The Whitecaps officially bowed out of the CONCACAF Champions League Tuesday night, falling 3-0 to LAFC in a match where the away side never really had a chance.
An early penalty conceded by Ryan Raposo killed off any shot at a miracle and an efficient LAFC attack took the wind out of the Caps’ sails as they crashed out of their continental competition.
The Caps went with a familiar formation with some … interesting personnel, a nod to the difficult road ahead for the team in LA.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) April 12, 2023
With Thomas Hasal in goal, Javain Brown returned to the lineup as a centerback next to Ranko Veselinovic, with Ali Ahmed and Ryan Raposo at the fullback positions. The midfield three consisted of Ryan Gauld, Sebastian Berhalter and old friend Russell Teibert, as Deiber Caicedo made his full return to the starting lineup.
The first big chance of the night fell to Caicedo and his lack of sharpness showed. He helped orchestrate a nice break and while the service from Cristian Dajome was poor, Jesus Murillo only cleared it as far as Dei, who fluffed his shot at John McCarthy.
The nightmare of Denis Bouanga struck soon enough, however, as he dusted Raposo 1-v-1 in the box and the rightback put in a half-hearted challenge to haul down the winger after he was beaten. Juan Calderon didn’t hesitate to point to the spot and Carlos Vela cooly dispatched the penalty to effectively put LAFC out of sight.
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 12, 2023
The Caps had no choice but to control possession and push for a goal, with limited success, as the Caps tried to find pockets of space and whip in crosses but the LAFC backline was generally able to absorb the pressure.
LAFC’s clinical nature was on full display, however, with the back line pushed forward and Carlos Vela calmly splitting the line, latching on to an Ilie Sanchez through ball and slotting it past a helpless Hasal for the home side’s second.
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) April 12, 2023
The half wound down with the Caps in the awkward position of forcing McCarthy to make four saves but being simultaneously overpowered by LAFC’s attacking firepower. Vanni Sartini attempted to compensate by bringing on Julian Gressel, Pedro Vite, J.C. Ngando and Tristan Blackmon at the half in a last roll of the dice.
The Caps controlled the match but looked no closer to getting a goal to save face after the line change. In fact, Carlos Vela caught the the high line out again and skied a golden chance to grab a hat trick.
LAFC didn’t pass up a chance to rub salt in the wounds of the Caps one last time. In this case, Jose Cifuentes used both posts to put a brilliant long range strike past Hasal after some lovely ball movement and a few feints by Ecuadorian attacker. It was, admittedly, a superb goal.
— Concacaf Champions Cup (@TheChampions) April 12, 2023
LAFC kept their starters in longer than expected but it was a fairly low energy final half hour of the Caps’ CCL adventure aside from the Cifuentes banger.
- It turns out there was no miracle comeback.
- I will largely steer clear of trying to make any sort of sweeping generalizations because that was a weird match. That being said, this lineup didn’t make a ton of sense. Vanni seemed caught between trying to go for it and trying to rest guys for the league and he wound up doing neither particularly well. Dajome continues to struggle and he was pretty much absent in this match. Teibert was OK but not really what this match called for. Getting Caicedo some serious minutes was smart but bringing on Gressel, Vite and Blackmon at the half when the match was already lost was even more baffling.
- It was also disappointing to see the intensity dim as the match went off. Part of this was probably to save guys’ legs and part of it was probably Vanni trying not to kill the momentum this team was building. But to see the Caps not even come out of this tie with a goal, with guys walking around the pitch in the second half, was rough.
- Despite all of that, this is a really, really good LAFC team that probably are the favorites to win the rest of the tournament. The Caps clearly are not close to that level … which makes them pretty much like everyone else.
Man of the Match
It seems borderline ridiculous to name a MOTM after this one but I thought Ali Ahmed was very good and appreciate that he was still trying to take on guys and make stuff happen as this one slipped away from the Caps. Gressel looked predictably good in his sub appearance and I liked what I saw from Ngando again.
But make no mistake — the real MVPs are all of us sickos who watched the entire match.
(Image Credit: Vancouver Whitecaps)