Sandy Snoozefest: Vancouver Whitecaps combine for quiet 0-0 draw with Houston Dynamo in pivotal Western Conference clash

The Vancouver Whitecaps drew the Houston Dynamo 0-0 in their latest ‘home’ game on Tuesday. Here is our match report from that one. 

For all that was at stake for both teams, it was far from a memorable match. 

Heading into a midweek clash between two MLS Western Conference teams that certainly needed points, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Houston Dynamo, who both currently sit just outside the playoff picture, one had to wonder if goals would be on the menu on Tuesday. 

As two of the worst defensive sides in MLS by a lot of the metrics, it certainly felt like that could’ve been the case heading into this one, with early forecasts suggesting that goals would likely be the flavour of the evening. 

So naturally, as is the case in MLS, those forecasts proved to be inaccurate, as both sides combined for an uneventful 0-0 draw, finishing with a measly 1 shot on target between the pair of them across 90 minutes. 

“We had good energy,” ‘Caps head coach Marc Dos Santos said of his team after the game despite the result. “When we’re in the opponent’s half, in the final third, around the box, I felt we didn’t have the spark, we lacked it.”

Because of that, Houston missed a chance to jump back into a playoff spot, as they now sit tied for the 7th and final playoff spot with Portland and Real Salt Lake with 16 points, sitting in a spot they could’ve held outright with a win. The ‘Caps remain a little further back, as this draw keeps them at 13 points, but they could’ve tied Houston at 15 points had they won, putting them just 1 point behind the playoffs despite being winless in 9 of their last 10 games. 

Of course, with there still being more than half of a season to go, it is far too early to be talking about playoffs for either of these teams, but at the same time, this shows that even the prospect of solidifying a place in the standings didn’t prove to be the fuel this game needed. 

“We played a disciplined game overall. “Dos Santos said. “But we were not able to unlock the opponent.”

That proved to be the case right from the first minute, as both teams came out very cautiously, seemingly comfortable with the prospect of not opening up the game, knowing how poor their defensive records have been as of late. 

Because of that, the first real good look at goal from either team came in the 17th minute, as the ‘Caps Deiber Caicedo found some space to get off a shot from outside the box, but he sent his shot well wide. 

The ‘Caps continued to push for an opener into the 19th minute, as fellow Colombian winger Cristian Dajome found some space in the box off of a corner, but he sent his volley just over, much to the relief of the Houston defenders. 

Houston would then almost immediately make Dajome pay for his wastefulness in front of goal, too, as Maxi Urruti made good contact with a free kick 25 yards away from the ‘Caps goal, but he sent his shot straight into the post and out, keeping the game tied. 

But from there, other than a Cristian Dajome shot that went well over the goal from outside the box in the 35th minute, that was all both teams had to offer in the first half, as it proved to be a very low-event start to the game. 

For both teams, that was far from a bad thing, as they both needed a victory but didn’t want to do so at the cost of their defence, but it didn’t make for good viewing. 

Considering that the Whitecaps have been outscored 10-2 in first halves this season heading into this game, they won’t stick their nose up at a 0-0, but it would’ve been nice to see them add to the just 2 goals they’ve scored in the first 45 minutes of games in 2021, but alas, it was not meant to be. 

Shifting to the second half, the game would then remain quite low-event, too, as both teams continued their awkward feeling out phase. The ‘Caps continued to push more of the initiative, as Caicedo had a decent look at goal in the 50th minute, but he sent his shot high, once again failing to test Marko Maric in the Houston goal. 

At the other end, Urruti once again found some space in transition to attack, but much like the Whitecaps earlier attempts, he sent his sighter well over the goal, keeping the game tied. 

A few minutes later, though, the ‘Caps then found their best chance of the game to that point, as Cristian Gutierrez did well to send in a nice curled shot on a free kick from 25 yards, but much like Urruti earlier in the game, Gutierrez slammed his effort off of the post and out, keeping the game deadlocked. 

Almost immediately, the Dynamo nearly pounced on their next opportunity, as Memo Rodriguez found a bit of space in the box after a nice Darwin Quintero pass, but he sent his shot right at ‘Caps goalkeeper Thomas Hasal, wasting the nice link-up between the two second-half substitutes. 

