The Vancouver Whitecaps took on CF Montreal in MLS action this weekend. Here’s our match report from that one.
It’s like a nightmare that slowly continues to get worse and worse for them.
Yet, that’s probably the best way to describe the start of the Vancouver Whitecaps season, which got even worse this weekend, as they fell 2-1 to CF Montreal at Stade Saputo, dropping their record to 1W-5L-1D (4 PTS) in the 2022 MLS season.
But in Montreal’s first game back at Stade Saputo this year, as they made their long-awaited return to their usual confines after starting the season a few minutes away at the Stade Olympique, it was a nice return for the hosts, one that the ‘Caps just couldn’t find a way to spoil.
Once again, much like they have for most of the season, the ‘Caps didn’t actually play that badly against Montreal, overall putting up a solid performance, but that wouldn’t be enough to win, as individual errors would sink them.
“I’m very disappointed,” Whitecaps head coach, Vanni Sartini, said afterwards. “I think it’s on us in the sense that we slept for the first 10 minutes.”
But that’s just been the best way to sum up what this year has been like for the ‘Caps so far. They haven’t overall played that bad through 7 games, yet they just continue to fail to manage the big moments in games, leaving them to lose matches where they’ll feel that they could’ve done much better in.
And as a result, it’s continued to leave them reeling, as they try to avoid digging into any of a deeper rut.
Especially after how last year ended for them, in terms of the surprise run to the playoffs that they went on at the end, it’s been a stark contrast to the sort of magic they were providing each week back then.
So now, they just need to find a way to return to that, because if not, as seen in this game, it could be a long campaign for them, especially given that they’re about to get to the dog days of the season, where seasons are usually either saved or ended.
Returning to the game, however, while the score indicated that it was a close game, it certainly didn’t start that way, as it was all one-way traffic for the hosts.
Seemingly inspired by their return home, Montreal would get off to a dream start inside just 2 minutes.
After a nice bit of possession at the edge of the Whitecaps box, the ball would fall to Alistair Johnston in a great position, and he’d have the time and space to pick out the run of Djordje Mihailovic, who had managed to sneak inside the Vancouver box.
And there, all alone in front of the goal, he made no mistake with his chance, burying home on the volley to give his team an early lead, putting them in front early.
Thanks to that, it’d give them some life, giving them an incentive to want to add to their lead.
Which they’d nearly do in the 9th minute, as the ball fell to Ismael Kone at the edge of the box, and he’d unleash a great curled shot, one that’d sail just past the top corner. A few minutes later, Romell Quioto would get a decent look of his own just outside of the box, but he’d send his attempt right at Thomas Hasal in the ‘Caps goal.
Continuing their strong start, Montreal would have another good sight at goal in the 32nd minute, as the ball fell to Sunusi Ibrahim in a good position at the edge of the box, but he too would send his shot at Hasal.
Then, on the next attack, Mihailovic would manage to tee up Quioto in a tight spot inside of the ‘Caps box, where he’d fire off a dangerous shot, one that would just sail over the bar. A few minutes later, Kone would have another decent look at goal from distance once again, but he’d send his shot well over this time, failing to threaten the ‘Caps goal.
From there, however, that’d be all that the first half would have to offer, almost mercifully for the ‘Caps, who had been heavily outplayed most of the 45 minutes. Not only had they failed to generate any clear chances, but they’d hardly held onto the ball, either, which made for a frustrating first 45.
So as they got set for the second stanza, that was something that they needed to sort out, as they looked to avoid being played off the pitch by the hosts.
But unfortunately, that message wouldn’t seem to get through, at least not right off the bat, as much as they did in the first half, the ‘Caps would get off to another nightmare start to the second.
Inside just 2 minutes once again, the ball would find Mihailovic in the box, and he’d do well this time to instead pick out Quioto all alone behind the ‘Caps backline, and Quioto would make no mistake, burying home his chance without a second thought.
And that’d be a back-breaking goal for the ‘Caps. Not only had they given up the early tally, but with how they’d defended it, it felt like they’d gifted Montreal the goal, creating a mountain for themselves that seemed too large for them to climb.
Plus, the misery wouldn’t appear to be over for the ‘Caps, either, as Montreal looked eager to pile on the goals. That would be quite clear nearly immediately, as Lassi Lappalainen found a nice pocket at the edge of the box, and he’d unleash a great curled ball, one that he’d send just over the mark.
Just minutes later, Kone would have another go from distance in the 55th minute, but his shot too would sail over, having sliced the attempt.
But finally, the ‘Caps would then create their first chance of the half in the 57th minute, as Cristian Dajome found some space to unleash a shot from a tight angle, but he’d float the ball just over the net.
Off the back of that, they’d then find their breakthrough in the 61st minute, as first-half sub, Pedro Vite, would manage to get open inside of the box, where he’d do well to tee up fellow sub, Lucas Cavallini, for an easy tap-in.
Or so they thought. Unfortunately for the ‘Caps, the play would then be whistled down for offside by the assistant referee, and that call would be confirmed by the VAR, leaving them to still chase their opening tally.
But thankfully, that would then lead to the ‘Caps finally actually scoring that first goal, right in the 64th minute.
After a failed corner, the ball would fall to another second-half sub, Ryan Raposo, and he’d loft in a nice ball, one that’d bounce towards the back post, where after just missing an acrobatic bicycle kick from Cavallini, it’d settle nicely for a wide-open Brian White.
