teams started to trade chances. At one end, ‘Caps defender Andy Rose denied Rubio with a fantastic block, before Cristan Dajome nodded over a great cross from Gutierrez once again on a corner on the other side, as the ‘Caps were just unable to find that first goal. 

But as the ‘Caps pressed higher and higher in chase of that goal, the Rapids came close to finding a second, one that seemed almost inevitable based on the quality of chances they were getting. Second-half substitute Cole Bassett missed a glorious chance just wide in the 66th minute, before fellow sub-Jonathan Lewis, got denied by Crepeau in the 73rd minute, as the ‘Caps keeper did a valiant job to stick his arm up and keep his team in the game. 

Thanks to Crepeau’s heroics, the ‘Caps were able to remain in the game, and nearly found a lifeline in the 80th minute, as they appeared to win a penalty via Caio Alexandre off of a set-piece, with the Brazilian midfielder appearing to be dragged down in the box on the sequence. 

At least they thought they did. 

VAR decided to intervene on the call, suggesting that referee Baldomero Toledo had got the initial call wrong, and he agreed with that statement, overturning the call, denying the ‘Caps of a penalty. Upon further review, it appeared to be the right call, but it was certainly a close one, one that could’ve gone either way. 

And unfortunately for the ’Caps, that would be all this game had to offer for them, as they failed to find any joy in the last 15 minutes, sending them to their first defeat of 2020. The game wouldn’t finish without fireworks, as Crepeau robbed Lewis yet again with a fantastic save in the 95th minute, but the ‘Caps were just unable to reward their goalkeeper’s strong performance with any run support, leaving them to wonder: ‘what if?’. 

Ultimately, the result was probably deserved, as the Rapids were excellent defensively, and had timely bursts forward offensively, but the ‘Caps will feel hard done by as they definitely should’ve potted 2 or 3 goals, as they certainly had a chance to win this game. 

To be fair, they did probably play their worst game of the season so far, and were probably due for a result like this, but that they nearly etched a win out of this game despite that is good to see, as matches like this would’ve ended 3 or 4-0 to the other team in past years. 

There are still plenty of steps that need to be taken for this team to become a true contender, but there is a good spirit in this team, and there’s talent, so the goal now is to bring those two things together (along with a #10), turning this team into the side it has the potential to be. 

“The team is having more and more chemistry,” Crepeau said. “We still need to find some passing lanes on the ground, we go over the top a lot in this game, and then it becomes a little bit predictable.”

“Once we find those lines on the ground, those angles, it gets more difficult for the other team.”

Player of the Game: Maxime Crepeau

Crepeau in action for the ‘Caps in 2020 (Keveren Guillou)

But while the ‘Caps struggled to grab ahold of this game, that they even had a chance to snatch any points from this game is thanks to Crepeau, who is our player of the game for this one. 

He may have only made 5 saves, but they were all five-alarm saves, as he robbed the Rapids of a few sure goals with his heroics in goal. 

After not fully looking like himself last week against Toronto FC, Crepeau stepped up in a big way in this one, and he’s starting to look like the Crepeau we saw in the 2019 MLS season. 

If Crepeau can keep playing like this, and the ‘Caps offence figures itself out, watch out, because he can steal games, as he nearly did in this one, if it wasn’t for that Rubio wonder-strike. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Caio Alexandre

Alexandre in action for the ‘Caps against TFC last week (Vancouver Whitecaps/Twitter)

Elsewhere, Alexandre looked pretty good in his first MLS start, living up to his billing as BTSVancity Player to Watch. 

He didn’t get a chance to get involved in the scoreboard, but he had a sneaky good game, playing some good balls and defending relatively well. That was reflected in the fact that he had an 88.7 % pass percentage, making 53 successful passes, many of them progressive ones. 

More importantly, there doesn’t appear to be a progressive pass Alexandre has ever shied away from making, which for a ‘Caps team that struggles to push the ball forward, was nice to see. 

The ‘Caps are going to need more than just Alexandre to solve their offensive woes, but there does appear to be a path towards success when he and Michael Baldisimo play together, which only happened for 20 minutes in this game as Baldisimo started on the bench with a slight knock. 

Next week, however, they should be able to start, which is exciting to imagine, especially when we see what Alexandre showed in this one. 

Heatmap of the game: 

Shifting over to the heat map department, it was a pretty tough showing for the ‘Caps in this section in today’s game, which after two strong performances in this area through the first two weeks, was certainly tough to stomach. 

For those who sat through the 2019 season, it was a familiar reminder of that team, as the ‘Caps just struggled to break into the final third, showing shades of that side that was one of the worst offensive units in MLS that year. 

Against a Rapids team that was content to sit deep, it highlighted the ‘Caps pressing need to find a #10, as they just struggled to create anything in possession. 

To finish on a positive note, it’s good to see that they can do damage in transition and off of set pieces, but they need to create more in open play if they want to consistently win games. 

Worry of the game: 

And speaking of that, it’s worth noting that the ‘Caps are yet to score a goal in open play through 270 minutes of MLS play now, which does show how dire things are starting to get in that area of their game. 

It’s still early days, of course, but it just highlights the need to A) continue to focus on that area of their game and B) bring in a #10. 

‘Welcome to MLS’ moment of the game: 

Lastly, we just wanted to give a shout-out to 17-year-old Whitecaps homegrown winger Kamron Habibullah, who came off of the bench to make his MLS debut in this game. 

After it was announced that Habibullah would be eligible to play in this game, as fellow youngster Damiano Pecile was loaned out to Serie B’s Venizia earlier in the day, it wasn’t sure if we’d see Habibullah actually feature versus the Rapids, but he got a short cameo off of the bench to end this game to make his debut.

And despite being the youngest player on the pitch by a decent margin, he fared well in his short stint, as well, making a few good passes and solid touches. 

It’s still very early in his career, but hopefully he can use this to push forward and earn some more minutes this year, showing why he’s been one of the higher-rated prospects in the academy over the past few years. 

Looking Forward:

Now, the ‘Caps will look to lick their wounds and recover after this loss before taking on Montreal next Saturday, in what promises to be an entertaining game between two teams looking to continue to prove the doubters wrong after stronger than expected starts. 

Montreal does come in as the team in slightly better form, as they remained undefeated with a draw versus defending MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew on Saturday, but as MLS continues to show, form doesn’t appear to matter too much week-over-week in this league. 

So for Vancouver, they’ll look to head into the next game with that mentality, while also looking to show that this game was just a blip on the radar, instead of a sign of what’s to come. 

It was a tough result, no doubt, but it’s a long season, so it’s important to not dwell on things too much here, as that negative energy can quickly build up and weigh on a team. 

As the ‘Caps know too well, it’s important to make sure not to get too high or too low, and they have a chance to remain even-keeled against Montreal on Saturday. 

Up next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs CF Montreal, Saturday, May 8th, 2021, 12:00 PDT, 15:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)

Cover photo via: Vancouver Whitecaps/Twitter

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