Vancouver Whitecaps

Validating Performance for VFC over Visiting Wanderers

Thursday night at Willoughby Community Park, Vancouver FC went top of the Canadian Premier League table with a convincing 2-0 victory over visiting HFX Wanderers.

While the season is still very young, full credit has to be given to the Eagles for their perfect start. Vancouver said all of the right things this off-season about their ambitions to be more competitive in their second season, and through two weeks, they have been delivering.

It was easy enough after the opening weekend to add caveats to Vancouver’s opening day win. Valour FC was rated by many to be at the bottom of the table come season’s end, and Vancouver’s overloading approach in that match is unlikely to play well against all of their CPL opposition.

Yet, what the Eagles showed on Thursday night against the Wanderers was a sign of something far more sustainable than an opening day goal-scoring outburst: An aggressive but structured performance that left their opponents looking for answers, while leaving no doubt as to who was the dominant side at the end of 90 minutes.

Perhaps most poignantly, it felt as though Vancouver never gave the visitors a moment to breathe, let alone the chance to assert their authority on the match. The Atlantic team, slated by many to be near the top of the table this year after a successful debut campaign under Patrice Gheisar, had no joy in possession throughout the match, notching only two notable scoring chances (one of those deep in extra time), and never finding any kind of sustainable attacking play in the final third.

Although a number of HFX’s dynamic attacking players are still coming up to full fitness after a frustrating pre-season, most notably Massimo Ferrin, it was nonetheless an impressive clean sheet for the Eagles, a team whose defensive woes underlined much of last year’s campaign. The partnership of David Norman Jr and Rocco Romeo at the back has quickly improved the confidence Afshin Ghotbi’s side has been able to play with, especially with the leadership of Norman Jr elevating the play of those around him.

It also helps when your centrebacks are able to chip in with goals at the other end of the pitch. Vancouver opened the scoring in the 17th minute of this match following a wild sequence that saw the Wanderers’ Jérémy Gagnon-Laparé confusingly elect to head the ball back to his own keeper Yann Fillion, after a corner was deflected high inside his own area. Fillion was not able to handle that headed pass, and Rocco Romeo was the first the pounce on the free ball, smashing it home to secure his first goal for the Eagles and the second by a VFC centreback in as many weeks.

(Beau Chevalier / Vancouver FC)

Vancouver took advantage of another Wanderers’ error for their second goal in the 52nd minute, as Moses Dyer stole the ball away from HFX defender Daniel Nimick after a heavy touch. Dyer sprinted in on goal, evading back-tracking Halifax defenders and the goalkeeper before eventually firing a shot off the right post. In that moment, you thought the Wanderers might have secured the break of good fortune they needed to get themselves back in the match. Instead, the rebound fell directly into the path of a lurking Alejandro Díaz, who slotted home the second-chance opportunity calmly, notching his first goal for Vancouver since July of last year.

(Beau Chevalier / Vancouver FC)

While the goals themselves happened under fortuitous circumstances, it would be hard to say that the result was less than what Vancouver deserved. In addition to their stout defending, Vancouver’s direct attack, playing long diagonal balls and utilizing the strengths of their two dynamic centre-forwards Dyer and Diaz, consistently kept a new-look back three for Gheisar’s Wanderers off-balance. It severely tested Halifax’s organization and composure in a way that Pacific was largely unable to do the previous weekend over on the Island.

Compared to the home opener, Vancouver’s fullbacks Gee and Chung were less active on the ball in this match, paying more attention to their defensive responsibilities, but Vasco Fry and Renan Garcia were once again very good in the middle of the park, stifling Halifax’s buildup and quickly getting the ball back to the feet of Vancouver’s dynamic attackers in dangerous areas.

Overall through two weeks, the Eagles have shown that they are capable of winning in different ways, which is especially impressive given the fact that Afshin Ghotbi elected not to make a single change to the starting XI going into this match with Halifax. It also sends a message to the rest of the squad that if they want to see meaningful minutes, they are going to have to earn them the hard way.

Although Vancouver does have the weekend to rest, they can’t let their minds wander for too long. A Canadian Championship tie looms large for the Eagles, as they head out on the road on Tuesday, an opportunity to test their newfound success in a knockout match against Cavalry FC at Spruce Meadows.

Week by week, the challenges keep getting bigger for Vancouver FC. After clearing their first two hurdles, it will be interesting to see just how far this team can ascend before their first setback.

To continue reading please choose to download our free app, or visit the original website.

League Table

Illuminate\Database\Eloquent\Collection {#1894 // resources/views/components/league-table.blade.php
  #items: []
  #escapeWhenCastingToString: false