Another Point Earned on the Never-Ending Road Trip

The positive road trip vibes keep on coming for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Only days removed from their win in Chicago, the ‘Caps picked up another vital point, this time in the Big Apple, after battling New York City FC to a 1-1 draw within the narrow confines of Yankee Stadium.

In a match where both clubs seemed content with waiting out the other, errors became goals one immediately after the other. Monsef Bakrar and NYCFC would punish the untimely press of Vancouver with a goal in the 55th minute, only to be followed by a penalty conversion from Ryan Gauld five minutes later.

With the Whitecaps played in Chicago just three days earlier, a shuffling of the Caps’ starting XI was inevitable: Ryan Raposo, Ali Ahmed, Javain Brown, and Sebastian Berhalter all made way, respectively, for Sam Adekugbe, Alessandro Schopf, Mathias Laborda, and the returning-from-suspension Andreas Cubas.

Speaking of inevitability, today was Vancouver’s turn to plan for and play on the short & narrow that is Yankee Stadium. On a pitch so compact, precision passing was both in demand and at a premium on Saturday, with VWFC and NYCFC both trending towards cautious play, with one club often waiting to capitalize on a mistake made by the other.

And that’s exactly how the Whitecaps earned the first shot on target, with Ryan Gauld standing over a dead ball earned as a result of some timely thievery at the center of the pitch. But the captain’s effort from twenty-two yards safely fell into the waiting arms of NYCFC ‘keeper Matt Freese.

Vancouver weren’t the only ones making moves, however, as New York turned a few first-half poaches into counterattack chances, with the most dangerous coming from winger Andreas Jasson. Left all by his lonesome on the weak-side, Jasson thankfully launched his volley over the net and into foul territory from just six yards out.

Like a song stuck on repeat, the second half opened to the same tune as the first, with both teams cautiously feeling each other out in an attempt to solve the congested passing lanes, waiting for opportune moments to present themselves.

And that’s precisely how NYCFC were able to open the scoring.

A deft pass and a late VWFC attempt to thwart the counter before it began allowed Santiago Rodriguez to carry the ball well into the Whitecaps’ end and thread a pass into the penalty area for Monsef Bakrar. A slotted ball through the legs of Yohei Takaoka would put The Pigeons up, 1-0.

That lead would last all of five minutes, as a response from the Whitecaps came almost immediately.

Moments after the restart, a bouncing long ball proved to be too much for Birk Risa to corral, giving Brian White just enough of an excuse to shoulder Risa off the ball and play it into the path of the onrushing Gauld. Close behind was NYCFC sub James Sands, who quickly wrapped Gauld in his arms and dragged the Scot to the turf.

VAR wouldn’t be necessary for referee Pierre-Luc Lauziere, who immediately pointed to the spot, and another shooter wouldn’t be required, as Gauld stepped up to convert the PK he earned, sending Freese the wrong way.

And just like that, the game was level at one goal apiece.

The game would largely fall back into its pattern of one team waiting for the other to mistake on the ball. And when those mistakes happened, the back-and-forth counters earned off poor passing would seldom amount to more than shots going wide. Neither side proved clinical enough to find a winner on a difficult pitch that encouraged narrow formations and largely thwarted flowing play.

The coming-together of Gauld and Maxi Moralez later on would extend the match an extra ten minutes, with injury time added within injury time, but neither side would benefit as the match wound down to a draw.

Stray Thoughts

– In my opinion, NYCFC should ditch Dude Wipes as its sleeve sponsor and bring onboard some kind of landscaping or construction company because I cannot wait for the new stadium in Queens to open up. It’s been ten years, so I know I’m beating a dead horse, but the pitch dimensions of Yankee Stadium are just awful.

– I almost fell out of my chair, watching that near-own goal from Takaoka. There were definitely shades of Haiti from the last World Cup qualifying cycle.

– He may not have made the scoresheet, but Brian White still put in work, mainly by throwing his body around. Vancouver’s long ball game wasn’t great (did I mention how narrow this pitch was?), but White was fantastic at using his body to create space for himself, to knock balls out of the air and down to his supporting midfielders. Also, I’m certain there’s at least two shoulder-shaped bruises on Birk Risa’s back that he sustained, um, legally.

– That said, a sub for White before the 82nd minute, or any kind of sub for Gauld, would have been welcomed. I don’t care that the next match is two weeks away, White and Gauld both looked gassed in the match’s later stages, the guys needed a break. And how bad would it have looked for Gauld to have been injured after going his second 90 this week?

– With that in mind, everyone was great at getting behind the ball defensively. Until everyone’s legs became collectively tired, of course.

– Following a post-match stroll around Twitter, I can’t help but agree that 7 points in the first 3 matches of this road trip is a fantastic result, particularly when we all would have been at least a little OK with 7 points from 7 matches. But 7 in 3?? I know, I know, I don’t want to get carried away, but the Whitecaps are looking more and more like a team that can finish in the Top 4. Maybe. Possibly.

– Finally, some Three Stars Honorable Mentions: Andreas Cubas & Alessandro Schopf, for plugging up the center of the pitch, forcing turnovers and winning a number of the balls knocked down by White; and 56th-minute sub Ryan Raposo, who did well with the ball at his feet, with timely dribbles and dangerous crosses.

Three Stars of the Match

1. Ryan Gauld

How could it not be? Sure, there was the earning & converting of a penalty to immediately level the score, but Gauld’s passing was solid throughout, in a game where both teams were bereft of quality passing.

2. Richie Laryea

Whether it’s been for Toronto, the Canadian National Team, or now the Whitecaps, the tenacity Laryea is always a gamer, and that tenacity was on display yet again. His pressure both on and off the ball largely dominated whatever side of the pitch he found himself on.

3. Tristan Blackmon

As the game lumbered along, Blackmon’s play would only continue to improve. Yes, he was fortunate that Jasson’s volley at 36’ went into the backrow (which, in my opinion, was a result of the entire backline drifting away from the weak side), but it felt as though any time Vancouver was desperate for a blocked pass or shot or a header to clear the ball, it was Blackmon playing chief disrupter.

8 thoughts on “Another Point Earned on the Never-Ending Road Trip

  1. I’ve got to admit I was wrong about Raposo. I thought he had reached his peak last year and that he was a substitute player at best. He’s improved a lot and is an important player whether a starter or a sub. Glad I was wrong. For last night’s match I thought the caps looked a little tired. I would have brought the subs on 10 to 15 minutes sooner in going for the win but I’m just the armchair coach. I’m still thinking Becher is our player who can score that late goal. I like Cordova and he is a better all round player but he’s not a poacher or clinical finisher and sometimes that’s what we need. Imo…

  2. you forgot to mention the break-away by Cordova which, if he had scored, would prove he was on-side
    he had a wide open shot to the goalie’s right side- 3/4 of the net- as the goalie had fallen to the left- alas, rather than shoot with his left to the wide open goal, he pulled it back to his right foot and hit the goalie on his shot– Sergio doesnt have a left foot

    the game was a challenge to watch, but gritty play with tired legs got us a point- and at NYC stadium that is a victory

    1. You’re right on both accounts, and Cordova should have buried it. Heck, with Freese cheating to his left so much he fell over, a hard, right-footed shot at the far post probably would have worked.

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