Wednesday at BC Place in front of an underwhelming crowd, the Vancouver Whitecaps dropped the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League Quarter Final match up with LAFC by a score of 3-0.
While the end result of the match is pretty much the worst case scenario for Vancouver, surrendering multiple away goals and digging themselves an almost impossible hole for the return fixture in LA, it is also fair to say that the scoreline was kind to LAFC on the night.
While the reigning MLS Cup Champions were clearly the better team and questions can be asked of Vancouver’s ambition on home turf, the margin of victory was certainly a bit unlucky for the Whitecaps who were punished by a combination of great finishing from the visitors in conjunction with individual errors on their part.
With all that being said, let’s have a look at the player ratings.
Yohei Takaoka (4.0): This match was the first time that the Japanese keeper’s shot stopping ability has really been called into question. On both of Denis Bouanga’s goals it’s fair to say that the Whitecaps keeper could have done better, especially the first goal from long-range where Takaoka had his feet and positioning all wrong. It’s unfortunate because if he’s able to make those two stops on low xG chances, the tie could be much different headed to LA.
Javain Brown (6.5): This is an interesting one to evaluate because Brown had a really strong match overall, but will probably be remembered for being put in the spin cycle by Bouanga on LAFC’s third goal. To shine a bit of light on the positives, the Jamaican had 10 interceptions, 1 key pass, and won 4 of his 5 ground duels.
Tristan Blackmon (6.5): This was a better match up for Vancouver’s centrebacks as LAFC offers more threat in 1v1’s than they do in the air. Overall, Blackmon continues to look solid and is a constant threat on set plays. He had 2 key passes in this one.
Ranko Veselinovic (6.0): Similar thoughts here to Blackmon, although his passing was not as sharp and he provides less going forward.
Ryan Raposo (6.0): Given the strength of opposition, Raposo held up quite well defensively. That said, this really limited Raposo’s threat going forward as he struggled to get involved at that end of the pitch.
Andres Cubas (5.5): An uncharacteristically scruffy showing from the designated player. Obviously, the second goal was a tough moment for him, and he was also a bit late to the party closing down on the first and third goals. Is Andres Cubas the reason the Whitecaps lost this match? Definitely not. Yet, it probably wasn’t the performance either he or the team were hoping for.
Russell Teibert (5.5): The first start for Rusty on the season went about as could have been expected. He logged a high passing percentage, but overall, he had very little impact on the match. The questions here fall more with the lineup decision than they do with the player.
Julian Gressel (6.5): The Whitecaps leading assister was solid again but struggled a bit in terms of final product without the dual threat of Becher and White up front.
Ryan Gauld (6.0): This is the kind of match that you would hope a player like Ryan Gauld could take over when really on form. However, since tweaking his hamstring, the Scotsman has been a bit off the pace and does not look as sharp as he did to start the season. It will be interesting to see if he plays this weekend.
Cristian Dajome (5.5): At this point it’s really not the Colombian’s fault. For some reason, Vanni Sartini insists on continuing to play him in a role that does not suit him, and more often than not, he breaks the flow of the Whitecaps attack. Either they need to find a better role for Dajo (challenging in this system), or they need to move him to a team that can actually use his skill set (probably the best option).
Brian White (6.0): The American striker needed flip flops and sunglasses in this match, because he was on an island. The Whitecaps’ conservative approach and weak midfield starters really did not help White get more involved, especially without a threat like Becher alongside. He had just 27 touches in 90+ minutes, Carlos Vela had 54.
Substitutes: It was hard to read too much into the sub performances in this one, as the match was already out of hand when they came on. That said, I thought Pedro Vite was a standout of the group. When the Whitecaps have been dangerous this season, Vite has usually been on the pitch.
Vanni Sartini (4.0): Choosing to start Dajome and Teibert on a big stage like this is pretty easy to dunk on. That being said, I though the bigger mistake in this match was the timid nature of their overall approach. It’s unlikely that the Whitecaps can go to LA and get a big result, so why not go for broke on home soil and try to land a knockout blow, even if this means you take some risks. By trying to play conservatively, the Whitecaps ended up with the exact result they were hoping to avoid. Traditions.
Alright, those were my thoughts on a disappointing midweek match. What did you think?