Los Angeles, Calif. — The Vancouver Whitecaps season opener against Sporting Kansas City was really one to forget. With a number of storylines breaking through, Saturday’s clash with the LA Galaxy couldn’t come soon enough, and Tosaint Ricketts was the star.
Vancouver started with a pair of changes in defense, Andy Rose in for Derek Cornelius, and Janko Bikel made his team debut at right back. Also making his Whitecaps debut was Tosaint Ricketts, replacing Yordy Reyna to pair with Lucas Cavallini up top. A chance to right the ship early on was on the mind of coach Marc Dos Santos, who stressed the importance of sticking together.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 8, 2020
Whitecaps battle through popular Galaxy
It was an exciting back and forth game through the first 45 minutes, and the introduction of rookie Ryan Raposo got the creative wheels turning. His inclusion was a huge improvement in the middle of the field from Russell Teibert and Inbeom Hwang, creating more depth and support in central positions. However, it was veteran striker Ricketts grabbing the headlines, apart from a disappointing home opener from Chicharito.
It was something so elementary, but has stood the test of time to be so effective as well. The goal began with a beautifully weighted through ball from Raposo in the 74th minute, to complete the give and go with Ali Adnan sent the left back barreling down on the touchline. An extended touch to get away from Nick DePuy opened the space to square it to Ricketts. In a move that signals that of someone with experience, the Canadian international dropped back and away from the defenders who were caught ball watching, to calmly side foot the cross home for the game’s lone goal.
A minute later, the mountain got even harder to climb for LA. Joe Corona went studs up on Teibert in an unnecessary challenge. Referee Ismail Elfath was forced to show Corona a red card, with another big decision for the referee coming in the 87th minute. Raposo’s through ball into the box was intended for Tosaint Ricketts, but he clipped the feet of Giancarlo Gonzalez, which sent him tumbling to the floor. Cavallini stepped up to try and open his MLS scoring account, but it will have to wait for another day. The shot was low and powerful, but went straight to the feet of David Bingham, who stood in the center of the goal.
That wrapped up an overall impressive team performance from Vancouver, achieving a feat that took them nine games to do last year: win a match.
Vancouver starting line up player ratings
- Maxime Crepeau (7) — You can never go wrong with a clean sheet. However, he did only face one shot on goal. Regardless, he was again vocal and orchestrated his defense.
- Janio Bikel (8) — A very strong and well rounded showing on his league debut, Bikel kept Pavon in his back pocket until the final whistle.
- Rose (7.5) — It’s interesting to see where dos Santos slots in Andy Rose this year. With his playing time potentially limited once Veselinovic arrives and Godoy returns, Rose needs to make every minute count. He did.
- Adnan (7) — There was room for improvement for sure for Adnan after the Sporting KC game. He was much more patient on defense, completed his passes and grabbed an assist.
- Cristian Dájome (7) — Similarly to last week, Dajome never quite made the impact that he’s capable of. A solid showing no doubt, doing the fundamentals right.
- Teibert (7) — A step up for sure from captain Teibert, becoming more involved in midfield play. His spacing allowed for an easy transition from defense to attack, but still not a game changing performance.
- Hwang (7) — Flashes of last season’s golden boy came out down in Carson. The occasional turn or long pass really allowed for an expansive style of play.
- Milinkovic (6.5) — A tough one to grade, Milinkovic never seemed really that involved and seemed content with watching the game go by. He didn’t have a bad game, just not a good one either.
- Ricketts (8.5) — Grabbing the only goal of the game will always put you in contention for man of the match. But the runs through, aggression and high IQ plays were all icing on the cake for the veteran.
- Cavallini (6.5) — Another quiet performance for the big money move for Vancouver. There was a missed penalty and he looked rather stiff in and around the box. Things need to change quickly, for his and Vancouver’s sake.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) March 8, 2020
What’s next for the Whitecaps?
A number of debuts happened for the Whitecaps, including the aforementioned Raposo, who really sparked the rather stale midfield at the time with his play. Leonard Owusu played out the last handful of minutes and couldn’t really find a genuine impact after replacing Milinkovic in the 84th minute. However, the big performance came from Bikel, who slotted in at right back. Playing the full 90, the defender locked down the always dangerous Cristian Pavon, and put in a shift that could see an interesting battle at right back unfold, competing with Jake Nerwinski.
Was it a perfect game from Vancouver? No.
Was it close to a perfect game? No.
However, these are the games that competitive teams grind away and find a way to win. LA had chances — and good ones — but for a rebuilding team, to open the season with a performance like that, it instills confidence for the Whitecaps.
New players getting minutes, testing out different defensive pairings? Dos Santos has hit the ground running in 2020. It’s a difficult stretch coming up for Vancouver, with five of their next six coming against teams who made the playoffs last year. To start that stretch with three points on the road does much more than just getting three points on the board.
Vancouver will return home on Saturday to host the Colorado Rapids.