The Vancouver Whitecaps took on the Houston Dynamo in MLS action on Saturday. Here’s our match report from that one.
It wasn’t a must-win, but it was certainly a should-win.
Chasing their first goal and win of the 2022 MLS season, the Vancouver Whitecaps headed to Texas to take on a Houston Dynamo side also without a goal or a win themselves, in a game that Vancouver surely felt was as good as a chance as any they’ve had to try and get 3 points on the board so far this year.
Yet, the Whitecaps were instead left wanting more as they ended up falling 2-1 to the Dynamo on Saturday, continuing a tough start to their MLS campaign, which only got worse with this result.
Facing off against a Dynamo side that was looking to recover after dropping points in two hard-fought games to open up their season, the ‘Caps felt like they had a good chance to get some points on the board here, even despite the fact that they were heading into a tough road environment.
And their hopes were certainly boosted early on in the match when they opened the scoring, busting their scoreless drought, but then the Dynamo would have the last laugh, scoring the next two en route to a solid result.
It wasn’t a bad performance for the ‘Caps, say, as they actually matched up quite well to the Dynamo statistically and for large parts of the game, but instead, one mistake and one golazo was all it took for them to be left chasing that elusive first win for another week.
“A little sad, to be honest,” ‘Caps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said of how he felt afterwards. “We lost and I think we didn’t deserve to lose, especially in the second half, we were the much better team.”
“First half was very open. I think it was very good when we had the ball, our pressure wasn’t good. The second half we were very good. We had the chance to tie, we pushed, we pushed. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to score and I see a lot of positives. I’ve seen a lot of positives in the performance.”
So now, the pressure has only ramped up as they get set for their next match, a clash against the league-leading LAFC in Los Angeles next weekend, making one wonder if the ‘Caps winless run could be set to be even further extended here.
Because of that, they could come to rue their performance in this Dynamo match, one where they had every chance to leave with three points, but didn’t make the most of certain moments in the match.
But that’s the reality of this sport sometimes, as while the balance of the game might’ve suggested that a draw could’ve been fair, they didn’t make the most of those big moments, and that left them wanting more.
And when we suggest that the balance of the game was rather even for both teams, you could really feel that right from first kick, as both teams traded blows early on.
As a result, Darwin Quintero nearly got the party going early for the hosts, doing well to fashion space for a shot at the edge of the box in the 2nd minute, and he’d get his full weight behind the strike, only finding himself denied by the solid hands of Thomas Hasal in the ‘Caps goal.
Soon after, the ‘Caps would try to get off to a strong start themselves, as Cristian Dajome found a bit of daylight in the 4th minute, but his strong shot would sail just over the Dynamo frame. Then, continuing the back-and-forth start, Houston’s Matias Vera would try and get involved off a volley of his own, but he too sent his shot just over the ‘Caps goal.
And the wave of half-chances wouldn’t stop there, as Houston’s Sebastian Ferreira had a good look at goal in the 8th minute, where he’d unleash a powerful shot, one that would just be deflected wide of the ‘Caps goal for a corner.
But then, the game would break open in the 13th minute, as the ‘Caps finally found a way to stop the wave of half chances with the best look of the game up to that point.
After some nice interplay down the right-hand side, Ryan Gauld did well to play Cristian Dajome into some space, where the ‘Caps wing back had plenty of space to look up and whip in a cross. Realizing that, he took a touch and did just that, and he delivered a beauty, one that dropped right into the path of a streaking Lucas Cavallini in the box, who slotted home coolly to open the scoring.
It was a huge goal for the ‘Caps, as it was their first MLS goal of the season, and it was huge for Cavallini, who with the tally, snapped a goal drought dating back to July 4th of last year, which is why many probably breathed a sigh of relief when his shot found the back of the net.
Despite finding that good feeling, though, the ‘Caps had to be careful, as the Dynamo continued to knock on the door at the other end. They came close in the 23rd minute, as Adalberto Carrasquilla found some space at the edge of the box off a corner, and unleashed a missile, but he was just blocked at the six-yard block by Vancouver’s Florian Jungwirth, who did well to keep his team ahead with that stop.
