The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the San Jose Earthquakes in a massive MLS game at BC Place on Saturday night. Here’s our recap of that one.
It might not be winter quite yet in Vancouver, but there was a blizzard of White at BC Place on Saturday.
In a crucial must-win game for the Vancouver Whitecaps in their hunt to make the MLS playoffs, as they took on the San Jose Earthquakes at home in what was expected to be a chaotic affair on Saturday, those in attendance instead ended up with front row seats to the Brian White show, as the Whitecap striker scored a hat trick in a 3-0 win for the ‘Caps.
With 8 goals in his last 10 games (all competitions), White has been on fire as of late, and he couldn’t have picked a better time to find form like this, as the ‘Caps continued their push to be in a playoff spot at the end of the season.
On a run that has seen the ‘Caps go undefeated in 16 of their last 18 games in MLS play, they now sit just 1 point behind the 7th and final playoff spot as of writing, putting them in a good position with 7 games to go.
Thanks to that, they’ve managed to rescue what was starting to look like a lost season a few months ago, and have done so while playing some fantastic soccer, and that was the case once again versus San Jose.
It was one thing for them to win 3-0, a rare result for them over the past few years, but more importantly, it was nice to see them do so in such dominating fashion, putting together such a complete overall performance.
And make no mistake, it was a dominating performance from start to finish.
As a result, they nearly got the party going early, as Russell Teibert did well to juke a couple of defenders before finding Ryan Gauld in the box less than 5 minutes into the game, and the ‘Caps DP #10 did well to get a nice shot off on the volley, but his shot would be easily saved by JT Marcinkowski in the San Jose goal.
Right after, Cristian Dajome then found himself in a bit of space at the edge of the box in the 8th minute, and he’d do well to send a low and powerful shot on goal, one that’d sail just wide of the target, much to the relief of the San Jose defenders.
At the other end, the ‘Quakes would then find a chance of their own in the 10th minute, as Cristian Espinoza found a bit of space after a ‘Caps turnover in the midfield, and he did well to set himself to get a shot off, only just narrowly sending his strike over the bar.
Continuing the end-to-end action, the ‘Caps then came close off a corner in the 18th minute, as Ryan Gauld did well to find Brian White at the back post, and the ‘Caps striker got good contact on his header, but his shot sailed just wide of the goal.
A few minutes later, Espinoza continued his strong start to the half, as he found a bit of space at the edge of the box, and he’d manage to unleash a strong strie, one that’d force a decent save out of Maxime Crepeau in the ‘Caps goal.
But then, having had enough of the end-to-end action without a goal, the ‘Caps then struck first in the 26th minute. After a nice bit of play between White and Gauld at the edge of the ‘Caps box, Gauld would manage to sneak behind the ‘Quakes defence, where he’d unleash a dangerous low shot.
Despite that dangerous shot, though, the ‘Quakes Marcinkowksi would get a hand to it, but the ball would then fall right to White on the rebound, and the ‘Caps striker would make no mistake with the chance, bundling the ball into an empty net for his 7th of the MLS season.
And make no mistake, it was a big goal for the ‘Caps. Not only was it a deserved goal, but it was a rare opening tally, something they haven’t been good at getting in 2021, but they’d managed to find one at just the right time, giving them a bit of confidence as they headed into the next 60 minutes of the match.
But while the goal would give the ‘Caps a bit of confidence, it wouldn’t faze the ‘Quakes, though, as they’d immediately come out swinging in the chase of an equalizer
They’d nearly find one right away, too, as Marcos Lopez found a bit of space at the edge of the box, and he’d unleash a dangerous shot, only just sailing his shot over the goal, as the ‘Quakes continued to tease in their chase for an opening goal.
Not long after, Jackson Yueill would find himself in a decent shooting position for San Jose in the 38th minute, and he’d do well to unleash a strong volley, but much like most of the shots that came before him, he’d send his attempt right at Crepeau, making it an easy one to save for the ‘Caps goalkeeper.
Other than that, though, the half would manage to reach a conclusion without too much other fanfare, as both teams closed out the first stanza in much quieter fashion, at least compared to how they started it.
For the ‘Caps, they had every reason to be pleased with their performance, as not only they had a lead, but they were full value for it, too, having played some excellent football through the first 45 minutes.
At the other end, though, the ‘Quakes had to be disappointed with their first-half performance, as they just didn’t find a way to impose themselves in the game as they usually like to do, leaving them to chase answers why they couldn’t do so as they headed into the second half.
So to start the half, the ‘Quakes were probably quite disappointed to see the ‘Caps come out swinging as a result of that, as they looked to double their lead.
And as a result of their efforts, they’d actually come quite close to doing so in the 49th minute, as Dajome found a bit of space at the edge of the box, and he unleashed a vicious strike, one that just tickled the top of the net, keeping San Jose alive in the game.
Continuing that push, White then found himself 1v1 with Marcinkowski in the 57th minute after a nice ball from Bruno Gaspar, and he’d get a decent shot off, but Marcinokwski would be ready for the effort, doing well to get his body on the attempt to keep his team from conceding a second tally.
But seeing how hard they were pushing, it was no surprise to then see the ‘Caps finally find that second goal in the 59th minute, and it’d be none other than White himself who’d pop up to make it happen.
After the ‘Caps did well to win a free kick in a wide area, Deiber Caicedo would step up to take it, and he’d whip in a peach of a cross, finding White in the box for a header, one that’d the ‘Caps striker would make no mistake in nodding home for his 8th of the MLS campaign.
For the ‘Caps, it was a much-needed goal, because while they were by far the better team up to that point, they needed an insurance marker, and thanks to White, they’d be able to pick one up right at the perfect moment.
