Whitecaps advance in MLS is Back after drama filled 2-0 victory

Yordy Reyna Vancouver Whitecaps MLS
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Orlando, Florida — Coming into today’s fixture against the Chicago Fire, the Vancouver Whitecaps had a lack luster performance in Group B so far. However, the Whitecaps still had a chance of advancing against Chicago. The early morning start was rough for West Coast spectators, but boy was it worth it.

Or at least, partially worth it.

Vancouver ran with its third formation in as many games, going for a 5-3-2, with the likes of Yordy Reyna, Cristian Dájome and David Milinkovic starting on the bench. Meanwhile, 21-year-old Thomas Hasal made his first career MLS start, given the injury to Max Crepeau in the Seattle game. The Fire went with a similar structure, going for a 3-5-2 formation, creating one-on-one midfield matchups with plenty of space later on.

It was Chicago who were quicker out of the gate, with constant pressure on an inexperienced Vancouver backline. Hasal made a number of strong saves, keeping a 0-0 score heading into half time. It seemed as though the Whitecaps were doomed to be heading home, as they had a sluggish start to the second frame.

However, in a moment where they needed what seemed like a miracle, lighting struck. Literally.

Lengthy delay provided Whitecaps’ spark

A thunderstorm that lasted over 90 minutes forced a stoppage in play at the 63rd minute. Both sides had time to reflect and adapt to the ever-changing situation. Chicago needed any positive result to send them through, and controlled the game with less than 30 minutes to go.

Eventually, the skies — temporarily — cleared and play resumed. Vancouver jumped at the chance, with high tempo play that has been a rare sight at this tournament for them. Reyna, fresh off the bench, was gifted a brilliant through ball from an advancing Ali Adnan, who went on to take it around Kenneth Kronholm and tuck it into the empty net.

All to play for

As the old saying goes, “You are most vulnerable once you’ve just scored.”

That mantra weighed heavily on fans’ minds, with this becoming a familiar sight. Yet, the Whitecaps kept pushing on, pressing Chicago over every blade of grass. The sudden burst of energy found Dájome through on goal, tucking it between the legs of Kronholm. That goal lifted Vancouver into an advancing position in Group B.

Chicago saw red, and then rekindled their first half fire, determined not to let their tournament end today. Numerous close calls in the penalty box and scrambles off of corner kicks, but nothing was bouncing their way. However, a rebound off the crossbar gave C.J. Sapong a gaping goal in the 84th minute. Sapong, who had Gutierrez and Veselinovic draped all over him, tucked home the chance, which all but killed Vancouver’s chance of advancing.

However, Vancouver’s old nemesis, VAR, showed that Sapong had used his arm to guide the ball in, ruling out the chance. Vancouver saw out the game 2-0, and have qualified for the Round of 16 out of Group B.

They will wait to find out their next opponent. However, the board strong suggests that Vancouver could match up with Toronto FC, a Canadian rival.