And there, the ‘Caps leading scorer in 2021 did something that he did so much of last year – coolly slot the ball home, doing so on the volley, giving him his first of the season while also halving the hosts’ lead.
With that, he’d also give his team new life, too, allowing them to dream of a surprise comeback.
That belief would be contagious, as well. Nearly immediately after the goal, White would manage to tee up Cavallini in behind the defence, and Cavallini would wind up for a shot, but he’d shank his attempt well wide.
Soon after, Cristian Dajome would have a nice look at goal in the 83rd minute, and he’d unleash a decent shot, but one that’d be easily saved by Montreal’s Sebastian Breza in goal.
And continuing that, that’d allow the ‘Caps to have their magical moment right in the 91st minute.
After the ball had fallen to Russell Teibert out wide, he looked up and whipped in a dangerous cross, one that would meet the head of late sub, Tosaint Ricketts, who’d get full contact on his effort.
From there, the ball would loop perfectly over the outstretched hands of Breza into the goal, giving the ‘Caps the surprise draw.
That is until VAR had anything to say about it, at least. Seeing an offside, they’d intervene and wave off the goal, allowing Montreal to hold their lead, something they wouldn’t relinquish a second time once given that lifeline.
And as a result, that’d allow them to pick up a valuable 3 points, all while keeping their winning streak alive, extending it to three in the process.
But for Vancouver, it’d be more heartbreak, as they’d drop their 5th game of the season, leaving them now with just 4 points from their first 7 games, which is far from ideal.
Especially considering how they continue to shoot themselves in the foot in the crucial moments, it has to be frustrating, as it feels a lot of these results are self-inflicted.
So seeing that it won’t get any easier for the ‘Caps from here, as they now head to Austin next weekend before returning home to take on Toronto FC the week after, they’ve got a big task ahead of them here, one that could be the difference between saving their season or letting it go to waste.
“I told the guys at the end of the game ‘We are the Vancouver Whitecaps, we cannot afford to give up chunks of the game, to sleep at the beginning, being always the team who needs to chase,'” Sartini said. “That way, it’s going to be really hard (for us), so I hope that this is going to be another wake-up call.”
Player of the Match: Brian White
Otherwise, it was nice to see a return to normal service for ‘Caps striker, Brian White, who thanks to his goal at the end of the game, earns our nod as the player of the game.
Starting once again back up top for the ‘Caps, showing good progress in his gradual return from injury, White really started to look like his usual self again for the first time in this game, which was reflected in the fact that he went 90 minutes in consecutive games for the first time in 2022.
So in a sense, it’s only fitting that he grabbed his first goal of the season in this game, as it’s just an indication of how his return to full fitness is going, showing that he is probably as close to his top form as he’s been this year.
And considering how good he was for the ‘Caps at the end of last year, finishing with 12 goals in MLS play, that’s exciting, especially for a Vancouver team needing goals.
BTSVancity Player to Watch: Ranko Veselinovic
Elsewhere, heading into this game, we highlighted Ranko Veselinovic as one to watch, especially given that Montreal entered this game on a hot run of goals, putting the pressure on him to have a good game.
But despite that, it’d end up being a tough day at the office for Veselinovic, who might not have had the worst game individually, but unfortunately had to watch his defence concede two goals that they certainly will want back.
And that’s unfortunately been something Veselinovic has seen a lot of this season. He’s continued to remain as one of the ‘Caps better defenders, especially individually, but his team’s defence just continues to struggle, especially in key moments, which is something that they’ll need to find a way to fix.
The Big Question:
Can CF Montreal continue to be the comeback kings?
As a famous person (maybe) said, you can’t have comebacks if you play with a lead, and after winning their last two games via comebacks, Montreal decided to follow that adage in this game.
It’s not something that we’ve seen from them all too much in recent years, as they lead the MLS in comeback victories since the start of 2020 with 9, but it’s something they’ll want to do more of, especially when seeing how playing from the front foot allowed them to hold onto the lead.
Stat to Watch:
The Vancouver Whitecaps have won just 4 times on the road (this excludes MLS is Back) since the start of 2020. They’ve scored first in just one of those games.
Once again, the ‘Caps road woes continued in this game, as they remain with just 4 road wins (excluding MLS is Back) since the start of 2020, which is less than ideal.
Because of that, it’s now put a lot of pressure on them to win all of their games at home, which isn’t a tall ask from them, but one that leaves a high margin for error, something that is also not ideal.
If they’re to make the playoffs, they’ll need to find a way to change that, especially in games like this, where they did themselves no favours in their quest to try and grab a road victory.
So now, the ‘Caps will have a couple of days to regroup before they get set for that Austin game, which comes down in Texas next weekend.
And there, another stiff test awaits them, as Austin has quietly gotten off to a tidy start to their season, no longer looking like the first-year expansion side that they were last year, showing great maturity in their game.
As a result, the ‘Caps are going to need to be ready for a stiff challenge in that game, because if not, their misery could only potentially get worse from here.
With it still being early in the campaign, they’re far from doomed quite yet, but they’re certainly not out of the danger zone, making it imperative that they find their feet sooner rather than later here.
“We need to have a better approach going to Austin,” Sartini said. “In order to win the game in Austin, (we need to) start playing from minute one.”
Up Next: Vancouver Whitecaps vs Austin, Saturday, April 23rd, 2022, 17:30 PST, 20:30 EST (Q2 Stadium, Austin)
Cover Photo via: CF Montreal