After a 1-1 draw in Harrison, NJ the Whitecaps returned to BC Place Stadium having a slight advantage, having scored away from their home fans. However they were facing leaders of the Eastern Conference in the 2016 season who have the league’s best goalie and the league’s top assist leader in the NY Red Bulls. However this year looks like another case of the Red Bulls are two totally different teams competing in one kit. The team that dominated the group stage of the CONCACAF tournament and clinched the first seed in the East, stayed back home in New Jersey, while the Red Bulls that were embarrassed by Toronto were shut out but an energetic Vancouver team.
On the other hand Vancouver, a team who had the fifth overall pick in the 2016 draft and only managed 39 points in 34 games, came out swinging. After having a pretty impressive offseason which saw them sign then 16-year-old Canadian national Alphonso Davies. Who has already scored two goals in the tournament the also signed former US men’s national team star Brek Shea. Shea was formally apart of the recent expansion franchise Orlando City after his stint overseas in England. Shea has struggled in the past with injuries and finding a solid position but is seemingly at home in the Vancouver attack. The Whitecaps also brought in Colombian National Fredy Montero who hasn’t played in the MLS since 2013 but came up big for the Whitecaps last night.
Right out of the gate the Red Bulls looked bad, turnovers in midfield and sloppy play by the back four led to Vancouver being able to bring a lot of pressure with only 3 or 4 attackers leaving 6 men back to deal with the usually dangerous Red Bull counter attack. The break down in New York’s defense showed how much they truly miss Conner Lade, who is out with a torn ACL and will likely return in April and Chris Duvall who now plays for the Montreal Impact. The lack of veteran leaders on defense let the Red Bulls concede a goal in the 5th minute of the game as Alphonso Davies scored off the cross. Davies would collect the ball inside of the box after a botched cross from Kemar Lawrence, the 16-year-old striker would then fool both Lawrence and Robles and put the Whitecaps ahead 1-0. The Red Bulls would try to unleash their offense in response but looked sloppy and foolish and only looked worse after Golonzo Veron went down in the 7th minute stunting the Red Bull attack. Normally this would be a place for Red Bulls Captain Dax McCarty to energize the team and organize the attack with the young Derrick Etienne who came on to replace Veron, but McCarty is now in Chicago, and new captain Sasha Kljestan proved he is no leader yet with the Red Bulls constantly getting caught offside and turning the ball over letting the Vancouver attack of Davies, Shea and De Jong to pile on the pressure. The Red Bulls would have been down 3-0 if not for tremendous saves by Luis Robles and after two big misses from Royer in the 21st minute and Wright-Phillips in the 40th minute, the Red Bulls headed into the locker room down 1 at the half, getting out shot by the Whitecaps 5-2.
After 45 minutes of lackluster play the Red Bulls finally started putting some offense together. Forcing Vancouver to make a really tough save off a header and Shea missing a volley in the 54th minute, the Red Bulls looked like they could force a tie. In the 57th minute Royer snuck into the box and put the ball into the back of the net causing the Vancouver crowd to go silent as the Red Bulls celebrated, but the celebration was short-lived as the ref had called Royer offsides before he had scored the goal. That offsides call caused all the fire in the Red Bulls to go out, as they played extremely defensive in a game they had to win. Fredy Montero would make his first Vancouver appearance in replacing a tired De Jong and the fast fresh player was no match for a Red Bulls team that looked like they wanted to go home. After forcing a corner Davies would put the ball into the box and right to Sasha Kljestan, who would deflect the ball right to Montero and the new signing made his money as he scored only six minutes after he debuted in the 70th minute. With the Red Bulls needing 2 goals to force overtime the Whitecaps dropped back into a defensive formation with 4 men in midfield with 5 men at the defensive position leaving Davies as a lone striker. After warding off the final few attacks from the Red Bulls, Vancouver would go on to win and head to Mexico for the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal.
Luis Robles: 2 Goals Allowed, 5 saves, 1 punched ball, 1 caught cross
Alphonso Davies: 1 goal, 2 Shots, 1 Shot on Goal
|7||Shots on Target||2|
|4||Shots off Target||2|
|49 %||Passing Accuracy||73 %|
|27.4 %||Possession||72.6 %|
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