The Caps are off and running in their defense of the Voyageurs Cup, going to York United and walking away with a 4-1 win to advance to the semifinals of the competition.
A sleepy first half gave way to an onslaught of goals in the second 45 minutes, and while the Caps got a bit of good fortune, they also were good value for their victory at York Lions Stadium in Ontario.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 10, 2023
The starting XI included the requisite amount of rotation, notably a change of formation to play Deiber Caicedo as a striker alongside Simon Becher. Ali Ahmed re-entered the lineup, as did Ryan Raposo, with depth pieces Russell Teibert and Sebastian Berhalter also featuring. Many of the other usual suspects, however, were in the lineup.
The Caps started the match, unsurprisingly, with the lion’s share of possession and looked patient and fairly comfortable on the ball. York United was tough to break down, however, and after some early slips locked down the middle of the park, forcing the Caps to try and play lots of crosses in for wide areas for guys like Deiber Caicedo who are not exactly target men.
Indeed, York United seemed to grow in confidence as the half went on, earning the match’s first shot on target and causing some problems with a couple simple diagonal balls. Teibert fought back by creating what should have been a straightforward finish for Becher and then Ryan Gauld finding Caicedo for a free header moments later, which he put wide.
Those were their best two chances until a flurry of good opportunities early in the second half, when Niko Giantsopoulos palmed away a shot from Gauld from range. Then Becher had perhaps his most substantive involvement in the match to date, with a super effort to tap a ball away from the endline and towards Caicedo, whose whipped cross was inches away from the boot of a quick arriving Gauld.
The Caps kept pressing, with Giantsopoulos again stepping up in a huge way to deny a Gauld shot from short range, after a long ball from Yohei Takaoka slipped all the way to the box.
A breakthrough finally came just moments before the Caps were set to bring on some reinforcements. Ali Ahmed took on men in the box, forcing Giantsopoulos to parry his cross right to Teibert. While Rusty’s shot hit the upright, it came out and hit the back of Elijiah Adekugbe, an unfortunate stain on an otherwise decent match. The Caps didn’t care, as they were unlucky not to score in the previous few minutes.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 11, 2023
Pedro Vite came on alongside Julian Gressel and made an instant impact, nearly grabbing a second and looking good dropping just a bit deeper to spark attacks that took advantage of the newfound space the Caps had in the York United third.
They did eventually double their advantage off of a rare Giantsopoulos mistake. A probing long ball from Berhalter was headed away by the York United keeper narrowly outside the box but he knocked it right to Becher, who chipped it into a wide-open net.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 11, 2023
York pushed until nearly the end, forcing Takaoka into a kick save that led to the nail in the coffin on the other end. A nice interchange between Vite and Levonte Johnson, making his senior debut, led to the rookie pulling off a really clever finish.
— OneSoccer (@onesoccer) May 11, 2023
York United scored a bullet in the dying minutes of the match but it did nothing to change the final result. The Caps then were awarded a penalty moments later after Becher was hauled down in the box, which Gressel polished off to get on the scoresheet.
- Credit to York United, who did well in the first half to have good organization and a gameplan to frustrate the Caps into giving up possession, before trying a diagonal ball forward to fill in the space in the Caps’ third. This led to a 10 minute spell where York looked pretty frisky. Giantsopoulos was generally very good, setting aside the error that created the second goal. You have to give the CPL side credit for giving themselves a groundwork to pull off the cupset.
- But I think it is also easy to overlook that the Caps were comfortably deserving of a win here — let’s not forget this was a team that scored four goals, despite flying cross country to roll out a team that rarely (if ever) plays together. While both goals involved a bit of good fortune, the first goal had some bad luck where the initial shot didn’t go in and the second involved a deceptively difficult finish from Becher. Both goals were coming, as the Caps settled down and initiated one way traffic until the final ten minutes of the match.
- Big ups to Lamonte Johnson, who looked good in his cameo with the senior team. He looked lively even before his goal, but it was a super finish from a tight angle that is not a given, even for an MLS first team striker. I’m not sure if he has a future with the first team but, given Becher’s trajectory, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in the senior squad, though the logjam at striker will likely preclude that.
- It feels weird to type but Russell Teibert … had a decent match? You might have wanted a more creative midfielder in Rusty’s role but he did create a couple good chances and frankly could have had a goal and an assist pretty easily. There won’t be a redemption arc likely to come but it is potentially good news ahead of the semifinal, where Rusty will likely start again to fulfil the Canadian quota.
- Mathias Laborda has blown a bit hot and cold this season but I thought he was quite good in this one. His passing was a bit nervy early but he settled in to really manage the game well and lock in to help control the right side of the pitch. Would be good to see him get a couple of games in the league to see if he can build on this performance.
3 Stars of the Match (sort of)
3a. Sebastian Berhalter
Berhalter was a bit of Andres Cubas lite in this one, making some really important interventions in the midfield. It wasn’t a perfect match for Seb (he made a few questionable decisions in terms of passing) but he offered the Caps exactly what they needed and still was quite influential offensively.
3b. Ryan Raposo
Raposo was quite dangerous as a left back and he built on a very successful 2022 Voyageurs Cup campaign in this one. His crossing was good and he suffered from trying to drop dimes on Deiber Caicedo’s head (not easy!) but he was good at finding pockets of space and working with Gauld to leverage them to the Caps’ advantage. Hopefully a good argument for him to spell Luis Martins at left back in the league.
2. Ali Ahmed
Ahmed was influential once again, pitching in defensively and coming up with several key efforts to recover the ball and put York United under pressure in transition. It was no accident that his ability to carry the ball into the box and take on defenders 1v1 led to the goal indirectly and it was this energy that was on display throughout the whole match. It seems cliche at this point but Ahmed was once again a game changer.
1. Simon Becher
It was a really slow start for Becher, who I didn’t think had an especially good first half but really came on strong in the second. The OneSoccer commentators played down the quality of the finish, which I think was harsh, and Becher had really quality hold up play, particularly as the match wound down. Becher stepped up when it mattered for the Caps in this one.