Canadian kings…again: Whitecaps blow past Toronto FC in derby win

A second half turnaround reinforced the Caps’ status as kings of Canada and vaulted them into the upper echelon of the Western Conference, as they dealt a 2-1 blow to Toronto FC Saturday night.

Despite going behind in the early minutes of the second half, Vancouver shot back quickly and restored their control of the match. It was unsurprising that Ryan Gauld and Brian White combined for yet another match winner, sending White second on the Caps’ all-time goalscorer list.

The Caps rolled with their now familiar formation, just minus a few familiar faces. Andres Cubas missed with a knock and was replaced by Sebastian Berhalter, as did Sam Adekugbe, who was spelled by Ryan Raposo. Mathias Laborda slotted into the backline as well.

It was a positive start for the Caps, who succeeded in jamming up the passing lanes for TFC and finding space out wide. The penetrating moves into the box, however, were not followed by shots to test Tomas Romero. When Toronto were able to overcome their deficit in midfield, however, they often found ample space to proceed.

Indeed, it was Yohei Takaoka who was first called into action to make a save, comfortably dealing with a pair of TFC chances from distance. Brian White and Raposo shot back with blows of their own after poor TFC turnovers in their own defensive third.

That was a pretty good encapsulation of the first half. Just when it seemed like Toronto, who held the bulk of the possession, seemed to settle in and have some success breaking the Caps’ lines, Vancouver would hit back with a positive spell where they saw White and Richie Laryea dig in with good chances. Overall, the Caps looked the more dangerous team in the first half, looked more incisive in their final third entries and just needed the finish.

Moments into the second half and the Caps again flashed danger. Ryan Raposo had a brilliant, curling strike from distance that would have found the back of the net but for a terrific save from Romero. Then, off the resulting corner, Franco Ibarra was forced to clear the ball off the line.

But it was TFC that were more clinical. While the Caps were pushed forwarded attacking, Toronto surged forward on a brutal counter attack. DeAndre Kerr was hanging off the high line and was played in 1v1, leaving Takaoka with few options and giving Toronto the lead.

Vancouver were not behind for long. It was a bit of a fortunate goal for the Caps but it worked all the same: Off a corner, a dangerous ball was flicked on by Tristan Blackmon and the ball deflected into the back of the net. A nonchalant Blackmon celebrated and a return to level terms seemed a fair reflection of the match to that point.

The Caps decided they wanted more of the ball in the second half — a lot more of it. They heaped loads of pressure on TFC in their own defensive third and were seemingly undeterred by getting burned on Kerr’s goal as they returned to what we have expected Vanni Sartini’s side to play like.

That was epitomized by a return to form of the dynamic Gauld/White duo. Seemingly out of nothing, the Caps methodically broke the TFC line and when Gauld found himself in a comfortable position without a defender nearby, he whipped in a perfect ball, which was met by a perfect header that no keeper can stop, vaulting Vancouver back into the league.

That duo continued to produce fruit, including an absurd no look pass that played White in on goal but slipped and fell as he shot, denying him a clean chance to snag a brace. He was also unable to slot away another excellent break orchestrated by Gauld and substitute Pedro Vite.

It was fitting, however, on a night where Toronto’s tailspin continued and their most influential, high-priced players looked disinterested, that White and, especially Gauld, feasted. It was Gauld’s intense pressure that helped the Caps regain momentum and his performance in the second half was nothing short of breathtaking. One wonders if Toronto had signed more guys like Gauld than Insigne or Bernadeschi that they might be in a better place right now.

Stray Thoughts

  • Toronto’s passing all night was, erm, a bit sloppy. But credit to Ali Ahmed, who was tenacious at positioning himself to cut out those passes and force them to play around him. For a guy who is not naturally a central midfielder, this is an area he has really grown this season and he certainly impressed with his positioning Saturday night, particularly in the first half.
  • TFC showed some flashes of danger on the counter all night but managed to cope pretty well. The first goal, however, was the sort of catastrophic defensive failure that we haven’t seen much from Vancouver in recent matches. Berhalter was perhaps the most obvious culprit but make no mistake, that was a team letdown, particularly after a promising start to open the half.
  • Ryan Raposo brought his shooting boots tonight — he was unlucky not to score the goal of the season for Vancouver and then was denied in the second half by the woodwork. A really positive performance on a night in which I was worried about Sam Adekugbe missing out.
  • I also really liked what Laborda offered, particularly given that he had the unenviable task of going 1v1 with Lorenzo Insigne for much of the first half. Thought he held up well, was good in the air (including one crucial intervention with the Italian lurking at the back post) and was overall pretty solid.
  • Overall, this was one where the Caps were pretty clearly the more dangerous team all night and finally were able to show it in the final half hour or so. They could have (and probably should have) bagged three or four goals; once Vancouver (especially Gauld) turned up the pressure, Toronto started to crack, lose focus and never really looked like a factor ever again.