Plus, with that tally, the floodgates would start to open, too, as they then added their third in the 73rd minute. After a lovely ball in from Gauld on a corner, he’d do well to find White at the back post, and as he’d done all game, he’d find a way to bury the chance, nodding home his 9th of the season to complete the hat trick.
He might not have been having a particularly special game by his standards, but he was just in the right place at the right time, and was clinical when he needed to do, and thanks to that, the ‘Caps were profiting from that, giving them the big lead.
And they weren’t done trying to add to it, either. Right after the goal, White then tried to return the favour by setting up Gauld in the box, and he’d do well to find his teammate, but despite being wide-open, the ‘Caps midfielder would send his right-footed strike over the bar, showing why he prefers using his left foot whenever possible.
So it almost felt merciful when at the other end, the ‘Quakes finally then had a look of their own in the 82nd minute, as Espinoza continued to be his team’s main threat, but as had been the case all night, his left-footed attempt would be right at Crepeau, who did well to save the powerful strike.
But right after, the traffic would then start to go the ‘Caps direction again. This time, second-half substitute, Javain Brown, tried to get in on the action, as he had a go from distance, but his strike would sail just over the bar, keeping his team’s lead at 3-0.
Showing some pride, though, the ‘Quakes would then get the next chance, as fellow second-half substitute, Andy Rios, had a go of his own in the 89th minute, but unlike Brown, his shot would be too low, allowing Crepeau to make an easy save.
Other than that, though, the game would be left to reach its eventual conclusion without too much other fanfare, as the ‘Caps would cruise to the 3-0 victory, which was a very deserved result after their overall play throughout the 90.
It was one thing to win, especially considering how big the game was, but to do so in such dominant fashion is a whole other thing, but the ‘Caps looked like an inspired team on Saturday, and the scoreline only confirmed that.
Because of that, they put themselves in a good position with 7 games to go, as they continue their push to make the playoffs.
Thanks to the results around them, they’re now on the cusp of the playoff line, and will have a game in hand after this weekend, so even though that game in hand will come against the 2nd-best team in MLS, the Seattle Sounders, next week, seeing their current form, there’s no reason why they can’t back their ability to get a result then, too.
After a slow start, the wheels are fully turning now, and at this rate, those wheels could very well spin the team into the playoffs when the season ends in a few weeks’ time.
Player of the Match: Brian White
It feels a bit elementary to select this award on a night like this, but we have to do it nonetheless, and tonight this honour picked itself, as White was the unanimous player of the match by a wide margin.
Obviously, his hat trick will steal the headlines, but his overall body of work was quite encouraging, as well, especially considering that he could’ve gotten an assist or two, and made some key defensive interventions.
But that’s just been what White does as of late. He might not be doing anything flashy, but he just finds a way to score goals and do a lot of dirty work that might go under the radar to the naked eye, so it was nice to see him get rewarded for that in this one.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Brian White
And in something that doesn’t often happen, there was some overlap in our player to watch and our player of the match, as we pegged White as someone to watch heading into this one, and as we saw, he certainly lived up to that distinction, and then some.
So while we won’t pick him as a player to watch for a while now, as we tend to rotate through names in this section, make sure to keep an eye on him going forward, because you have to imagine that he might have some more games like this in the future, especially if he keeps on playing like this.
Forgotten player of the Match: Ryan Gauld
Otherwise, though, don’t forget about Gauld, who on any other night, could’ve arguably been the player of the match.
He might have only had the one assist, but he easily could’ve had a few more of those, along with a goal or two, as he arguably had his best game as a Cap.
So as a result, seeing that his job is to set up his teammates, it should almost be no surprise that White was so proficient, because Gauld did what he could to help out his team in this game, and it led to this positive result.
Heatmap of the Match:
Moving on, it was a surprisingly tough game for the ‘Caps in the heat map department, as San Jose managed to control possession for a good chunk of this one, and that’s reflected here.
But seeing that the ‘Caps got off way more shots, a lot of them in way more dangerous areas, that’s all that mattered in this one, so even though it’d have been nice to see them do a bit better here, this is one time where you can stomach a heat map like this.
xG plot of the Match:
And a big reason why you can stomach the heat map in the previous section? This Expected Goals (xG) plot.
As seen here, despite not controlling as much of the ball, the ‘Caps did a way better job of getting off shots in dangerous areas, and that was reflected in the xG numbers, which were very much in the ‘Caps favour.
Sometimes, soccer can be all about what you do with the ball, not how much you hold it, and this demonstrated that, helping them pick up the victory.
Now, though, the ‘Caps have a big game on their schedule to look forward to, as they’ll take on the Seattle Sounders in a crucial clash down in Seattle next weekend.
Even though the game will come during the international break, due to the Sounders’ run in the Leagues Cup, it left this game to be moved to this window, leaving the teams to deck it out despite the absence of some key players.
As a result, the ‘Caps will be without Crepeau, Brown and Lucas Cavallini, denying them of some key players, but the good news is that Seattle should be in a similar boat, nullifying that potential advantage.
So while the Sounders are the favourites to win, especially at home, the ‘Caps have to be feeling confident heading into next weekend, with this result being a big reason why.
Considering that their last trip to Seattle saw them tie the Sounders 2-2 in a surprising result earlier this summer, based on the form that they’re in, the ‘Caps have every reason to believe that they can make something out of that game, and this win over the ‘Quakes was the latest example of why that’s the case.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Seattle Sounders, Saturday, October 9th, 2021, 18:00 PDT, 21:00 EDT (Lumen Field, Seattle)