Galaxy-watching: Late Efrain Alvarez goal dooms Vancouver Whitecaps in 2-1 loss to LA Galaxy, extending ‘Caps losing streak to 5

The Vancouver Whitecaps lost 2-1 to the LA Galaxy on Wednesday, extending their losing streak to 5 games. Here’s our recap from that one. 

For a struggling team, it certainly felt like a bit of a gut punch.  

Facing off against a solid LA Galaxy team, the Vancouver Whitecaps would always be frustrated with a loss no matter the circumstances, but in isolation, it’s hardly something to fret about, especially in the context of a long season. 

For a Whitecaps team who came into this game having lost 4 games in a row, however, a 2-1 loss to the Galaxy may as well have felt like a 5-0 result, as they tied a team-record 5 losses under head coach Marc Dos Santos. 

Having done so well to get a 90th-minute equalizing goal back when down 1-0, the 2-1 loss felt even more painful for the ‘Caps when a 94th minute Efrain Alvarez winner 5 minutes later undid all the hard work that they did just to get into that game at that point.

So now for the ‘Caps, they’ll have to pick themselves up and try and get back on track this weekend, where a date with the current Supporters Shield leaders (and the only team still undefeated in MLS), the Seattle Sounders, awaits them in a Cascadia derby match. 

Returning to this game, though, both teams came out very slow, combining for one of the quietest halves of soccer in recent memory. 

Other than a pair of Victor Vazquez chances in the 14th and 18th minutes, neither team got much of an attempt that really threatened either goalkeeper. The ‘Caps finished the half with 0 shots, and while the Galaxy had a few more than them with 5, both goalkeepers had what could be best described as a quiet start to this game. 

For the Whitecaps, that wasn’t the worst thing in the world, especially for a side coming into this game having lost 4 in a row, but on the other hand, it wasn’t particularly inspiring for a team that could have easily been imposing themselves in this game. 

So at halftime, it was going to be curious to see what approach they’d take to get out of this game, as they certainly had an opportunity to make something happen, but they’d so far preferred to take the cautious approach. 

And almost not surprisingly, that’d come back to haunt the Whitecaps right at the beginning of the 2nd half, as the Galaxy would come out strong. 

After a nice ball from Sacha Klejstna into the box, Samuel Grandsir did well to run into space in front of him, before slotting a nice pass across goal, where Chicharito did well to anticipate the pass, meeting it first to slam home his team’s opener. 

For the ‘Caps, that spelled trouble, as it forced them to grow into a game they seemingly had no intention in trying to grow into, as they desperately looked to chase a result. 

Almost shockingly, they did almost grow into the game less than a minute later, as Lucas Cavallini found some space in the box, but his shot was sent right at Jonathan Bond in the LA goal, keeping the game 1-0. 

But afterwards, the match died down once again, as LA seemed content to hold onto their 1-0 lead, while the ‘Caps didn’t appear to have much intent to challenge them. 

They did find a bit of life in the 66th minute, as second-half substitute Deiber Caicedo did well to go on a run and set-up Lucas Cavallini on a breakaway, but the ‘Caps #9 failed to sort his feet out in time, as Bond managed to get out and corral the ball before he could get a shot off. 

Soon after, Caicedo continued to give the Galaxy defenders fits, as he then got into a good position in the 70th minute, but he sent his high shot off the side of the net and out, narrowly missing what appeared to be his team’s best chance of the game up to that point. 

The ‘Caps continued to desperately chase an equalizer, as Cristian Gutierrez then whipped in an excellent cross on a wide free-kick, and Erik Godoy did well to meet it, but the ‘Caps centre backs header glanced off the bar and out, keeping the Galaxy in front. 

That late push would pay off for Vancouver, as they then found a bit of magic in the 90th minute. After a clever little ball from Cristian Dajome, Janio Bikel managed to get off a low shot from a tight angle, beating Bond at the far post to rescue a point for the ‘Caps. 

Or so they thought. 

In heartbreaking fashion, the Galaxy then pushed down the field, and second-half substitute Efrain Alvarez found a bit of space inside the box, and the young Galaxy midfielder did well to unleash a curled rocket, beating Maxime Crepeau to win the game for the Galaxy. 

The ‘Caps came close with a late push, as Caio Alexandre forced a fantastic save from Bond right in the 95th minute, but it wasn’t meant to be for the ‘Caps, who fell for their 5th straight game. 

Ultimately, although their late push made it more of an interesting game than anyone anticipated, the ‘Caps just didn’t do enough to win on Wednesday, as the Galaxy were much more clinical with their opportunities. 

It certainly was harsh for them to lose the way that they did, but that’s life in this sport sometimes, and the ‘Caps just learned that the hard way in this game. 

Player of the Match: Janio Bikel

But moving to our player of the match, it’s important to highlight the work of the ‘Caps near-hero, Janio Bikel, and his efforts to nearly rescue a point for the ‘Caps. 

After a slow start in midfield, he had to shift over at right back to cover for an injured Javain Brown, and he helped play a big role in the ‘Caps second-half resurgence, making some big tackles and getting forward at every opportunity. 

So for a player who has been so loyal to the ‘Caps since arriving, putting up an honest shift at both midfield and at right back when needed, it was certainly nice to see him get his first goal in MLS, giving him some brief joy, although it would’ve been nice to see his smile remain a little more permanently than it eventually did. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Erik Godoy

Elsewhere, we picked Godoy as our player to watch in this game, and he certainly didn’t have the worst game, but he didn’t have the typical ‘Godoy-esque’ performance that we’re used to seeing from him. 

He rarely set a foot wrong, but the one time he did was lethal, as he was unable to pick up Chicharito’s run on the Galaxy’s first goal, which proved to be the big blow for this ‘Caps side. 

As he continues to work back into form, however, it was far from a bad performance from him, but it was certainly not what a team needing any sort of game-changing moment needed. 

Heatmap of the Match: 

Moving to our heatmap section, it’s worth noting that thanks to the ‘Caps late push, they made this map a lot better than it first looked, showing the impacts of their tactical tweaks in the second stanza. 

It’s a bit worrying that they find a way to play well from the start, something that needs to be addressed some way or another, but it’s always good to see a bit of fightback from a team that is struggling as they are, making this heatmap an overall positive one. 

xG Plot of the Match:

Elsewhere, the Expected Goals (xG) plot does a good job of demonstrating the impact of the ‘Caps late push, as they didn’t really get into the game up until the 75th minute, as reflected here. 

Again, these slow starts continue to worry, but it was good to see the ‘Caps A) find that late life, and more importantly, B), actually limit the Galaxy to not a lot of great chances. 

Looking Forward:

But despite that late glimmer of hope that was quickly dashed, some dark times await the ‘Caps now, especially with the Sounders awaiting them this weekend. 

That’s not to say that they can’t win that game, as it is MLS, but based on how their form is, getting anything out of that clash would feel like a miracle. 

Unfortunately, no matter how positive this late push was, losing their 5th game in a row is tough in every way you slice it, and it’s scary that there doesn’t appear to be a way out of this. 

The positive flashes could prove to be key, as they could build off of them, but this isn’t the first time there have been flashes, and often those flashes haven’t led to much. 

So ultimately, the importance of this game will be found out against the Sounders, but for now, it certainly doesn’t feel good in the context of a quickly dark Whitecaps season. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Saturday, June 26th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Lumen Field, Seattle)

Cover Photo via: LA Galaxy/Twitter

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