Then, at the other end, the ‘Caps tried to add to their lead in the 32nd minute, as Dajome found some daylight at the edge of the box once again, but much like his first shot, he just couldn’t direct his effort on frame, sending it wide.
And he’d come to rue that miss almost immediately, as on the ensuing Houston attack, they found their way back into the game, giving them life. Starting with some good play in the midfield, the ball then fell to Carrasquilla in space, where he did well to find a streaking Corey Baird in behind the ‘Caps defence.
From there, the rest was easy, as Baird then squared it to an open Quintero, who was left alone as the ‘Caps defence pleaded for an offside, one call that they just wouldn’t get, giving the Colombian one of the easier goals he’ll ever score in his career.
It was a huge moment, too, as it changed the complexion of the game as halftime neared, making one wonder where the next turn would come from, after it had seemed that the ‘Caps were comfortable in holding onto their rare lead up to that point.
Because of that, you could really feel the momentum shift into Houston’s favour, as they started to knock on the door afterwards. They’d nearly make the most of that pressure right away, too, as Quintero found some space in the box to unleash a strike on his left foot in the 39th minute, sending a strike towards the top corner, where he’d only get denied of a goal by a flying stop from Hasal, who got across nicely to the strike.
So as the game reached halftime, it left things wide open, as it felt like the game was still up for grabs, begging for a team to grab control. Considering that both teams had their moments in the first half, you just felt like whatever team that could grab the next goal would get a huge advantage, pushing them onto the front foot again, wrestling back control of the match.
And that quickly proved to be true to start the second half, as the Dynamo picked up where they left off to close off the first stanza, something they’d be quickly rewarded for in the 50th minute. There, after a ball into the ‘Caps box was only half-cleared, the ball fell right to Quintero again at the edge of the box, and he’d have zero hesitation in ripping a shot, one that would hammer into the top corner.
It was a fantastic goal from Quintero, who has a habit of scoring goals like that, and it was a huge goal for his side, who had ensured all of their pressure had paid off, putting them in a great position with 40 minutes to go.
But the good news for the ‘Caps is that they’d continue to try and knock on the door, as they looked to get back into this game, of which they still very much had a chance of rescuing points from. That’d nearly prove to be true in the 65th minute, as well, when Cristian Gutierrez found Javain Brown in the box off of a wide free-kick, and Brown made great contact on his header, narrowly sending his effort just over the bar.
Plus, while they hadn’t scored, that seemed to give a boost to the ‘Caps, too, as they continued to chase that equalizer.
As a result, they then had their best chance of the game (other than the goal, of course) up to that point in the 72nd minute, when second-half substitute, Deiber Caicedo, stepped up to take a corner. From there, he did well to find the ‘Caps Tristan Blackmon in the box, and the team’s main offseason acquisition managed to get a good header towards goal, beating Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark with his shot, but not the crossbar, before Cavallini was blocked on the subsequent rebound.
Then, on the next corner, Caicedo found Blackmon again, this time for a volley, but he didn’t get enough power on the strike, sending it right at Clark, who was happy to keep his team in the lead.
Starting to knock on the door, the ‘Caps continued to push into the 85th minute, as the ball fell nicely to Ryan Gauld off of a corner, and the Vancouver DP playmaker made great contact on a volley, only narrowly sending his strike over Clark’s outstretched hands in the goal.
But then, Houston nearly ended those efforts with one moment of magic in the 90th minute, as Memo Rodriguez stepped up to take a free kick in a dangerous area, and he unleashed a rocket, but he’d only find himself denied by the uprights, with Hasal just narrowly beat in the ‘Caps goal.
Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, though, they’d be unable to make any use of that lifeline handed to them there, as they just couldn’t generate anything else for the rest of the game, leaving the Dynamo to cruise to all 3 points.
And now, heading into this LAFC clash, it can only make you wonder if the panic button might be hit here for Vancouver, as it doesn’t get any easier for them from here on in, with Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers also waiting for them after that.
On the positive side of things, however? The ‘Caps actually did show improvement for the third game in a row, as they continued to solidify things defensively (goals aside), and finally started to generate a little more offensively, even if they were lacklustre in that area of their game for much of the 90 minutes.
At the same time, though, all they have to show for this continued improvement is 1 goal for, 6 goals against and 1 point, so at a certain point, they need to turn that improvement into results here.
