The Caps racked up both frequent flier miles and three points Wednesday against the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field, with a Brian White goal and a resolute defensive performance enough for a 1-0 win.
In truth, Vancouver should have been out of sight by the start of the second half, missing several gilded chances to put up a multi-goal first 45 minutes, as White and Ryan Gauld again ran the show. A clean sheet, however, meant one goal was enough to get the Caps up to fifth in the West.
Our 𝙎𝙏𝘼𝙍𝙏𝙄𝙉𝙂 𝙓𝙄 vs @ChicagoFire 🌊
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) August 30, 2023
The Caps understandably rotated after the long-distance trip to Chicago. Richie Laryea remained in the lineup after a strong weekend performance but Ryan Raposo slotted in on the left side. Sebastian Berhalter replaced Andres Cubas in central midfield, while Pedro Vite returned behind Brian White and Ryan Gauld up top.
The Caps opened things up early, playing effectively through both wingbacks, though their quality service was not quite in sync with the runs from the attacking band. Yohei Takaoka was called into service, however, to deny an early Kei Kamara strike. The Fire did start to show real fluidity when they regained possession but lacked the final ball needed.
It was the away side, however, who struck first and it was again Gauld and White linking up. It was a nice little sink in from the Scot and White tapped it by Chris Brady after a gut busting run. Brady attempted to clear it off the line but by a narrow margin, the ball was correctly deemed to have crossed the line.
Man's on fire! White has now scored in 5 𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙞𝙜𝙝𝙩 road games 🔥
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) August 31, 2023
The Fire could not cope with the Caps’ wingbacks and pressure. They also let them build out of the back to great effect but a second goal would not come, even when Gauld rounded Brady 1v1 and found only the woodwork after his touch took him wide. White was denied a second (also fed by Gauld) only by a fantastic save from Brady.
The Fire shifted into a new formation at halftime and immediately found success after bringing on Arnaud Souquet. The shift to a back four left less space for the Caps to exploit after Vancouver overran the midfield in the first 45 minutes. Indeed, Ousmane Doumbia was denied a deflected goal only by the upright, with Takaoka rooted to the spot.
The Caps regained composure and slowed the tempo down, playing much more directly and letting the backline absorb pressure. Credit goes to the centerbacks for forcing the Fire into a bunch of low percentage shots and locking in the first clean sheet in MLS play in over three months.
– I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Ryan Gauld and Brian White are pretty good. White’s scoring streak has seen him rise up the MLS goal scoring charts and, after a weekend performance that I thought didn’t quite line up with the goal/assist tally, the American striker was scintillating. His movement was excellent and his goal was the product of a fantastic effort.
– Gauld, meanwhile, did quite literally everything in the first half but score. He was dangerous everywhere, whether that was combining with Raposo on the left wing or cutting inside to take advantage of Chicago’s disorganization.
– Richie Laryea earned the plaudits over the weekend but this time it was Raposo who should have his praises sung (Richie had a bit of an off night, a bit loose with possession). Raposo was dangerous from a wider area than Adekugbe has taken up and had really good service while doing it, linking up well with Gauld. With rotation paramount, it is a good sign that Raposo is being pushed by the arrival of the new signings.
– Yohei Takaoka did his job to get a clean sheet and his distribution in particular was quite good. He had one outlet that launched the attack where Gauld should have scored 1v1.
– Sebastian Berhalter admirably filled in for Cubas and helped facilitate both the more open first half and the more direct play in the second. His ball winning isn’t as elite as Cubas but he looked better once Adekugbe filled in on the left.
– Not the prettiest win but going 2/2 to start the road trip will relieve pressure later on — a good result.
Three Stars of the Match
1. Brian White
You could put him or Gauld here and be fine but I thought White was excellent from his hold up play all the way to his passing, dropping out wide to open up space centrally and playing balls in towards Gauld or Vite. It was a very intelligent match from White and he deserved his goal to boot and it was only the excellence of Brady that denied him a second.
2. Ryan Gauld
It’s perhaps harsh to deny Gauld the top spot on the night he became the Caps’ all time assists leader. In truth, he was perhaps only dropped because he couldn’t double the Caps advantage and saw his influence fade a bit in the second half. Yet Gauld created two of his side’s three big chances and pulled the strings no matter where he was at in the Fire attacking third.
3. Javain Brown and Tristan Blackmon
The entire defense deserves credit for a clean sheet but both of these guys were a cut above. The outside CBs are asked to fill the space vacated by the marauding Laryea and Raposo and both did it expertly. Brown was typically stout defending 1v1, had four successful ground duels and, while he had a couple hiccups on the ball, this was his best match in some time.