VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Perhaps big, organizational changes inspired the Vancouver Whitecaps to raise their level of play. The Whitecaps were excellent against D.C. United Saturday and collected all three points in a deserved 1-0 victory.
The day prior, Vancouver announced far-reaching updates to its front office. Long-serving president Bob Lenarduzzi will be replaced by a yet-to-be-hired sporting director.
Problems on and off the field meant that Lenarduzzi and the club have been under pressure for months. After the official announcement, it felt like a weight was lifted.
All about Wayne Rooney?
With the Whitecaps eliminated from the Canadian Championship, the Cascadia Cup and nearly eliminated from MLS Cup playoff contention, the game was all about Wayne Rooney’s last visit to BC Place.
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) August 17, 2019
A Twitter poll conducted ahead of the game indicated that the majority of Vancouverites who attended went not to see the Whitecaps, but the former England men’s national team star.
A quick glance around BC Place further highlighted that picture. Many fans in the stands were wearing Manchester United or even Everton shirts.
“Any clean sheet feels amazing,” goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau said. “If it’s against Rooney, even better. It’s a great evening.”
After the game, there was a general sense that the victory against one of Major League Soccer’s biggest stars was an uplifting experience for a club in dire need for good news.
A hint of Borussia Dortmund
The game was not just about the three points, however. The Whitecaps also made some significant tactical progress.
It was fascinating to watch Vancouver defensively in the first half. For the first time this season, there was a true sense of where head coach Marc Dos Santos wants to take this team tactically.
The ’Caps would almost collapse to the center, allowing D.C. to roam out wide while shutting down areas in which there are higher goalscoring probabilities.
It is an idea that is familiar to Bundesliga fans, in general, and Borussia Dortmund fans, in particular. Dortmund head coach Lucien Favre has come up with a system that forces opponents to take chances from areas in which the xG (expected goals) percentages are low.
⚽️#DCU and Rooney frustrated
⚽️More Theo Bair appreciation pic.twitter.com/o5AYXghbdF
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) August 18, 2019
“That’s how we’ve been working,” Dos Santos said in the postgame press conference about his defensive approach in the first half. “If you see in our model of play, we allow the opponent to get wide, but we protect a lot of the central area. It’s part of how we like to defend.”
The head coach acknowledged his affinity for Favre’s tactics.
“I am a big fan of Lucien Favre and the way Dortmund plays,” Dos Santos told Pro Soccer USA after the press conference. “Favre has done very good work in France, and I like the model.”
Dos Santos also admitted his side still needs work to become the Borussia Dortmund of Major League Soccer in an attacking sense.
“That is where I want to go,” he said. “I feel there is so much that we have to do to grow, and right now, we are not 100 percent able to do it. In our half, we got it right. But we need to become a bit more aggressive around the field with and without the ball.”