Whitecaps take chaotic goalfest in 6-2 triumph over Houston Dynamo

A chaotic goal-fest at BC Place went the way of the Vancouver Whitecaps, who saw off the Houston Dynamo in a 6-2 roller coaster marked by questionable finishing from the visitors and sharpshooting from the home side.

The Caps made history, tallying in the first 30 seconds of both halves and setting a new team record for goals in a single match. And while the first 45 minutes were helter skelter, Vancouver buckled down in the second half to deservedly see off a 10-man Dynamo side that entered the match narrowly ahead in the playoff race.

After a match of heavy rotation, it was back to nearly a first choice XI for Vanni Sartini. Ranko Veselinovic was left on the bench in favor of Mathias Laborda and Javain Brown remained at right back, while Alessandro Schopf returned to the midfield but otherwise it was business as usual for the Caps.

It was a flying start for Vancouver, who scored a goal before I even had a chance to summarize the lineup. It was a direct long ball from Ryan Gauld that the Dynamo defenders made a hash of clearing, letting it fall down for Brian White, who squared Pedro Vite. The winger continued his goal scoring streak with a perfectly struck finish. It wound up being the fastest goal in club history.

But Houston quickly got a foot back into the game. Their midfield causes a lot of problems for opponents and a defensive error from Brown gave the Dynamo an easy equalizer. Adalberto Carrasquilla’s cross caused lots of problems for Vancouver and Brown was in an awkward position. His attempt to head it away, however, whiffed and Corey Baird was left to tap in past a helpless Takaoka.

It was a really sloppy start for the Caps and a lazy high line helped the Dynamo completely turn the match around. A sleeping Laborda let Amine Bassi make a simple run in behind him, with the Frenchman played on by an unaware Brown. He pulled the ball down and beat Takaoka 1v1 to put Houston up 2-1.

The pendulum kept careening back and forth, however, and Houston’s inability to clear their lines helped give Luis Martins some space to whip in a nice ball. A flicked header from Ryan Gauld left it for Julian Gressel, who smashed home an equalizer to continue a chaotic first 20 minutes.

Things didn’t really settle down. A brilliant no-look flick from Carrasquilla hit the post and two Dynamo attackers couldn’t head it into a wide-open net. The Caps backline continued to struggle against the pressure from Houston, who effectively found space in between the lines for Vancouver and the Caps were unable to wrestle possession away often enough.

The Caps kept getting incredibly fortunate. Another shocking error from Tristan Blackmon, who absolutely misjudged a little dink from Baird, left Aliyu Ibrahim 1v1 but Takaoka made a vital save and the resulting shot was blocked and Andres Cubas was perhaps fortunate not to give away a penalty for hauling down Carrasquilla. The absence of Ranko, seemingly, was felt, as Blackmon and Laborda continued to look all out of sorts.

As a response, Vanni brought in the Serbian for Brown, moving Laborda out wide. And some more direct play gave the Caps another shock early goal in a half. White nicely chested it down for Gauld to take a long-range crack, which rattled the post but found its way back to the American striker, with White polishing off a third goal for Vancouver.

The addition of Ranko and the burst of momentum from another early goal seemed to steady the Caps, and they kept things on the front foot. Winning duals and second balls was like night and day from the first half and a good effort to win the ball back from Cubas brought another break. Gauld had plenty of space and launched a pacey shot, which was caught by Ethan Bartlow, but it fell kindly for Gressel, who slotted it coolly into the net.

A peak #MLSAfterDark match went into overdrive with 20 minutes left in regular time, when Nelson Quinones was shown a straight red card for lashing out at Laborda after a tussle near the touch line. There wasn’t much contact but Quinones clearly makes contact with the back of his head, prompting a dramatic reaction from Laborda. Under the current rules, though? A clear red and one that took the wind out of Houston’s sails.

The Dynamo had a couple moments. Sergio Cordova almost got a Lucas Cavallini memorial red card and Franco Escobar could have pulled one back for Houston but Takaoka was on the ball.

It was Sebastian Berhalter, however, who ended the match with an absolute belter. Luis Martins did some excellent dirty work to win the ball back and a half-hearted Dynamo clearance fell to Seb, who controlled it and beautifully picked his spot in the upper 90 to nab his first MLS goal.

