The Vancouver Whitecaps’ busy week of three matches in eight days culminated with a 3-2 loss to New York City FC (2W-3L-4D, 9 pts) on Saturday afternoon. The win was New York’s first home victory of the season and their first win at Yankee Stadium in almost seven months.
Vancouver striker Octavio Rivero has been a marked man both on and off the pitch this season. Rivero’s lack of goals has been a hot topic of discussion among fans and pundits with many calling for the former O’Higgins FC frontman to be benched. Rivero, who was a substitute in the one-all draw versus Sporting Kansas City midweek, was back in the starting XI against New York City.
Rivero opened his 2016 goal scoring account in the first minute of play against City. The high-pressing Nicolás Mezquida first forced Jason Hernandez to make a poor backpass and then got a foot to goalkeeper Josh Saunder’s attempted clearance. The beleaguered Rivero was unmarked in front of goal, and tapped home the loose ball to give the Whitecaps the early lead.
Rivero himself disappeared from the match in a New York minute when he was forced to leave in the just before the half hour mark with a left ankle sprain.
The 34-game Major League Soccer season is both long and grueling. It’s even tougher for a team like the Whitecaps, who have one of the toughest travel schedules in the league. As a result head coach Carl Robinson will have to juggle and manage his squad through the year as he deals with injuries, suspensions and player fatigue.
It started well I guess. Caps still capable of scoring but so many defensive errors this season
— Russell Berrisford (@squadplayer) April 30, 2016
When the Whitecaps lost to D.C. United last month injuries and suspensions to several of Robinson’s starting players forced him to make five changes to his starting lineup. The result was a disjointed and poor performance from the Whitecaps en route to a humiliating 4-0 loss.
For the New York match Robinson was missing only two starters (Morales – rested, Waston – suspension), but chose to start a team with seven changes from the one that started against Sporting KC on Wednesday evening. There were wholesale changes all over the pitch including three changes on the backline.
In the end it was individual lapses of concentration and static defending that cost the Whitecaps the game. Spanish ace David Villa was left in acres of space when he drew New York level in the 35th minute, as was Steven Mendoza, who scored the match winning goal in the 73rd minute.
There was controversy on Villa’s second goal when New York’s Frederic Brilliant tied up and interfered with Vancouver’s Tim Parker and Matías Laba.
The jostling in front of goal left Villa completely unmarked, and the former FC Barcelona striker volleyed home Andrea Pirlo’s corner kick.
Through ten matches the Whitecaps’ 2016 record of 3W-5L-2D (11 pts, 7th Western Conference) is their slowest start since the inaugural MLS season in 2011.
The ‘Caps have dealt with injuries, suspensions and international call ups in the first two months of the season, but so have many other teams around MLS.
— Simon Fudge (@SimonFudge74) April 30, 2016
The Whitecaps’ performance against NYC was arguably better than the one we saw against D.C. United three weeks ago, but it still was not good enough. NYC FC had not won a match since opening day, and have struggled to hold onto leads all season long.
No matter how you look at it, this was a winnable match for the Whitecaps, as was the home draw against out-of-form Sporting KC. There is still plenty of soccer to play this season, but the points that the Whitecaps have dropped so far this season is concerning.
The task does not get any easier for Vancouver, who face one of their biggest rivals next weekend when the Portland Timbers come to town. The Timbers, who currently sit two points adrift of the Whitecaps, play Toronto FC on Sunday, and a win would move Portland one point ahead of the Whitecaps.
Any way you slice it the stage is being set for an epic Cascadia match at BC Place next Saturday afternoon.