VANCOUVER, BC – It doesn’t take an expert to understand that both Vancouver and Kansas City had 2019 campaigns to forget. But the western conference foes both went out and made quite a splash in the off-season, in preparation for Saturday’s season opener at B.C. Place.
Vancouver Whitecaps Lose Season Opener to Sporting KC
In front of a full house, Whitecaps fans were treated to more of the same from last year, with Sporting KC winning in dominant fashion 3-1.
New talisman for Sporting, Alan Pulido, took just 17 minutes to open his scoring account on the year, beating out Ali Adnan in the air and nodding home his first. That lead lasted for 12 minutes, until Vancouver equalized against the run of play. A brilliant solo effort from David Milinkovic down the left wing set up a tap in for Jake Nerwinski, who crashed the six yard box all the way up from right back.
In the 38th minute, Gadi Kinda capped off his impressive debut performance with a left footed curler from the top of the box, silencing B.C Place. Then, for insurance, former Whitecap Erik Hurtado finished a passing move that cut through Vancouver’s defence like butter, making it 3-1 late in injury time.
Kinda was the most impressive player on the field, hands down. Motoring up and down the center of the park, impressive dribbling, vision, and a remarkable finish all on the 25 year old’s debut. A seemingly empty midfield for Vancouver allowed Kinda to roam free in attacking areas, take note MLS, do not take this kid lightly.
Lessons learned for Vancouver:
Need bodies in the midfield: This was one of the quietest games Inbeom has had in a Whitecaps jersey, and Russell Teibert was out of position so often that it just gifted Sporting 70% of the field. Under the radar a bit was Yordy Reyna, who had a very solid game, his intensity and drive really kept the cogs turning in midfield.
But he can’t do it alone all season, maybe Leonard Owusu can make the center of the field more dynamic, or switching the formation to include 3 center midfielders. Either way, Vancouver can’t sit that far back off the opposition in the middle, plain and simple.
Let the defenders defend: This can be pointed at both the midfield and the defence. Teibert played essentially as another center back, forcing Inbeom to cover almost the entirety of the midfield. Coach Marc Dos Santos has said he wants Teibert playing in that holding/sweeping midfielder, but he took it a bit too far on Saturday.
On the defence’s side, sometimes, the back four forgot what their primary objective was. Adnan constantly was caught too high up, so was Nerwinski in the first half, who corrected himself in the second 45. Khmiri was a bit too eager to play the ball, which is typically one of his strong suits, but he coughed up the ball in his own half three times in the first half alone. The back four need to remember their main purpose and defend first, then worry about playing the ball forward.
Cavallini needs support: As mentioned earlier, Reyna was one of only two players(David Milinkovic was the other) who really provided Cavallini with any sort of service and support. There’s no point in their big shiny new signing sitting up top with his hands in his pockets because nothing was working out. Again, a more dynamic and dimensional midfield would have gone a long way. Whoever it needs to be, someone aggresive needs to be up with Cavallini, making runs and supplying through balls.
Vancouver starting lineup player ratings:
- Crepeau 6.5 – Crepeau made a handful of decent saves and was very vocal, but still let three past him
- Nerwinski 7 – Nerwinski scored Vancouver’s lone goal. He had a shaky first half, but calmed himself down after the break and did what he had to.
- Khmiri 5.5 – For a ball playing CB, the Tunisian wasn’t very confident on the ball. He is still rather new to the league, but the return of Godoy is greatly anticipated.
- Cornelius 6 – A very quiet game for the Canadian international. Caught ball watching a number of times, and the heart of a defence that gave up 3 goals.
- Adnan 6.5 – Every now and then, Adnan would make an impressive move and go forward. But his main responsibility is defending, and losing headers that lead to goals can’t become a common trend.
- Dajome 6.5 – A very emotional player, Dajome get’s riled up and plays reckless, costing fouls. The winger was kept rather quiet and didn’t contribute much on offence.
- Teibert 6.5 – Out of position far too much, better positioning would have prevented Kinda’s goal. Only reason it’s not lower is beacsue of his defensive effort.
- Inbeom 5.5 – The center midfielder sat and watched the game pass him by. He didn’t get involved defensivley, and had a number of poor attempts of route one soccer, disrupting any attacking flow the team had.
- Milinkovic 8 – Vancouver’s best player. Wonderful assist on the Nerwinski goal, he ran at defenders and held a high press, but tracked back on defence too.
- Reyna 7.5 – An engine in midfield, Reyna put Sporting’s defence under constant pressure, but pitched in on defence. He was vital in any central play for Vancouver.
- Cavallini 6.5 – An unfortunate grade, but the striker wasn’t supported enough and was ganged up on by Sporting’s defence. Had a great chance late but couldn’t convert.
A sold out crowd to a team that came last in the conference last year proves that fans are still behind this team. This is a really important season for Vancouver, to find an identity for the club. Saturday wasn’t all doom and gloom, but they face a difficult task in Los Angeles next weekend.
Dos Santos understands where the problems are, and has the tools to fix them. However, he will need some time to get started, and an understanding fanbase. And the best way to get people rooting for a coach and his club? Results.