VANCOUVER, Canada — The Vancouver Whitecaps made it two wins in a row when they defeated Cascadia Cup rivals Portland Timbers 1-0 on Friday evening.
The Whitecaps were in control for 45 minutes and should have led by more going into halftime. In the second, half Portland was the stronger side, but the Caps also had chances to put the game away. Overall, however, this was the best Whitecaps performance under new head coach Marc Dos Santos.
1. Progress for Whitecaps
It is a matter of small steps for the Whitecaps. Last week against the Colorado Rapids, the Whitecaps were in control for the first 25 minutes before they gave away a 2-0 lead. In the end, the Caps won the game thanks to a late goal by Andy Rose.
This time the Whitecaps managed to extend their control over a full 45 minutes. They had 55 percent possession and bossed the Portland Timbers early.
Then in the second, the Caps lost control.
“We are not Barcelona or Man City,” Dos Santos said after the game. “The first 20 minutes of the game were fantastic in every sense. Possession creating, scoring, mobility in the attack. Very good.
“Then there was a spell of 15 minutes where it was even and then for 35 minutes Portland were in control.”
For Dos Santos, the next step in developing the team is to increase the spell of dominance. After all, the Whitecaps head coach was signed this winter to turn Vancouver from a counter-attacking team to one that plays possession football.
“I feel in the second half we could have made better decisions,” Dos Santos said when asked on how to improve the possession stats over the full 90 minutes. “It is all about work. [Dominating possession] will go from 45 minutes to 60 minutes to 75 minutes and then 90 minutes.”
2. Montero’s re-emergence
Fredy Montero was the best Vancouver player against Colorado Rapids a week ago. Then Friday night against Portland, he scored another goal that turned out to be the game winner.
It is a brilliant turn-around by a player who entering the last two games had only recorded one shot — his penalty goal against Houston Dynamo during the third match of the season.
“You always have two choices when you go through a tough spell,” Dos Santos said. “You put your head down, you cry, you have excuses. Nobody did that, including Fredy,” Dos Santos said.
— Manuel Veth (@ManuelVeth) May 11, 2019
“I tried to work hard you know,” Montero said. “I’m honest to myself, I have a lot of experience and always try to be focused, because there are so many good players on this team.”
But Montero was brought in to score the goals for the Whitecaps and he did just that. His goal to win the game, in fact, is a serious contender for the best goal scored by the Caps this season.
It is exactly the sort of goal that Vancouver expected from Montero when the brought him back this winter.
After all, the Caps identified the Colombian as the man to score the 14 goals that departed with Kei Kamara during the offseason. Now after a slow start, Montero has scored three in the first 11 games for the Whitecaps and, in general, seems to back on track when it comes to his goal-scoring production.
3. Maxime Crépeau: Gold Cup claims
Meanwhile, on the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Maxime Crépeau is emerging as a legitimate challenger to Canadian starting goalkeeper Milan Borjan.
— Vancouver Whitecaps FC (@WhitecapsFC) May 11, 2019
The native of Greenfield Park, Quebec, recorded his fifth shutout of the season on Friday night and was the man of the match. On several occasions, Crépeau had to be on top of his game and denied at least four clear-cut Portland chances.
But while Crépeau was easily the man of the match, the French-Canadian was quick to point out the work rate of his teammates.
“The work ethic of the boys and the mentality of the boys is fantastic,” Crépeau said.
Crépeau was a busy man against Portland. The keeper had to make five saves, four from shots inside the box. Overall, the Portland Timbers had 27 shots, of which five were on target.
“It’s easier for me to be focused when we get action,” Crépeau said. “When you have just one action every 35 minutes, it is a bit more difficult.”
Crépeau said Canadian men’s national team coach John Herdman could count on him to be ready for this summer’s Gold Cup.
“Yeah the Gold Cup is very important for the country,” Crépeau said. “So it is really good to get the confidence here.”