The Vancouver Whitecaps fell 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. Here’s our match report from that one.
The rain may have only been drizzling in Houston on Saturday, but for the Vancouver Whitecaps, it may as well have been pouring.
Heading into their last game before a month-long break, having lost 2 games in a row, they were hoping that this clash against the Houston Dynamo would give them some life heading into the pause, but instead, they were left reeling after a 2-1 defeat to their MLS Western Conference rivals.
Now, after a strong start to the season, the ‘Caps have lost 3 games in a row after Saturday, basically finding themselves back where they started last year, after seemingly making positive strides to start the new year.
There were positives in their loss against the Dynamo on Saturday, as they did well to battle back into the game after digging an early 2-0 hole, and they did break a lengthy duck in open play, but that won’t matter to them, as a 3 game losing streak is a 3 game losing streak no matter how you slice it.
“I would prefer to score two goals on set plays today and maybe get a point or win, then get one goal in open play,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said after the game.
So for the ‘Caps, it leaves them to go back to the drawing board, as they’ll look to figure out what went wrong for them in these last few games.
They’ve got a good squad, as they’ve shown in flashes in games, but they’ve been yet to figure out how to make everything work together, which will be something for Dos Santos and company to sort out going forward.
“What’s important is to be clear on what’s the best way for the team in our structure,” Dos Santos said. “And try in the next weeks to make sure that we have our best structure on the field to be the most successful possible.”
And in terms of what they need to fix structure-wise, they saw glimpses of it in the first half against the Dynamo, as a slow start sunk them.
The Whitecaps didn’t quite get the Memo to start the game, and quite literally so, as an unmarked Memo Rodriguez found himself in space after ‘Caps goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau failed to contain a wide Houston cross, slotting home from inside the box to open the scoring for the Dynamo.
Having been woken up by that 8th-minute goal, the ‘Caps found a bit of life after that, sending a flurry of chances the other way.
In the 12th minute, Caio Alexandre decided to take matters into his own hands, as he decided to have a crack from 30 yards, and he wasn’t far off with his effort, forcing Marko Maric to scramble on his line as he desperately dove to try and keep up with the strike, which sailed just wide.
A few minutes later, Lucas Cavallini nearly found an equalizer, as Cristian Dajome made a nice run down the right-hand flank, but Cavallini’s quick turn and strike would be denied by Dynamo defender Zarek Valentin inside the box.
Despite that, the ‘Caps continued to push, and they nearly made some magic off of a corner, as Javain Brown did well to find some space in the box, but his header just tickled the outside of the goal.
But after that swarm of chances from the ‘Caps, Houston would nearly add their second in the 16th minute, as Maxi Urruti found a bit of space in the box, but his powerful strike would be palmed away by Crepeau in the ‘Caps goal.
Unperturbed by that close call, the ‘Caps continued to push for an equalizer, seemingly getting closer with each foray forward.
In the 17th minute, Cavallini did well to get at the end of another Dajome cross, but he sent his shot just wide, before Brown came close with a curled effort in the 19th minute, but he too just sent his effort wayward.
And having escaped that swarm of ‘Caps pressure unscathed, the Dynamo would make Vancouver pay for their poor finishing, as Urruti would find his team’s 2nd goal in the 42nd minute.
Off of a corner, he found a soft space at the back post, and the ball managed to get to him nicely, allowing him to volley home an emphatic finish to extend Houston’s lead.
Heading into halftime, it was a gut punch goal to concede for the ‘Caps, but it was coming, as they failed to capitalize on their chances to get back into the game, and it cost them dearly.
Unfortunately, it was too much of the same old story in terms of road games as of late, as they came out of the gates slowly, were punished for it, and spent the rest of the game just trying to drag themselves back into the game.
“We need more,” Dos Santos said of his team’s first half. “If we want to be better, we need much more.”
And heading into the 2nd half, Houston would continue to make life harder for the ‘Caps, as Rodriguez continued his strong match for the Dynamo.
First, he came close with a nice effort inside of the box in the 49th minute, before sending a nice free-kick from outside of the box just wide in the 53rd minute.
Feeling the boost of that momentum, the Dynamo nearly added their 3rd of the game in the 67th minute, as Ari Lassiter found a bit of space down the right side, and he did well to get a shot off from a tight angle on his left foot, but his curled effort would find itself denied by the crossbar.
Not long after, the ‘Caps found their first good chance of the 2nd half, though, as Caio Alexandre had a nice solo run forward, but his high shot would be punched out by Marko Maric, who remained sharp in the Dynamo goal despite a dearth of chances sent his way.
Surprisingly, spurred on by that chance, the ‘Caps would start to find a bit of life to end the game. After the Dynamo’s Joe Corona sent a shot well wide in the 76th minute, Cavallini came oh-so-close to opening the scoring off of a header in the 78th minute, but his effort went just over the goal.
But his persistence would pay off in the 80th minute, as he pounced on a loose ball after second-half substitute Ryan Raposo forced a turnover, before setting up a running Deiber Caicedo just inside the box.
