A marathon road trip ended in disappointment Wednesday, with the Whitecaps managing only a 2-2 draw against the last-place Colorado Rapids and putting in serious jeopardy their hopes of a home playoff match.
The Caps appeared to be destined to throw away points from a winning position for a second match in a row but a Brian White header allowed them to ensure they claimed at least a point before returning to BC Place.
Vanni Sartini made some tweaks, pivoting back to the Christmas tree and a four man backline. Mathias Laborda slotted in at right back, pushing Richie Laryea further forward. Sam Adekugbe made his return to the lineup, meanwhile, and his Canadian National Team comrade Junior Hoilett made his first start as a Caps player.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before but the Caps got a first half goal off a set piece. Vancouver’s first foray offensively off a Rapids’ turnover was blocked out for a corner. But the Caps have proven their danger on these chances, with a long looping ball from Gauld sent back into the danger area by a Tristan Blackmon header, where Mathias Laborda got on the end of it for his first career MLS goal.
To further reprise Saturday, Brian White had a header cleared off the line by a Marko Illic save. Beyond that, the Caps were content to try and settle things down and slowly pull the Rapids out of their shape. Laryea generally sat inside, allowing Hoilett to push up further and link up with Brian White and Ryan Gauld.
Meanwhile, the midfield liked to push forward in those transition moments, daring the Rapids to try and create something offensively. The home side’s best chance of the half was a set piece let off, with a well hit Connor Ronan free kick finding its way all the way through to a surprised Andreas Maxso, who couldn’t redirect it across the face of goal.
The Caps found plenty of space on the counter, however, and Richie Laryea was teed up for an absolute sitter on the stroke of halftime. Despite some nice build up from Gauld and Ali Ahmed, Laryea could only sky it and hold his head in his hands in frustration.
Out of possession, the Caps almost played with three across the top of the attacking line but their formation evolved into more of a 4-4-2 diamond as they broke forward. It was a bit of a new wrinkle but it didn’t lead to a prolific number of chances.
Coming out of the break, the Rapids made two changes and it gave them an instant lift and you could feel their mentality shift. Substitute Calvin Harris nicely cut back a pass from the endline and while Diego Rubio missed the first shot, he didn’t make any mistake on the second, pushing a shot past an off-guard Yohei Takaoka and some sketchy marking.
As the Rapids regained their foothold in the match with a couple dangerous counters, Vanni Sartini opted to remove a tired Gauld for Pedro Vite in hopes of manufacturing some energy. As part of that, Sartini instructed Laryea and Adekugbe to push forward as wingbacks and moved to a back three.
Instead Colorado just kept rolling. First, Takaoka was called upon to make another key save. Then another set piece catastrophe for Vancouver led to Cole Bassett finishing off a Ronan corner kick to vault Colorado in front. Given the organization of Vancouver for the second half, it was difficult not to see that moment coming.
Vancouver didn’t really seem to be getting any momentum back, despite a line change of subs. But like many times this season, a Brian White header changed things, with the striker beating Danny Wilson to meet a great Sebastian Berhalter corner and put the Caps back on level terms.
The match was end-to-end for almost the entire second half. In stoppage time, Takaoka came up big to deny Jonathan Lewis on one end, before a vintage Caps’ break and an Alessandro Schopf shot was denied by Illic.
- After his positive sub appearance in Houston, Junior Hoilett has really struggled. Ditto Richie Laryea, who seemed to take one step forward and two steps back in this one, where he had some good moments going forward but missed some open passes and shots. Sam Adekugbe has been outpaced by Ryan Raposo as of late. The last couple of matches have been a bad advertisement for Laryea as a DP and a bad advertisement for the summer transfer business. Doesn’t mean these guys are bums but the Caps haven’t been getting the consistent, 90 minute performances that you’d expect given the experience and quality of those three.
- Maybe someday we’ll effectively execute zonal marking on set pieces. Wednesday was not the night.
- Brian White has been the Caps’ talisman all year and while this wasn’t necessarily his most vital goal of the year, it came as Vancouver chased a result they absolutely had to have and the striker came through. White won’t catch those atop the Golden Boot race but he isn’t far off, with his header Wednesday being his 13th goal of the season.
- Takaoka has been getting a lot of stick (not without reason) and he wasn’t perfect in this one. But he came up with a couple of big saves when Vancouver needed him to and it helped them get something out of this one.
- You could say a lot about this one. You could mutter expletives about monster truck rallies at BC Place. You could curse the schedule makers for sending Vancouver to elevation to end their massive road trip. And you could finger another poor defensive showing and wonder whether the Caps’ backline will make it through the playoffs (a fair question).
- But this match was troubling because the Caps got out worked and had an inferior mentality to a Rapids team that has little to play for and has been terrible for much of the season. Vancouver thought Colorado would roll over for them and they didn’t. Throwing away points from winning positions has been a constant problem this season and is probably the gravest threat to any chance of a playoff run. There is ample chance for a response at BC Place on Saturday but this was a concerning result. The RSL match could be chalked up to fatigue but this seems to be a symptom of a deeper problem.
Man of the Match
White is the only real choice here and he was working hard and didn’t switch off, even before the goal.