The Vancouver Whitecaps crowned their busy but productive week with a road win at BMO Field against Toronto FC by a score of 3-4.
The Blue and White finished their second ‘three games in eight days’ stretch of the 2016 schedule with a perfect 3 win record. After a comeback win against Cascadian rival, Portland Timbers, last Saturday and an eventful win on Wednesday night against the Chicago Fire, Carl Robinson and his team flew to
the centre of the universe Toronto, to face a surging TFC.
In a game where a draw would have been a positive result for the ‘Caps, two goals by Kekuta Manneh, one by Christian Bolaños (his fourth in the last five games) and another one from captain Pedro Morales proved sufficient to beat a dangerous TFC side commanded by Italian superstar Sebastian Giovinco.
1. The lineup
After two games in a week and a across-the-country flight, changes were expected in Carl Robinson’s lineup. Changes were indeed deployed, but Robinson changed his starting XI less to manage the minutes of his squad and more to adjust his game plan in order to tactically exploit his opponent’s weaknesses.
Vanney called #TFC's start to the game tonight "pathetic."
— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) May 15, 2016
Pa Modou Kah slotted in for suspended Kendall Waston in the heat of the defence, Nicolas Mezquida gave way to Ontario-native Russell Teibert, Erik Hurtado took the place of injured Japanese striker Masato Kudo, and Kekuta Manneh took the place of Cristian Techera.
The secret to the Whitecaps’ early success was having Hurtado lead the line with Manneh position in between TFC’s backline and defensive midfielder Michael Bradley. The speedy Gambian was able to find pockets of space and his velocity caused issues for the best defensive line TFC has fielded in their time in MLS.
The changes reaped early benefits as Manneh intercepted a misplaced pass and took it inside TFC’s box to put Vancouver on the scoreboard early.
Before the 20th minute, Christian Bolaños put away a rebound after another run into the box by Manneh.
2. The unsung heros
Everything was going according to plan for the Blue and White but finding themselves down by two goals at home, TFC came out of their lull, regained control of the ball, and started pushing to get on the scoreboard.
As we have seen many times since his arrival in Vancouver, Danish goalkeeper David Ousted played a fundamental role in keeping his team in the game with several crucial saves including one penalty kick by designated player Jozy Altidore and a free kick by Sebastian Giovinco.
Despite surrendering three goals, when everything was said and done, the Great Dane was a big part of the ‘Caps win.
An extra shut-out goes to Beaverton native, Erik Hurtado. The much maligned striker has shown that his development has come leaps and bounds since his loan to Norway last season and his appearances for WFC2 in the United Soccer League.
Robinson sent Hurtado out to lead the offensive line, to grind and bump the TFC defenders, and to hold the ball and open spaces for Manneh and the wingers. Hurtado pressed high, caused mistakes and did exactly what he was asked to do and more.
3. The Pedro effect
TFC was able to get one back before the half with a masterful goal by Sebastian Giovinco.
It was Giovinco again who tied the game at the 66th minute. It seemed like the tide was turning and TFC looked like the most likely team to score and cinch the win.
It was Manneh once again, however, who put the Whitecaps ahead with a brilliant piece of skill inside the box only four minutes after the Atomic Ant had tied the game.
Captain Pedro Morales put the last nail in TFC’s coffin two minutes later scoring Vancouver’s fourth goal.
The game was seemingly in the bag until Toronto-native Fraser Aird was sent off after receiving his second yellow card with 15 minutes left on the clock. After TFC scored a third goal at the 80th minute, the Blue and White scrambled to see the win out.
— Simon Fudge (@SimonFudge74) May 15, 2016
Led by their captain Pedro Morales, it was a gutsy and smart performance from the Whitecaps. This is the Chilean’s team. In recent games, the maestro has shown what is perhaps the best version of himself since he arrived in 2014. His industry has improved as have his defensive efforts.
Morales makes this team tick. With Morales in the starting XI, the Whitecaps have won 5 games, tied 1, and lost 2. In comparison, when the Chilean is not on the pitch, the ‘Caps have a record of 1 win, 1 draw, and 3 losses. You see the correlation? So do I.
The three back-to-back wins have catapulted the Whitecaps to third in the Western standings. Albeit there are teams that could surpass them after the Sunday games and the Blue and White are the team with the most games played.
Nevertheless. The team’s early struggles of the season seem far away at this point and, more importantly, this team has proven that it can be flexible in their lineup, formation, and game plan while still scoring goals and winning games.
After beating two rivals in one week, the Whitecaps supporters will go to bed with grin in their faces tonight.
Budweiser Man of the Match: Kekuta Manneh
Referee: Robert Sibiga
12’ – VAN – Kekuta Manneh
18’ – VAN – Christian Bolaños
37’ – TOR – Sebastian Giovinco (Damien Perquis)
66’ – TOR – Sebastian Giovinco (Michael Bradley)
70’ – VAN – Kekuta Manneh (Pedro Morales)
72’ – VAN – Pedro Morales (Kekuta Manneh)
80’ – TOR – Drew Moor (Sebastian Giovinco)
Possession: Toronto 61.2% – Vancouver 38.8%
Shots: Toronto 21 – Vancouver 8
Shots on Goal: Toronto 10 – Vancouver 6
Saves: Toronto 2 – Vancouver 7
Fouls: Toronto 10 – Vancouver 13
Offsides: Toronto 1 – Vancouver 2
Corners: Toronto 11 – Vancouver 0
35’ – VAN – Pa-Modou Kah
63’ – VAN – Fraser Aird
76’ – VAN – Fraser Aird
89’ – VAN – Blas Pérez
90’ + 5’ – TOR – Sebastian Giovinco
1.Clint Irwin; 33.Steven Beitashour, 24.Damien Perquis (19.Daniel Lovitz 78’), 3.Drew Moor, 2.Justin Morrow; 21.Jonathan Osorio (14.Jay Chapman 80’), 4.Michael Bradley ©, 9.Tsubasa Endoh, 7.Will Johnson; 17.Jozy Altidore (11.Mo Babouli 38’), 10.Sebastian Giovinco
Substitutes not used
40.Quillan Roberts, 5.Ashtone Morgan, 15.Eriq Zavaleta, 23.Josh Williams
Vancouver Whitecaps FC
1.David Ousted; 8.Fraser Aird, 26.Tim Parker, 44.Pa-Modou Kah, 2.Jordan Harvey; 7.Christian Bolaños, 15.Matías Laba, 31.Russell Teibert, 77.Pedro Morales © (17.Andrew Jacobson 89’); 19.Erik Hurtado (27.Blas Pérez 85’), 23.Kekuta Manneh (6.Jordan Smith 78’)
Substitutes not used
70.Paolo Tornaghi, 3.Sam Adekugbe, 11.Nicolás Mezquida, 13.Cristian Techera