From there, Caicedo showed great patience, as he forced Maric to the ground with a fake, cut inside onto his right foot, and then blasted home, halving the Dynamo’s lead.
While it was a huge goal for the ‘Caps in their quest to snatch points, it was also big as it was the first ‘Caps open play goal in over 620 minutes of MLS action, as they finally found a way to get the ball into the back of the net during live action.
But despite a late push from the ‘Caps, as Raposo came close with an 89th-minute effort, before Cavallini flashed a bicycle kick wide in the 95th minute, that goal would prove to be the lone bright spot for this Vancouver team on the night, who head into the break reeling.
On one hand, you do have to admire the fighting spirit, as they did well to claw back into the game after a slow start, but on the other hand, they should’ve not dug themselves into a hole in the first play.
But unfortunately, they continue to be their own worst enemy at times, and it continues to cost them points in key games.
Now, with this lengthy break looming, this will be a good time to head back to the drawing board and figure out what needs to be fixed going forward, because there are certainly puzzle pieces to play around with, but the picture just hasn’t quite come together as it should quite yet.
“Yeah, I think we have an assessment to do,” Dos Santos said. “Okay, we played these first 7 games, we saw the tendencies of each player, we saw the qualities of each player, what’s the best way to originate chances, and now, we have to figure out what’s the best way to play.”
Player of the Game: Javain Brown
As usual, it’s always hard to pick a player of the game after a result like this, but despite the score, our choice was quite easy, as Javain Brown was excellent for the ‘Caps on Saturday.
In his first MLS start, deployed out of position at left back, he looked quite comfortable throughout 90 minutes, defending well and making good forays forward, overall looking like a player that has been in the league for a while.
That was reflected statistically, as he finished the game with 3 tackles, 4 interceptions, 1 dribble and 2 shots, showing his two-way impact throughout 90 minutes for the ‘Caps.
For a team already pretty deep at full back, it appears that the ‘Caps now have another option to turn to if needed, which can only be a good thing going forward.
“He could do very good things,” Dos Santos said of Brown. “This week, it’s important that he stays humble in everything that he does.”
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Bruno Gaspar
And speaking of ‘Caps full backs, our player to watch heading into this one was Bruno Gaspar, as he returned to the lineup after a slight injury.
Unfortunately for him, though, it was a quiet performance at both ends of the pitch, as he just wasn’t able to have the same impact that he had last week against Minnesota United.
He was involved, as indicated by the 66 touches that he had, but he just couldn’t find a way to turn them into anything offensively, and had a few shaky moments defensively.
For someone still adjusting to the league, that’s fine, though, as long as he continues to grow going forward.
Based on what we’ve seen, he can be a good player in this league, but he’s still not fully up to speed yet, and a game like this is a good example of that.
Heatmap of the game:
And moving onto the heat map, it wasn’t a great showing from the ‘Caps yet again in this department, as they continued to struggle to break down opponents.
Even more frustrating for the ‘Caps?
They held 60% of possession in this game, as they actually held most of the ball for once, but despite that, they only had 2 shots on target, as they just really couldn’t find a way to break down Houston.
Credit to the Dynamo for putting in a shift defensively, but that doesn’t reflect well on the ‘Caps, who continue to struggle at generating any sort of offence on a consistent basis.
xG plot of the game:
Elsewhere, here’s how the Expected Goals (xG) plot looked for today’s game, as it gives a good idea of how the game developed.
Houston got off to a fast start, the ‘Caps found themselves back into the game, and the Dynamo held on at the end.
Ultimately, the Dynamo deserved the result, but you have to imagine that it hurt the ‘Caps to concede 2 first-half goals despite conceding less than 1 xG worth of chances.
Silver Lining of the game:
Lastly, we’ll end off on a bit of a positive note heading into the break.
The start wasn’t great, but at least there were signs of life shown after a formation switch and the insertion of some fresh legs.
Could be something worth considering doing more of going forward, at least if this small sample size is to be any indication.
So now, the ‘Caps will look to lick their chops over the next month before getting suited up again to take on their Utah hosts, Real Salt Lake, in an away game at their new home away from home.
Considering they head into this break having lost 3 games in a row, rest is the last thing on their minds, but despite that, this break could prove to be exactly what they needed.
With everyone close to being fully healthy, this is a chance for the ‘Caps to reset and find their footing again, returning to some of what they showed in the first few games of the season.
Things aren’t looking good right now, without a doubt, but the good thing is that it’s still early in the season, meaning that there’s still plenty of time to get this ship back on track.
As the ‘Caps look to put 2.5 seasons of pain behind them, they owe it to themselves to make it happen, so hopefully they can do that after this break.
“We still have a long way to go,” Brown said after the game. “We have a lot of assessment to do, the team is still really good, but it’s just simple mistakes that we make that leads to them scoring.”
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Real Salt Lake, Friday, June 18th, 2021, 19:00 PDT, 22:00 EDT (Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy)
Cover Photo via: Houston Dynamo/Twitter