Whitecaps grab all three points in Orlando

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Teams walk out for player introductions during a MLS soccer match between New York City FC and Orlando City SC at the Orlando City Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 05: Teams walk out for player introductions during a MLS soccer match between New York City FC and Orlando City SC at the Orlando City Stadium on March 5, 2017 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images) /

Vancouver Whitecaps FC defeated Orlando City SC 2-1 Saturday night. Despite making nine changes from their midweek match, an own goal and a breakaway goal from Brek Shea sealed the three points for Vancouver.

It was a match the Vancouver Whitecaps clearly expected to get nothing from. Their third game in a week, after a 12 hour cross-country trip from Vancouver to Florida, and with nine changes to their starting XI. But despite giving up 25 shots and having 28% of the possession, the Whitecaps pulled off a smash-and-grab win to steal the points against Orlando City.

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As expected, Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson rotated his starting lineup from Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with Seattle. Out went everyone except Jordan Harvey and Kendall Waston. In came backup goalie Stefan Marinovic for his second start, and central defender Aaron Maund for his Whitecaps debut. With Tony Tchani suspended, Matías Laba injured, and Andrew Jacobson rested, Marcel de Jong was pressed into service in central midfield alongside Russell Teibert.

Nicolás Mezquida replaced Yordy Reyna in the #10 role, with Brek Shea to his left and Bernie Ibini to his right. And Erik Hurtado finally returned to the fold up front.

It was a team set up to defend and counter-attack, and that was how the game looked likely to progress for the first few minutes. Until Mezquida floated a free kick into the penalty area, and Tommy Redding headed into his own net while trying to keep Waston from scoring.

Field goal attempts

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Vancouver’s goal was the cue for the hosts to throw everything at the visitors. But their attempts were largely misguided. Orlando are one of the MLS teams who don’t share their stadium with a football team, but you wouldn’t have known it from where their forwards were putting their shots. Carlos Rivas, in particular, was guilty of field goal attempts that sailed far over Marinovic’s goal. Orlando had 25 shots on Saturday night…four on target.

In fact, Rivas was pulled at halftime and replaced with Cyle Larin, who looked a little better but was well-marked. And shortly after halftime, the Whitecaps doubled their lead.

Brek Shea and Erik Hurtado are two players who are often on the receiving end of criticism from fans and media alike. But on this occasion, they combined brilliantly to put Shea through one-on-one. Playing against his old side, Shea made no mistake as he chipped the ball over Joe Bendik.

Orlando put in a ridiculous number of crosses considering how effective Waston and Maund both were at clearing them, but one finally paid off as Larin got away from Maund to head past Marinovic. That set up a barnstorming final half hour, with Alphonso Davies and Fredy Montero coming close to putting the game away on the break, while Marinovic made a couple of Ousted-esque saves and Harvey blocked a shot with his head.

But in the end, the ‘Caps rise up the standings to fourth in the West, with games still in hand on the teams above them, while Orlando may have just seen their playoff hopes finally extinguished.

A few notes…

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  • The de Jong DM experiment worked surprisingly well. Particularly when paired with a high-energy runner like Teibert who keeps giving the ball away, de Jong’s defensive awareness and efficient tackling were an asset. His biggest contribution was probably covering for the fullbacks, mainly Nerwinski, when they bombed forward.
  • Alphonso Davies needs to work on his composure. It’s easy to get caught up with how good he is for his age (did you know he’s only 16?), but his lack of experience shows through at times. After coming on, he snatched at a couple of golden chances to put the game to bed. Davies has amazing decision-making for a player his age, but he’s still raw. It’s to Robinson’s credit that he keeps allowing Davies to develop at his own pace, mainly playing off the bench against tired legs.
  • It was, however, all worth it to see Davies go toe-to-toe with Kaká, a player almost 20 years older and a legend in the sport, with no fear. At one point, Kaká hauled Davies down to keep him from running away with the ball, and then gave him a hug. Davies’ smile when he saw who had fouled him was a sight to behold.
  • Is it premature to suggest that Sheanon Williams’ time in Vancouver could be coming to an end? Williams had a poor performance against Seattle, giving away the penalty from which the Sounders opened the scoring. It was a rare start for Williams, who has barely played since his assault charge, and it was telling that Nerwinski came straight back into the starting XI on Saturday.
  • Aaron Maund had a solid debut. He gave Cyle Larin too much space on Orlando’s goal, but otherwise can be happy with his performance.

Final Score:

Next: RSL's strong form and playoff push continue

Next up is a two-week break, with World Cup Qualifiers on the menu. Waston and Christian Bolaños have both been called up to play for Costa Rica against the USA and Mexico. After that come four consecutive home matches for the Whitecaps. Three of those games are against teams below them in the standings (Minnesota, Colorado, and RSL). We should have a much clearer idea of the playoff picture after that.