Vancouver Whitecaps

Report Card: Lessons Learned in Loss to Tigres

Although it was a frustrating way to exit continental competition, there’s probably no better way to get ready for the regular season than playing two legs against Tigres UANL in the height of mid-season form.

The final score on Wednesday night in Monterrey, 3-0 (4-1 on aggregate), was not an accurate reflection of how tight these two teams played one another over the course of 180+ minutes these past two weeks, although it is an accurate reflection of just how ruthless the top teams in CONCACAF can be, and just how much the Whitecaps will rue missing so many chances before conceding in the 51st minute down in Mexico.

Overall, the Whitecaps should come away from this tie very encouraged about their progression towards the start of the regular season with some valuable lessons in hand, knowing there is still work to do as they push to be more clinical in maximizing their positive play, and understanding where they still have some holes to fill in terms of players and tactics.

Alright, let’s have a look at the player ratings:

Yohei Takaoka – 6.5

All things considered, this was a good tie for the Japanese keeper, who showed better command of his box than we saw most of last season, especially against a team known for their prowess from corners and set plays. Not much he could do on the three Tigres goals in this one.

Mathias Laborda – 7.5

Dare I say Laborda may have been Vancouver’s best player across the two legs? The Uruguayan appears to be picking things up where he left off at the end of last year – growing in confidence defending 1v1, as well as carrying the ball up the pitch effectively.

Ranko Veselinovic – 6.0

Can’t say I noticed too much from Ranko in this one. That being said, Vancouver was good defensively up until the point they changed shape and were pushing for goals near the end of the match. He does, however, remain well below average in terms of winning aerial duels, which is a bit of a problem for his position in the back three.

Tristan Blackmon – 6.5

Was it just me, or did it feel like Blackmon covered a ton of ground in this match? The American was a busy man with how much Tigres looked to force the issue in wide areas, especially when Vancouver’s wing backs pushed forward. Given all the home side threw at him, he held up quite well.

Andres Cubas – 7.0

The defensive midfielder’s ability to remain involved physically while on a yellow card was really impressive. He had a couple of nice moments spreading the pitch with long balls, while also chipping in with his customary tackles and interceptions on the defensive end.

Alessandro Schopf – 6.0

After a really rough showing in Langford, it was a bit surprising to see the Austrian back in the starting XI down in Mexico. Obviously, it was not clear until after the lineup came out that this was most likely due to Vite’s fitness status rather than a tactical decision. Nonetheless, Schopf acquitted himself decently in this one. He was almost perfect with his passing, got stuck in a couple of times defensively, and the match remained pretty even in his 61 minutes on the pitch. The issue remains that Schopf is not a difference maker at his position in this system, and unless that changes, I imagine he will be passed over in favour of other options come the regular season.

Ryan Raposo – 6.0

Typically, these chippy CONCACAF matchups are the kind of thing Raposo thrives in. While Raposo was not bad, per se, his offensive contributions were not particularly sharp, which did not help in Vancouver’s struggles to turn positive possession into shots on target.

Sebastian Berhalter – 5.0

As the self-assigned president of the Seb Berhalter fan club, it brings me no joy to say that this was a rough match for the young American. While he had a couple of nice matches in a similar position last season, Berhalter looked completely out of sorts in this match, crossing wires with teammates, missing passes, and being caught out of position. I’m not sure if the new role does not suit him or if it was simply an off match, but it will be interesting to see where he plays next for Vancouver, especially if Vite is going to play a deeper role.

Ryan Gauld – 7.0

It’s encouraging to see Gauld playing with the same kind of confidence we saw at the end of last season. Even though it didn’t produce a goal in this match, Gauld is doing all of the right things: making key passes, winning the ball in midfield, springing the Whitecaps in transition, and so on.

Damir Kreilach – 6.0

After the first leg, I can’t say I would have predicted Kreilach playing 81 minutes in this match. With neither himself nor Brian White being particularly quick, it meant that the front two were often quite isolated for Vancouver, and this only got worse as the match wore on. Individually, I like Damir’s instincts and willingness to get involved defensively. The final touch and chemistry will come in time, I am sure, so long as the Whitecaps manage his minutes appropriately. Overall, I thought Picault would have been a better fit to start in this match.

Brian White – 6.0

As is tradition, White is taking a while to find his finishing boots at the start of the season. The Whitecaps key frontman had one great chance to score and another to set up a dangerous opportunity for Vancouver, but neither resulted in a shot on target. Better to get this out of the way before the season starts I guess?

Substitutes – 6.5

Pedro Vite continued to look sharp after a great showing in Langford, while Javain Brown made sense as a replacement for Berhalter, especially after he picked up a yellow card. I thought Fafa Picault was a standout once again, using his pace to pressure Tigres and open space for the Whitecaps in attack. Levonte Johnson came inches away from having a great goal scoring opportunity, only to be thwarted by a perfect tackle from a Tigres defender. Bjorn Utvik was probably hard done by to be out there for two goals against in the late stages, but looked solid enough in making his Whitecaps debut.

Ok, that’s all from me. What did you think of the individual performances, and what will you take away from this year’s CONCACAF Champions Cup experience?

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