But not long after, the offence died back down again, as the game then reverted on its original course, and that was to coast to a 0-0 draw. Second half ‘Caps substitute, Caio Alexandre, did have a good sight at goal in the 74th minute, but much like nearly every other shot his teammates took, he sent it well over. 

From there, both teams failed to create much more in terms of offence, cruising to the 0-0 draw, putting a stamp on what might have just been the most low-event game of this 2021 MLS season. 

Certainly, both teams will feel like it was an opportunity missed for them, as they had every chance to try and grab a hold of this game and give it some life, but alas, they didn’t want to do so at the cost of sacrificing offence, leading to a quiet night. 

Ultimately, at the end of the day, a draw does nothing for them in the standings, and they both seemed to realize that, choosing for the safety of 1 point instead of going for the 3 points at risk of finishing with nothing at all. 

Who knows, maybe that pays off for one of these teams in the standings long-term, but in the short-term, it made for a game that most who watched might rather soon forget, especially considering that it’s the dog days of summer. 

“I left the locker room not sad, but disappointed,” Dos Santos said. “We could have got these three points.”

Player of the Match: Michael Baldisimo

It’s always hard to pick a player of the match in a low-event game like this, but even despite that, Baldisimo proved to be a good choice, as he had quite a lively game in the heart of the Whitecaps midfield. 

Deployed in his usual #6 position, he controlled the game offensively in the 81 minutes that he was on the field, finishing the game with 59 touches, third-most on the ‘Caps, completing 87% of his passes. 

Defensively, though, he was even better, winning 5 tackles and making 1 interception, shutting down a few Houston attacks with some good awareness

So overall, even if his team didn’t get the breakthrough they wanted, that was by no fault of Baldisimo, who had a solid performance. 

BTSVancity Player to Watch: Leonard Owusu

But while Baldisimo had a strong performance in midfield, one player who didn’t was Owusu, as he didn’t see the field at all on Tuesday, continuing a frustrating season in which he’s only seen the field 6 times, none as a starter. 

With only 2 days rest between the ‘Caps last game and this one, it seemed like a good chance for Owusu to finally draw in, but alas, he didn’t make the 11, nor did he come off the bench, leaving him to watch from the sidelines. 

For a ‘Caps team struggling to create any sort of consistent offence from midfield, it would’ve made a lot of sense to let him draw in, but instead, he continues to find himself in lineup purgatory, one he hopefully manages to claw out of sooner rather than later here. 

Heatmap of the Match:

Otherwise, moving to the heat map section, it was a quiet night here for both teams, as neither side managed to get much penetration into the other’s box. 

Considering that both teams combined for a grand total of 1 shot on target, that isn’t that surprising, so if anything, this heat map just helps explain the story of this uneventful game. 

xG plot of the Match:

Lastly, as supported by the heat map section, things don’t look much better in the Expected Goals (xG) section, as both teams combined for a measly 1.1 xG, showing how quiet the game was. 

On one hand, credit to the ‘Caps for keeping the Dynamo to just 0.4 xG, but on the other, you can’t help but wonder if they could’ve created more than the 0.7 xG that they did, but alas, it was just one of those games. 

Looking Forward:

So now, the ‘Caps will get 3 days off before heading to Los Angeles to take on a quietly resurgent LAFC team that has won 3 games in a row as of writing (they take on the Portland Timbers on Wednesday). 

For a ‘Caps team who has struggled in games away to LAFC, having lost their last two away games to them by a combined 13-1, it won’t be an easy game, though, so they’ll have to bring their A-game and then some on Saturday.

Coming off of a stretch where they picked up 4 out of a possible 6 points, things are trending up, even despite the disappointment of this draw, so there would be no better to build off of this little run by picking up points in a tough LA environment. 

With an impending return to Canada just around the corner, it’d be a great way to build a bit of momentum before getting back to Vancouver through the rest of summer and into fall, helping put the sting of a rough start to summer behind them. 

Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LAFC, Saturday, July 24th, 2021, 19:30 PDT, 22:30 EDT (Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles)

Cover Photo via: Houston Dynamo/Twitter

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