Hopefully, that can come against LAFC, no matter how unlikely that may seem now, because if not, you do worry if they end up digging too big of a hole to dig themselves out of at the end of the campaign.
Even though they were able to dig themselves out of a pretty hefty deficit last year, you wouldn’t want to bank on them doing that this year, making it imperative that they start to put points on the board, as soon as possible.
“(It was a) tough result,” Blackmon said after. “Coming in here we had a good chance of getting three points and putting our momentum going into next week. I think we had better chances this week than we did last week.”
Player of the Match: Tristan Blackmon
Shifting to a look at some of the standout individuals from this match, we’ve got our player of the game, where despite conceding 2 goals, we’ve decided to go for a defender, and that’s the aforementioned Blackmon.
And just the fact that he’s up for this award shows how good he was in this game, as despite his side conceding 59% of possession to their opponents, he made several key interventions, finishing with 3 clearances, 1 block, 2 interceptions, 2 tackles and won 6 out of 8 of his duels.
So even though the ‘Caps gave up the two goals, he didn’t do much wrong on either of them, and ensured that his team didn’t end up getting hit harder than they did, often finding a way to make that key defensive play, before unlocking several of his teammates with some nice play in possession.
But that’s just been what he’s done so far this season, showing why the move to bring him in this offseason was seen as a shrewd one, helping bolster a ‘Caps backline that needed bolstering.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Cristian Dajome
Otherwise, one other individual worth mentioning is Dajome, who we highlighted as our player to watch heading into this game, as we looked to him as a potential name that could help bust the ‘Caps offensive slump.
And considering that he had the assist on Cavallini’s opener, he certainly did just that, showing why he’s seen as a key part of this ‘Caps offence, even if he doesn’t get the same plaudits as the likes of Cavallini, Gauld and Brian White as this team’s difference-maker.
Which, if anything, just seems to suit Dajome, who is at his best when he is flying under the radar, as even beyond his assist, he did well to pop up with several good chances, showing his importance to this team on that side of his game.
The Big Question:
Can Lucas Cavallini finally break that scoring drought?
As mentioned earlier, one huge part of Cavallini’s opening tally was that he snapped a lengthy goal drought in the process, all while opening his account for the 2022 season.
And when we say lengthy drought, we mean it, as he had actually gone 19 games (for club and country) without breaching the goal, which for a striker, is less than ideal.
But as we noted heading into this game, it just felt like he was due for a goal, and considering that his last goal came in Texas, it only felt right that it’d come in this state.
Luckily for Cavallini, that ended up being true, so hopefully that can give him a bit of confidence, especially seeing that he tends to be a streaky scorer, meaning that this could be the first of many that we see from him over the next few months.
“It felt good, it felt good,” Cavallini said of his performance. “But you know, collectively, I just wanted as a team to win the game. Finally, I put it in the net, but it didn’t mean a lot because we ended up losing, but I think we deserved to win this game today.”
Stat to Watch:
The last two meetings between the ‘Caps and the Dynamo? 0-0 draws. They enter this game both yet to score in this MLS season.
As (almost) expected, given that this is MLS, this didn’t end up being true, as both teams snapped their goalless droughts in MLS play and against each other, leading to this game finishing 2-1.
To be fair, it wasn’t exactly a goal-fest, and wasn’t exactly an end-to-end contest, but there were more goals than expected, and considering how nice the goals were, you’ll take that.
So now, the ‘Caps will be left to shift their attention to that LAFC clash, in which they’ll look to try and find some magic down at the Banc of California Stadium, a venue in which they’ve never won.
Because of that, they’re going to need to find another gear completely here, because while they showed signs of improvement in this game, if that wasn’t enough to topple this Dynamo side, LAFC is a whole other beast.
As a result, the ‘Caps are going to be in tough in that game, but hopefully, they can respond positively to that, allowing them to pick up some points here.
With the MLS season really hitting 2nd gear now, it’s imperative that the ‘Caps start putting some points on the board before it’s too late, allowing them to not drift too far out of the playoff race before their season properly starts to get going soon.
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs LAFC, Sunday, March 20th, 19:00 PST, 22:00 EST (Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles)