ANALYSIS – The Vancouver Whitecaps managed to salvage a draw at the very end of their home encounter at BC Place versus Sporting Kansas City, as Ryan Gauld put away a penalty in the 88-minute. It was a frustrating night for Caps fans, as officiating controversy loomed once more this season, with a goal chalked off in the first half for a dubious offside call. With tired legs, heated heads, and a Canadian Championship final on the horizon, here are our three takeaways from the Whitecaps vs SKC match.
Three Takeaways: Whitecaps Rescue Draw Amidst Offside Dispute
#1: It Just Wasn’t Clicking For The Caps
After an outstanding 6-2 victory against Houston Dynamo this past Wednesday, it can be expected that the Whitecaps were going to have a few tired legs 72 hours later. Head Coach Vanni Sartini started a relatively attacking line-up, putting attacking midfielder/center-forward Pedro Vite in as an eight in the three-man midfield. Sergio Cordova made his tenth appearance of the season, starting at that number nine position, hoping to break his goalscoring drought.
However, things did not begin as they did a few days prior, with the Whitecaps being sloppy in possession, and static in the buildup. There were those routine passing plays that you could tell were practiced time and time again on the training ground, but the last pass or the last touch kept failing them and causing turnovers for SKC to take advantage of. Sartini spoke after the match about his side’s slow start, stating that “I don’t think we did a good job in the first half… we were too static… we needed more dynamism”.
In the end, it was this leisurely decision-making mentality that led to SKC’s first goal, with Alan Pulido scoring a wonderful looping header at the near post from a corner kick. However the corner kick was an unnecessary one, as Pedro Vite tried to clear the ball by lifting the ball to volley it, but his first touch pushed it out of bounds. That sort of embodied everything that was going wrong in the first half.
Vanni Sartini: "First half, we didn't do very well, I thought we were too slow…Second half, we did very well…I'm very satisfied, I thought we deserved the point, I thought we deserved more to be honest." #VWFC
— Joshua Rey (@JoshuaRey00) June 4, 2023
#2: Referee Drama Strikes Again
While Vanni Sartini did not have the same outburst reaction after the game as he did against St. Louis, the Italian coach was still disappointed with the decisions made. The particularly contentious one was in the 24-minute when a corner was punched out by SKC keeper Kendall McIntosh but fell perfectly to Ryan Gauld. The Scot then volleyed it from outside the box and, after taking a deflection, beat McIntosh and tumbled in. However, the goal was brought back as defender Tristan Blackmon was behind the goalkeeper, with only one SKC man between him and the play. This then put him in an offside position since the offside rule dictates that you technically have to be behind the second man, it’s just that in usual cases, the goalkeeper counts as one. In this case, he was ahead of Blackmon so he was technically offside.
The biggest point of contention with that call is whether Blackmon tried to attempt to be involved in the shot. Upon replay, it looked like he was shoved in the direction of the ball, through no real fault of his own. You can only be called offside if you made a genuine attempt to be involved in the play, and so it remains unclear. Nevertheless, Sartini believes that Blackmon was clear on that play, commenting that “if you look at the play, Tristan [Blackmon] is technically offside, but I think that he doesn’t interfere with anyone”.
The call remains disputable even now, as many fans were debating back-and-forth, late into the night on social media. And to be fair, had that goal gone in, it would have been a different game and potentially a different result for the Whitecaps.
A brutal decision as Vancouver has a goal chalked off in phantom fashion. Blackmon is clearly kept onside by Robert Castellanos. If the call is a foul, it was Logan Ndenbe who pushed Blackmon into his own keeper. What exactly is the call here??#VWFC 0-1 #SportingKC pic.twitter.com/rIvUwNzilY
— MLS NETWORK (@mlsnetwork) June 4, 2023
#3: Striker Difficulty Versus Low Blocks
While the poor performance from the Whitecaps in the first half played its part in the draw, there have to be massive props to SKC and their defensive organization. They were stubborn in their defensive shape, switching between a 5-4-1 and a 4-5-1 in defense. The defense did not allow the Whitecaps to really build in the middle and forced them to switch from one side to the next. They targeted dangermen like Gauld and Gressel and tried to force them to play backward instead of forwards, so it was a stellar performance from Peter Vermes’ side.
However, from a Whitecap’s point of view, there was a glaring lack of cutting edge in the attack. Brian White, ever the hard worker, had another fantastic chance to score in the second half but his shot clattered off the post and out. Pedro Vite had a few flashes but he never really got himself into those dangerous situations, especially since he was in a deeper role. Off the bench, Simon Becher was lively but didn’t get many chances to show his prolific nature, and Deiber Caicedo missed a wide-open opportunity to steal the win at the death but skied it instead.
The biggest question mark of all falls on Sergio Cordova, however. The big Venezuelan striker had another quiet night in front of the goal against SKC. Although he maintained himself busy by drawing fouls (one of which almost resulted in a red card for SKC), he struggled to carve out chances for himself. Sartini after the match mentioned that he thinks he is suffering from some bad luck, but was playing well.
But with zero goals and assists in ten matches, fans will soon run out of patience for simply drawing some fouls if he doesn’t start scoring soon.
IIRC, that shot Cordova just attempted — and had blocked — was from the same spot he tried back on March 11. Still just one SOT in 374 league minutes this year. (And no goals or assists) #VWFC https://t.co/ERY88VoitU
— J.J. Adams (@TheRealJJAdams) June 4, 2023
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports, of a Pedro Vite Headshot and a Alan Pulido Headshot, on June 3, 2023.