Man of the Match

It is pretty easy to just blindly name Ryan Gauld as MOTM every game and call things good. But Gauld was, quite simply, breathtaking in the second half. He had one free kick that the Caps didn’t do much with that was one of the most spectacular whipped balls I ever seen in MLS, without exaggeration. His no-look pass to White showed the strength of that partnership, and, oh yeah, there was his assist on White’s goal. Just because there is an obvious choice doesn’t make it the wrong one.

6 thoughts on “Canadian kings…again: Whitecaps blow past Toronto FC in derby win

  1. Hey MLS stole your “Kings of Canada” line. You should demand residuals (or free beer) LOL.

    Whitecaps FC are tied with Orlando as the most in-form team in league play in the last seven matches with a 5W-1L-1D record (16 points)

    Ryan Gauld continues to lead MLS in goal contributions since May 31 with 18 (10 goals and eight assists)

    Brian White continued his career season with his 15th goal in all competitions, and 11th in MLS play. He sits three goals behind the golden boot lead

    Ryan Raposo recorded third assist of the season in all competitions, and second in MLS play

    Pedro Vite recorded his fifth assist of the season in all competitions, and second in MLS play

    Whitecaps FC are now 3W-0L-1D in the first four matches of their club record seven-match road stretch

    Overall, the ‘Caps are unbeaten in their last six road matches, including Leagues Cup

    Whitecaps FC are unbeaten against Eastern Conference opposition this season at 4W-0L-2D

    Whitecaps FC has posted a record of 6W-0L-2D when Ali Ahmed starts an MLS regular season match

    In addition to winning the Voyageurs Cup in the Canadian Championship, the ‘Caps also beat both CF Montréal and Toronto FC in MLS regular season play

  2. Raposo continues to impress. I was wrong in my assessment of him. I never thought he’d be this good. Glad I was wrong. And he’s also very good on the high press with White and Gauld. That press caused TFC all sorts of problems. Gauld was amazing. Just that he shows up all over the field launching so many different attacks. He’s a special player. Can’t understand why he’s not a Scotland international. Our depth is so good. Perhaps the best in mls ?! I’m still thinking Becher has a part to play. I’d like to see Sartini prepping so he’s ready when the time comes. And Sir Salty, any second thoughts on Axel’s performance this season. I seem to recall some harsh criticisms earlier this season

  3. So great to see a ‘Caps team that can hang in for a half on the road, go down a goal early in the second, and then just pull away on the final stretch like it was never in doubt.

    I know it doesn’t work this way but I’d love to stack up Gauld’s G+A+defensive stats against all the other MVP candidates at the end of the year. His defensive work rate tonight was unbelievable and led directly to several chances and a goal (if I’m remembering right).

    Laborda’s best game? Quite likely, and against a pretty good player in Insigne. Berhalter was probably the weakest link tonight and yet really not awful. Toronto’s goal was 40% good luck, 50% incredible pass and 10% excellent finishing, a rare trifecta. Sebastian looked caught out but a lucky bounce leading to probably the only player on that team who could reliably drop that ball on a platter from one touch isn’t going to happen very often.

    These last half a dozen road performances have got me believing. Greater maturity, plenty of rotation while still grinding out results, tactical flexibility and Vanni being less of a mad scientist and more of a field marshal, plus we can expect Hoilett now, with 500 games of English experience to sub in instead of Cordova or Becher. Such a luxury. Adekugbe…. Vite… Cubas wasn’t even there.

    And did anyone else notice that Vanni got Teibert and Johnson out there to finish the night to play in front of their families with the other Ontario boys? Small gestures add up.

    Good night all around.

  4. Maybe it works into the Whitecaps favor that Ryan Gauld- the most productive MLS player since june- flies under the radar- people underestimate just how good he really is – SIMPLY, THE BEST MLS WHITECAP PLAYER EVER

    the pass to white with his back to his buddy was world class and his floating pass for White’s goal was sublime – and YES, White did head the ball down at the goalie’s feet

    1. Agreed. When people called him “The Scottish Messi” I just laughed and said “Yea, right” but I can see the similarities now. Not saying he’s that good but he runs with the ball between his feet full speed and can make a pass with precision.

      Definitely the best Cap player “so far” LOL.

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