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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Dynamo 2, Whitecaps 1: Darwin proves the theory of natural selection

Lucas Cavallini snaps his dry spell, but the Whitecaps remain winless on the season after Darwin Quintero leads the Houston Dynamo to victory.

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Darwin showed that the Vancouver Whitecaps still have some evolving to do.

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Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Quintero scored a brace to rally the home side from an early deficit to a 2-1 victory over the Caps at PNC Stadium on Saturday afternoon in Texas.

The Whitecaps (0-2-1) are winless on the season, but on the bright side, they at least got their first goal — courtesy of striker Lucas Cavallini in the 14th minute. But there were some gaps in their game, both offensively and defensively, that will need to be addressed if they want to repeat last year’s playoff push.

“I think we showed a lot of attitude and character today,” said Cavallini. “You can lose a game, but you can’t give up. We didn’t … we were constantly trying to attack, had some great chances and unfortunately, couldn’t get the tie. I’m not gonna make any excuses … but yeah, I think we deserved to win the game.”

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The Dynamo (1-1-1) not only got their first goal of the season, they got two courtesy of Quintero, the 34-year-old former Minnesota United star.

Here’s what we learned…

Houston Dynamo Fc Defender Adam Lundkvist (3) Chases Vancouver Whitecaps Fc Midfielder Ryan Gauld (25) In The First Half At Pnc Stadium.  Photo: Thomas Shea-Usa Today Sports
Houston Dynamo FC defender Adam Lundkvist (3) chases Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder Ryan Gauld (25) in the first half at PNC Stadium. Photo: Thomas Shea-USA Today Sports Photo by Thomas Shea ,USA TODAY Sports

TOUGH SLEDDING AHEAD

Looking at the first four games of the season when the schedule was released, and it was realistic to think the Caps could start 0-4. Two games against the last two MLS Cup champs, an away game to a team where they’d only won once (Houston) and a trip to the Banc of California Stadium to face a resurgent LAFC and their former starting keeper, Max Crepeau.

The Dynamo date was the most likely chance to pick up three points, even if their only win in nine previous games in Houston came in March of 2018.

But even an 0-6 start wouldn’t be out of the question, with home games against Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers coming in the first two weeks of April.

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NEXT GAME

Sunday, March 20

Vancouver Whitecaps vs. LAFC

7 pm, Banc of California Stadium, TV:TSN1. Radio: AM730


A tie with New York City was a “bonus” point, according to Sartini, but now the pressure is mounting for them to record some points before their Western Conference counterparts get too far ahead.

Three straight road games follow their home games against SKC and LAFC, but then it’s back to BC Place for three straight in May, and a Canadian Championship game against Valour.

“At the beginning of the season, I thought that this one was the game to win in the first four games, because it’s a team that in our ‘bucket’ of teams. The other teams are contenders for the MLS Cup; Columbus, New York and LA next week,” said Vanni Sartini. “But since we didn’t play the Joker card today (by) winning this game, we have to … try to win in LA The season is long. We have to make another 50 points because with 51 you’re in the playoffs. We need to start making (points) because last year with the miracle, doing at a lot of wins at the end — but miracles don’t happen every year. So we need to start making points.”

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Vancouver Whitecaps Fc Forward Lucas Cavallini (9) Reacts To His Goal Against The Houston Dynamo Fc In The First Half At Pnc Stadium.  Photo: Thomas Shea-Usa Today Sports
Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Lucas Cavallini (9) reacts to his goal against the Houston Dynamo FC in the first half at PNC Stadium. Photo: Thomas Shea-USA Today Sports Photo by Thomas Shea ,USA TODAY Sports

CAVA GETS HIS GOAL

The drought is over. Cavallini has scored a goal for the Whitecaps.

July 4, 2021 was the last time he scored a goal — again, in Texas, but in a 2-2 tie with Dallas.

“It felt good,” said Cavallini. “But, you know, collectively as a team we wanted to win this game. I mean, I finally put in the net, but it didn’t mean a lot because we ended up losing.

“It’s always good to put some in the back of the bet. Builds the confidence a lot for sure. Once you score one, hopefully the rest will keep coming. And that’s something that will come as we build collectively as a team.”

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It had been 16 appearances for Vancouver between goals for El Tanque, who turned in Cristian Dajome’s pinpoint cross 14 minutes into Saturday’s game in Houston.

It came with Cavallini doing what he was brought in to do; play as a target, move off the ball, and stretch the back line. He’d been guilty of dropping far too deep in previous games, trying to get involved in the buildup far from goal instead of putting himself in a scoring position.

His performances with Canada were the blueprint for his success in international play, but it hadn’t translated into the MLS game plan.

Sartini went with two No. 10s instead of two strikers in their formation, leaving Cavallini as the lone striker. He had a team-high five shots, the only two on target, and won a game-best 10 aerial duels.

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“We’re working with him on that. I’m totally fine when (he) comes towards the side of the ball to play the first touch, but then he needs to sprint in the box,” said Sartini. “That’s what happened on the first goal, and it needs to happen more. But he also needs to be helped more by the other offensive players. If they attack the space between the ball and the box, we don’t need Cava to be there. That’s the issue at the moment offensively.”

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BY THE NUMBERS

The Whitecaps were out-possessed 60-40 by the Dynamo, but unlike the one-side play against NYCFC in which they had just 30 per cent possession, managed to outshoot Houston 17-16 (2-4 on target).

Sartini had made stern mention of how his team was overpowered the week before during training this week, and the Caps did respond by winning 53 duels to Houston’s 37, and 8-5 tackles advantage.

Déiber Caicedo, who didn’t come on until the 65th minute, had a team-best four key passes.


SHORT START

It wasn’t Veni, Vidi, Vice for Pedro Vite in his first career MLS start on Saturday. It was more like: he came, he saw, he got subbed off.

The Ecuadorean youngster, playing as a No. 10 beside Ryan Gauld in a 3-4-2-1 formation, started brightly for the Caps, and it was mystifying when he was subbed off just 24 minutes in.

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The team later clarified that it was for a concussion protocol that Vite initiated himself, although he was clearly upset about being taken off.

“So Pedro basically took a little knock in the head, he felt dizzy for like a minute, so he told us ‘I’m feeling dizzy’. Then after two minutes he was OK,” said Sartini. “We wanted to keep him on the field, but the medical officer of the stadium reviewed the play on video and told us that we needed to take him off. It was a mandatory sub, so I didn’t want to stop him because of course he was playing very well — I think he was being one of the best players in the field. But it’s OK. I think it was an overly cautious call by the doctor, but I’m 100 per cent with the doctor because we don’t want anything to happen to our players. So it is what it is.”

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MISSING ELEMENTS

Striker Brian White stayed back in Vancouver after training on Friday, while the team traveled to Houston. Last season’s leading scorer has played just 26 minutes this season as he’s been dogged by a variety of injuries. He also was limited in pre-season play as a precautionary measure.

Centreback Erik Godoy, a stabilizing and veteran presence on the back line, has yet to figure in any games this year. Houston’s second goal came when the Caps defenders blew the timing on an offside call, allowing Quintero to score untouched off a Baird pullback.

Caio Alexandre is another projected impact player who could have been used Saturday in central midfield, where Russell Teibert and Leo Owusu had their issues linking the buildup centrally.

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