Three Takeaways: Woeful Whitecaps Winless On The Road

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at St. Louis City SC as Whitecaps Woes on the Road Continues

ANALYSIS – The Vancouver Whitecaps were fruitless once again on the road, just like in the game against FC Dallas, they succumbed to another away defeat, this time at the hands of St. Louis CITY SC. This defeat marks their third away defeat in the MLS and makes it three points from a possible 18 on the road. And while the performances continue to be there, the results are lacking and patience is wearing thin. In a game that was hotly contested, filled with fiery exchanges, missed calls, and goalkeeping blunders, here are our three takeaways from the Whitecaps’ woeful defeat to St. Louis CITY.

Three Takeaways: Scandal In St. Louis?

#1: Questionable Calls Cost ‘Caps Big Time

There was a nice story going around about the referee for this match, Sergii Boiko. He was a refugee from Ukraine where he was a professional referee, and came to the United States to continue his passion in the MLS. However, all empathetic feelings towards Boiko were quickly lost from the Canadian side by the full-time whistle, as Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini described his performances as “shameful”.

“Its hard to win when the other team have 12 men” was his opening statement in the post-match press conference. Sartini then went on to call upon the league itself, exclaiming that “if we don’t recieve a letter from the league that apologizes for the shameful performance of that the referee…there’s a problem”. To the defense of Sartini, Boiki did seem to be favouring one side in how lenient he was allowing St. Louis to play, with the Missouri side being quite physical across the ninety minutes. There was even a pretty good shout for Jake Nerwinski, a former Whitecaps player, to get a second yellow after a particularly rough challenge, but to no avail.

At one point, after a foul on Ryan Gauld was missed towards the end of the match, the Whitecaps players were incensed to see Boiko call a foul for St. Louis just seconds later, earning both Julian Gressel and Ryan Gauld yellow cards for dissent. St. Louis then went on to score from that free-kick.

“Jake [Nerwinski] should have been sent off. The first free kick [that opened the scoring] was not a free kick, and the one at the end, it was a free kick for us… and they scored a third goal”.

There is no word yet if his comments will induce any punishment, but his passionate outrage encompasses the Caps difficult night.

#2: Thomas Hasal Has One To Forget

While rotation can surely be expected for a side that has played nine matches in four weeks, it was still surprising to see the young Canadian keeper Thomas Hasal start in net instead of a fit Yohei Takaoka.

Hasal has been the deputy for Takaoka this entire season, with this being his first start and appearance in the MLS for 2023. Many were a little confused why he was starting in a crucial away match against and in the home of one of the conference’s best for his first real game. Perhaps it was Sartini giving Hasal an audition of sorts ahead the Canadian Championship final vs Montreal. If so, then the Canadian did not rise to the occasion.

Hasal was seemingly caught out on the first goal for St. Louis, with a viscious curling cross-cum-shot free-kick from Eduard Lowen going over him and into the net. One could perhaps excuse him for that goal, as the shot seemed to fool everyone in the stadium. But for the second and third goals for St. Louis, there was no debate on who it was on.

A tame overhead ball from the midfield of St. Louis was seemingly destined to be easily collected by the Whitecaps’ defense, but a lack of communication from Hasal made experienced centre-back Tristan Blackmon make a rare error, going on to diving-header the ball into his own net. Blackmon was unaware of his keeper’s movement, and Hasal seemed to have made no effort to try to communicate to him. Meanwhile, on the third goal, another free-kick was parried poorly by Hasal, and opened it up for St. Louis to easily square it across for Migual Perez to tap in.

Overall, it was one to forget for the Canadian keeper.

#3: Goal-Scoring Troubles On The Road Continue For Caps

Going into this match, the Vancouver Whitecaps had the most big chances created in the entire league with 28 big chances, according to Fotmob. But in goals scored, the sit comfortably in the middle of the pack.

A lot of this comes down the lack of quality in the attack so far this season. Brian White is finally starting to come into his own again, as he scored his fifth goal in the MLS against St. Louis, but struggled to score in the start of the season. Meanwhile, big money DP-signing Sergio Cordova has yet to score for his new side in eight appearences, and the fanbase is starting to get frustrated. The only shining star has been academy player Simon Becher, who has scored four goals in 486 MLS minutes so far. But the Whitecaps cannot continue to rely on the super-sub to bail them out with his prolific form, especially since this is his first MLS season.

Whitecaps certainly have the talent for creating chances, as Julian Gressel leads the charts for big chances created with 12, while Ryan Gauld is tied for most key passes with seven. The issue is just turning those chances into goals, and its one that the ‘Caps have yet to figure out away from home. With four straight home games to come, it’ll be a good opportunity for Sartini and co. to solve this issue before the Caps drop more points on the road.

Photo Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports, of a Sergio Cordova Headshot, Julian Gressel Headshot, and a Tomas Ostrak Headshot, on May 27, 2023.