Saturday night at BC Place, the Vancouver Whitecaps finally delivered on their potential, securing a massive three points against Cascadia foes Seattle Sounders by a score of 2-0.
For all that has been made about this team’s improvement in terms of underlying numbers (I’ve been as guilty of this as anyone), it had been frustrating to see the Whitecaps sputter along only harnessing a small part of their capabilities up until this point in the season. Going into Saturday, the Whitecaps were at a crossroads: they could either slump back down to last season’s pace, or they could take a big step in the right direction, one that more properly displayed their footballing improvements since this time last year. Thankfully for the squad and Whitecaps supporters alike, it was the latter.
This by no means indicates that the Vancouver Whitecaps have arrived in 2023 and are destined for a deep playoff run, but it demonstrates that this team does indeed have the capacity to pull it off. If they can build on this win and take care of business on the island this Wednesday, it could be the start of a pretty entertaining summer in Vancouver.
Ok, without further ado, on to the player rankings.
Yohei Takaoka (7.0) – The steady presence at the back only had to make one save for Vancouver which is a big credit to the defenders. He came off his line early when needed and was clean with the ball at his feet.
Javain Brown (7.0) – To me, Javain looks a lot better in a back three. Yes, you lose some of his offensive abilities, but you also avoid most of the compromising situations which can get the young Jamaican in trouble.
Mathias Laborda (8.0) – Call me crazy, but Laborda and Blackmon might be the two best centrebacks on this roster. The Uruguayan was a star for Vancouver on the night, racking up an impressive volume of defensive contributions (6 clearances, 3 interceptions, 2 tackles, 100% ground duels won), but also passing the eye test by getting a lunge in or having the right body position and awareness in key moments. Hoping we see more from him soon at CB.
Tristan Blackmon (7.5) – Probably the Whitecaps’ most consistent player so far this season, it was another rock-solid showing from the American.
Luis Martins (7.0) – Martins looked better in an advanced role, as he did at the end of last year (who could have seen that coming, lol). He had a number of nice passes, including the one which set up the Ryan Gauld goal/own goal. Overall though, just as with his play at fullback, his contributions are limited outside of service.
Sebastian Berhalter (7.5) – While the young American did not have his shooting boots on Saturday, everything else was really good from Berhalter. For someone who just turned 22, his maturity defensively is really impressive. Along with Cubas, they completely played the Sounders’ midfield out of the game.
Andres Cubas (7.5) – After a couple of tough showings, Cubas was right back on track in this one. Berhlater’s support meant that Cubas did not have to shoulder all of the defensive load on his own, and as such, he could look for his own passes a bit more often as well, which was good to see.
Ali Ahmed (7.5) – While it probably wasn’t the best we’ve seen from Ali Ahmed this year (a high bar), it was good to see him in an advanced role running toward the opposing box again. His determined dribbling and cross helped create the first Whitecaps goal.
Pedro Vite (7.5) – Finding the back of the net for the second match in a row, this time Vite’s goal was a nice individual effort that saw him out-hustle the Sounders defense. I think his recent play substantiates the idea that he needs to play regularly in order for him to really see the offensive constitutions pile up, it was the same deal last year.
Ryan Gauld (8.0) – He’s baaaaaack. Gauld was a persistent problem for the Sounders’ defense in this match and combined really nicely with Brian White up front. It feels like some of those bounces Gauld couldn’t buy to start the year are finally going his way. Equally, I’ve always thought a really good metric of Gauld’s confidence is just how hard he presses without the ball, and there was tons of that on Saturday.
Brian White (7.0) – While White may not have had a stand-out night personally, he created a lot of space for his fellow attackers and put in a good shift. If the Whitecaps do consider going to three at the back again, this will change the complexion of the attack (especially with more overlaps from the wide midfielders), so White, or whoever starts at striker, will have to adjust accordingly.
Substitutes (7.0) – As all of the substitutes came in after the Whitecaps were up 2-0, there’s not a ton to say here. I thought that when Gressel and Schopf entered in the 64th the next ten minutes for Vancouver were really good with some positive attacking play, especially for a team up by two. I imagine that Yao might get a start midweek for Vancouver in the Canadian Championship, so that could be interesting.
Vanni Sartini (7.5) – Hey, credit where credit is due, this was a very good outing for Vanni Sartini. While I don’t think the Sounders played very well, the Whitecaps really stifled the visitors by winning the midfield battle and shutting down Jordan Morris. Berhalter and Cubas playing in a double pivot addressed some of the problems this team had struggled with in the last two matches and also allowed the flexibility to support the front three a little bit more. A big challenge for Sartini now is if he can keep evolving in MLS play while also taking care of cup business midweek.
Alright, those were my thoughts from a pretty comprehensive win. Was this the best team performance of the season ? Let me know in the comments.
4 thoughts on “Report Card: Sweet, Sweet Victory over Seattle”
NO WAY that Yao gets a start in the Vees Cup against the provincial rival who eliminated the Caps in spectacular fashion two years ago. I doubt Hasal plays, either.
Ali is rocking which is exactly what we need. I like having Cubas & Berhalter on the pitch together, especially against stronger teams.
I’ll go with the ratings. I’m not so excited about Vite’s recent goals. They were both opportunistic as opposed to brilliant play. But they are goals nonetheless and will boost his confidence immensely. I was worried about the back 3 but it worked with Laborda playing ever so well. Interesting that Gressel and Schopf were subs but I’m okay with that as they played a strong role in the final 25 minutes. And credit Sartini for seeing something that most didn’t see coming but it worked to a tee. There are now many lineup possibilities. Here’s one for me: back 3 Blackmon, Ranko, Laborda; mid 4 RWB Brown, RCM Gressel, LCM Cubas, LWB Ahmed. As far as the front 3 goes Gauld is the best. The rest of the forwards, it depends on form and circumstances. It would seem we have good depth with Rusty and Raposo probably not getting much time. For me Gressel played his best game as a Cap last year when he did a 2nd half switch to CM. All his good distribution and positioning was there plus the added bonus of shooting from directly in front of the goal. He has a howitzer and this is something we’re missing. Brown, when he’s on, can provide decent crosses from the right. Gressel can stay involved in all the set pieces, which he’s also good at. Sartini has some interesting decisions to make against St.Louis. Can the players duplicate this performance on the road?
i think you nailed all of these ratings, including– GULP– the head coach- i wonder what he will do for the next MLS game as its always a mystery – Vanni outguesses himself – word of advice to Vanni- KISS
definitely the best and most entertaining game of the season