As if Houston weren’t dead already, Berhalter and Deiber Caicedo linked up nicely, with Berhalter selfishly squaring it off for Ryan Gauld, who deservedly earned his first goal of the season and made it a round half-dozen for Vancouver.

Stray Thoughts

  • I never thought I’d see a half of football where Luis Martins was unquestionably the team’s best defender. Then tonight happened.
  • I almost have no explanation for the first half, though I think it is safe to say that we shouldn’t be rolling with Javain Brown and Mathias Laboard in any combination, if it can be avoided. It almost seemed as if each member of the backline (for both sides, in fairness) downed a couple of Asahis before the match but the Caps were ultimately lucky they were not punished far more than they were for some shocking mistakes. Takaoka came up big to remind us of his value after a weekend in which he was sorely missed.
  • That being said, credit to Vanni for doing something he doesn’t always do and making a decisive, needed tactical change. Bringing on Ranko added some stability and confidence back to this side (helped by another early goal) and Laborda looked much, much better at right back and Blackmon calmed down when he returned to the side of his usual defensive partner.
  • Give Laborda an Oscar. While he will probably get mocked for (over)selling the Quinones red, if he doesn’t go down, there is no sending off and given the current interpretation of the rules, the referee made the correct call. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.`
  • OK, let’s move on to the good news of the night, which is the Caps attack more than looked the part. Some of the breaks, particularly early in the second half when Vancouver was controlling possession, were liquid and basically every midfielder and forward had a strong match. White didn’t touch the ball much but was vital to the Caps’ direct play, Gauld offered important defensive work and passing, even before getting his first goal, and Gressel was, once again, scintillating.
  • Special credit goes to Pedro Vite, who has continued a strong run of form. You could credit some of his past goals as sweaty finishes, helped by defensive errors or fortunate bounces, but this one was pure class, with a well struck finish befitting a vaunted attacking prospect. He continued to add a lot of energy and, with Ahmed out, really picked up the mantle of being the only Caps player willing to try and dribble by guys and make things happen. His instincts have really improved, and he is able to position himself to poach goals in the box or drift out to give the Caps’ attack some width.
  • This game was like doing cocaine while sky diving. But it is also not one that Vancouver would have won in the past and it is a testament to their progress this season that they made some adjustments, buckled down and composed themselves to pick up a much-needed win.

Man of the Match

You could take your pick here of basically anyone not on the backline but I am partial to either Gressel or Gauld. Yohei Takaoka deserves a mention as well for keeping the Caps in the match when it seemed to be decidedly in the balance.

4 thoughts on “Whitecaps take chaotic goalfest in 6-2 triumph over Houston Dynamo

  1. if only this team got some luck and positive results on the road games, we would be pushing to be in the top 4 in the West

    some glorious thoughts from the game :

    1. both Vite and MAYBE, vanni, have turned the corner and are becoming more reliable in their roles – still not sold on either due to their past erratic, on-off game performances, but i am starting to turn my eyes to the possible – its a WINNER for the Caps if they remain consistent for the second half of the season

    2. Gressel and Gauld are tremendous leaders and are upping their game to another level- our MF is very good

    3. having takaoka in goal is HUGE– we will need a reliable and experienced back-up and its Axel’s job to make some phone calls

    4. i still think that Ahmed brings more to the game table than schopf; and berhalter is showing us his role as a very valuable replacement in squad rotation- i like his grit a lot

    5. Javain Brown drives me crazy with his lack of consistency, even within the same game — how long before Vanni starts to use him only as a sub and laborda takes
    over ? Brown is just too easy to pick-on by other teams and makes colossal mistakes

    6. Martins makes great set piece crosses– as long as Vesa or blackmon can support him defensively, he is the best LB we have at this time

    7. Cordova didnt even come close to a shot on goal– even a dribbler would be progress– even winning a header inside the box would be a major accomplishment- he did 1 move getting around a Houston defender that surprised me, but for a million $$$$$$$$$$$$, such a lot of wasted money

    8. Blackmon is showing signs of too many games and he needs rotation time-outs

    9. AND THE BEST FOR LAST- what an entertaining game – its what will bring fans back – this TEAM deserves a second look by those that have left

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