From the Whitecaps Perspective: Lucas Cavallini brace gives Vancouver 2-1 win

Cavallini Whitecaps win LAFC

Editorial — The final score was 6-0 last time. That was on everybody’s mind heading into Wednesday’s clash between the Vancouver Whitecaps and LAFC. From the Whitecaps perspective, it was more of a dreading sensation, surely it couldn’t be worse than six, right? On the flip side, Los Angeles had just bounced MLS Cup favorite Seattle candidly 3-1, so all systems were a go for the Black and Gold.

It was an unchanged starting XI for Marc Dos Santos and the Vancouver Whitecaps, sticking with the 4-4-2 that beat Real Salt Lake last Sunday. Despite the 2-1 win, there were blinding problems in the midfield, primarily with Leo Owusu and Janio Bikel. They were being too stagnant, too flat, too defensive.

Dos Santos trusted his gut — which has back fired on him a lot this year — and stuck with the midfield pairing. Also, with his 11th appearance at centre back, Ranko Veslelinovic edged closer to his 12th game, $2 million purchase trigger.

In the other dug out, Bob Bradley marched out a familiar 4-3-3. Christian Torres and Mohamed El Monir replaced Mark Anthony Kaye and Adrien Perez, in an otherwise identical side that beat Seattle 3-1 on the weekend. Diego Rossi, who leads the MLS in goals, is still away on international duty with Uruguay, hence the Bradley Wright-Phillips start.

LAFC held fourth spot in a tight Western Conference race before this one, six points and places above 10th place Vancouver.

Improved Vancouver side out of the gate

Far too many times this year Vancouver has had to chase a game, conceding early on. No example more true than surrendering four goals in the opening 14 minutes in the reverse fixture just a few weeks ago. However things seemed different. Things were different. Through 30 minutes, Vancouver lead in possession and shots, and looked good doing it. A number of chances were turned aside by Pablo Sisniega, including a close range effort from Lucas Cavallini.

Yet, El Tanque (Cavallini) went on to grab his revenge in the 35th, capitalizing on a brilliantly orchestrated counter attack. A long clearance by Bikel — he’ll call it a pass, but lets be honest, it was a clearance — found Montero up near the half way line. A beautifully weighted through ball found fellow Columbian Christian Dajome, who selflessly squared the ball to Cavallini in front of a gaping goal. He tucked home his fourth of the season and catapulted Vancouver to a 1-0 lead, a lead which they rode into half time.

Momentum shift in the second half for LAFC

Having looked like a shell of themselves in the first half, the Californians came out of the locker room hungry and revived. Applying the pressure and being a bit more direct in their attack, they spurred Evan Bush to make a number of strong saves. However, Vancouver stomached every punch that was thrown at them, and struck back harder on another counter attack.

Once again, it was Vancouver’s Columbian connection of Dajome and Montero linking up down the right side, before Montero floated a ball in towards the penalty spot. Cavallini plucked the ball out of the air with a side volley which trickled past Sisniega in the 59th minute. His first brace for the side put the Whitecaps up 2-0 and seemingly in a position to cruise the rest of the match.

But that would be too easy. This is Vancouver after all.

Up 2-0 with time winding down, this game seemed done and dusted, until a Jake Nerwinski hand ball in the 80th minute threw a wrench into the plans. Eduard Atuesta, who was having a rather quiet night by his standards, stepped up to the penalty spot. Bush guessed the right way and saved the spot kick, just for it to be retaken due to him moving before the ball was struck. On the retake, Atuesta made him pay by smashing one down the middle, forcing a 2-1 scoreline and an intriguing final several minutes.

Looking ahead for the Whitecaps

Despite Atuesta snagging his first of the year, it wasn’t enough to dig LAFC out of the 2-1 deficit. Vancouver walked away with their three hard earned points, winning back to back games for just the second time in 2020. Lucas Cavallini earned the man of the match honor with his two goals and impressive all around showing, as the No. 9 is oozing with confidence heading down the late stretch.

Marc Dos Santos overall was pleased with his team’s showing, but urged that the job isn’t finished.

“If it’s not easy, let’s do something about it, let’s achieve it. These two games, we haven’t achieved anything. We won these two games, but we haven’t achieved our objective of finishing in the top eight.” — Marc Dos Santos

Vancouver get set to face a struggling LA Galaxy side this Sunday, aiming to win three on the bounce for the first time since May 2019. They will be without Janio Bikel due to yellow card accumulation, so all fingers point to fan favorite Michael Baldisimo to start. Vancouver currently holds the eighth and final playoff spot, ahead of Real Salt Lake on tiebreakers.

Meanwhile, LA aim to right their ship on Sunday against the Portland Timbers in another difficult away fixture. Diego Rossi is expected to be back with the side by then, as the Black and Gold look to try close down the gap between themselves and third place Sporting KC.

LA do face the Galaxy, Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes before the end of the season, all of which are games where they expect to earn the full three points. However, if Wednesday’s clash taught us anything, it’s don’t count out the underdogs.



Photo: Embed from Getty Images

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