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Three Whitecaps Takeaways as They Run Riot Against Real CD Espana

ANALYSIS – The Vancouver Whitecaps ran riot against Real CD Espana at BC Place on Saturday, finishing the game 5-0. With new players in the lineup, it looked like the Whitecaps turned a new gear in this crucial first-leg match in their Round of 16 ties of the Concacaf Champions League. Here are three Whitecaps takeaways from their stunning display at BC Place.

Three Whitecaps Takeaways as They Dominate At Home

Fullbacks Were Key for Whitecaps

Head Coach Vanni Sartini started a rotated lineup, as expected, with Mathias Laborda coming in for Javain Brown at right-back and Ryan Raposo in for Luis Martins at left-back. These rotations proved to be the difference as Raposo got Man of the Match with a goal and assist. His defensive display was solid as well, but he thrived in the attack. With Real CD Espana staying compact and sitting deep on the defense, Raposo was able to pull the defense apart on the left and allow the forwards and midfielders to run in and threaten the goal.

Laborda, meanwhile, was a surprise. Traditionally a center-back who doesn’t usually like to stray too far up the field, he played well on the right wing. He was conservative going forward, but often popped up as an outlet when least expected, and put some good crosses into the box in the first half. With both full-backs regularly advancing, it also allowed the midfield to get more space, and distribute the ball from side to side to build space. Most of the goals came from this tactic, and Vanni will certainly look to continue to bring this to the Whitecaps game moving forward.

Ryan Gauld Masterclass

After having a disappointing game versus San Jose, Ryan Gauld redeemed himself in this match. He came off in the 71st minute and ended his match with two assists, five shots, a 91% pass accuracy, 10 passes into the final third, and five accurate long balls. Playing in a deeper role, he took over for the injured Schopf. He was often a late runner into the box, and found lots of space to either feed the attack in behind, or take a pop at goal himself.

His deeper position also allowed Cristian Dajome to play with some more freedom, and make darting runs into the box. It was Dajome’s late run, fed by Gauld, that forced the own goal for the Whitecaps’ third of the night. It will be interesting to see if Sartini decides to rotate Gauld’s position throughout this season, and put him further deep when he expects to face teams that employ a low block. For this match at least, his decision to put him further back did wonders for the Whitecaps’ attacking display.

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Sartini-Ball Finally Bears Fruit

Many fans have been disgruntled by the team’s recent performances, losing two games after leading both at half-time, but this third of the three Whitecaps takeaways moves away from that. While the football has been good in the first half, the performances in the second-half have disappointed. Today, however, the Whitecaps seemed switched on for the majority of the game. A shaky opening 15 minutes led to a few decent opportunities for Real CD Espana, but Takaoka was able to respond to whatever was thrown at him. And once the early storm passed, the Whitecaps were dominant for the rest of the game. The best part was that they finally showed what was missing in the last two games which was finishing their chances.

Scoring five goals with five different goal-scorers is no easy feat, and it will make Sartini feel better going back into MLS knowing that his team has finally translated those good chances into proper goals. If the team can switch on now, and maintain their composure and concentration across the full 90 in the coming games, we might be able to see a turnaround in Whitecaps fortunes sooner rather than later.


Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports on March 8, 2023, of Brian White’s Headshot.


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