Fire 3, Whitecaps 1: Energy-conserving Caps lose to Chicago, but that’s OK

Vancouver falls to Chicago, but the Whitecaps clearly had their eyes on the big prize up for grabs ahead: the massive Canadian Championship match against Toronto on Tuesday.

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There is no such thing as a good loss. But there are losses that don’t sting quite as bad.

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Saturday night’s 3-1 defeat to the out-of-conference Chicago Fire, by a heavily rotated Vancouver Whitecaps team fixated on the biggest game in club history two days out, isn’t the biggest gut punch.

It means the Caps don’t gain any ground in the Uber-competitive Western Conference, but they don’t give any points to Western teams, either. And their big guns, like Ryan Gauld and Brian White, had plenty of time to rest on the bench.

It took as long as a Kylie Jenner work commute for Chicago (7-10-5) to take the lead, as Xherdan Shaqiri bounced one past Isaac Boehmer through traffic in the 13th minute.


NEXT GAME

Canadian Championship

Tuesday

Toronto FC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

7:30 p.m., B.C. Place, TV: Onesoccer.ca, Radio: AM730

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Lucas Cavallini tied it up in the 54th minute for Vancouver (7-10-5), but Chicago’s Rafael Czichos headed home the eventual winner in the 76th minute. Chris Mueller sidestepped Tristan Blackmon in the box before curling home a shot from the left top corner of the box in the 90th minute, sending the 14,984 fans streaming for the gates, even as seven minutes of added time were announced.

Here’s what we learned …

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BY THE NUMBERS

49: First-half touches for Shaqiri. On the other side, the entire forwards ground of Pedro Vite, Lucas Cavallini and Cristian Dajome had just 44 — combined. The Whitecaps, who made six changes from the 1-1 draw in Portland, were clearly looking past this game to Tuesday’s Canadian Championship match. The first half were a Chicago domination, though they ticked up the energy in the second half, tying the game before conceding two more goals.

Chicago Fire FC midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri (10) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Whitecaps goaltender Isaac Boehmer (60) during the first half at B.C. Place. Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Fire FC midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri (10) celebrates his goal against Vancouver Whitecaps goaltender Isaac Boehmer (60) during the first half at B.C. Place. Photo: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports Photo by Anne-Marie Sorvin /USA TODAY Sports

0: Number of league games this season the Whitecaps have held the possession advantage. They had 38 per cent tonight. Possession is a stat that can be misleading viewed on its own, but a macro view of the season paints the picture of a team unable to consistently build and impose their will on opposing teams.

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3: Pre-planned halftime substitutes by the Whitecaps, after a slightly numb first half performance: Javain Brown out, Tristan Blackmon in; Andres Cubas out, Russell Teibert in; Julian Gressel out, Ryan Gauld in. These were all tactical substitutions made with an eye on the optimum load management with Tuesday’s game looming. White also came on in the 67th minute for Cavallini.

16: Shots for Chicago to Vancouver’s eight. But the shots on target, as is the norm for the efficient Caps, were closer; 4-3 to the Fire.

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2: Golden scoring chances for the Caps in an otherwise forgettable first half. Gressel set up Dajome inside eight yards for a shot that went off the crossbar, and Cavallini’s kung fu hustle kick on a cross from Vite that forced a high-difficulty reaction save from Chicago’s Gabriel Slonina.

7: Goals on the season for Cavallini, a new MLS high for him. Godinho’s cutback from the left flank found Gauld at the corner of the box. His one-time cross curling into the six yard box, where Cava was all alone to redirect it in with the outside of his boot. He had six goals in 2020 and three in 2021.

Vancouver Whitecaps’ Lucas Cavallini celebrates his goal against the Chicago Fire during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, on Saturday, July 23, 2022.
Vancouver Whitecaps’ Lucas Cavallini celebrates his goal against the Chicago Fire during the second half of an MLS soccer game in Vancouver, on Saturday, July 23, 2022. Photo by DARRYL DYCK THE CANADIAN PRESS /THE CANADIAN PRESS

NOT-SO SURPRISE STARTERS

Vanni Sartini hinted earlier this week that he was going to start his newest acquisition on Saturday, so it wasn’t surprising to see Julian Gressel in the Starting XI graphic.

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The D.C. United refugee got the call on the left flank and went 45 minutes in his first appearance for Vancouver.

“We are throwing a lot of information at him; new tactics, new way of interpret these positions,” Sartini said on Thursday.

“So yesterday was I would say rightly tired at the end of the training because it wasn’t also just demanding training but was with me. ‘Oh, when the ball is here, you have to do this. When the ball is here, you have to do, this.’

“So I would say that we can expect I think that it’s gonna be better for him to to start immediately the game instead of getting into the game because when he can start when the when everything is settled down and we can get in more in the say in the tactics and in the way of playing.”

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Gressel fit in well, setting up Dajome for a chance and Cubas for a long-distance attempt in his load-managed minutes. He had a shot and two key passes, high on the Caps through the first half.

Boehmer also got the second straight call between the sticks for the Whitecaps, but made his first home appearance. He was only credited with a single save, but couldn’t be faulted for any of the goals. He looked to be partially screened on Shaqiri’s first half goal, Czichos’s header came from inside the six, and Mueller’s banana-ball shot wasn’t getting saved by any keeper.

TORONTO DID WHAT?

Toronto FC made Charlotte FC look like a bunch of limp noodles Saturday as the Italian era got underway for TFC.

With their three new big money Italian signings all playing, TFC downed Charlotte 4-0 on Saturday night.

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Lorenzo Insigne, Federico Bernardeschi and Domenico Criscito — are all now ready to play. Insigne, a.k.a. “Il Magnifico,” started for Toronto, as did Criscito and Bernardeschi. The latter set up Michael Bradley in the 10th minute, four minutes after Jonathan Osario opened the scoring, then grabbed a goal of his on in his debut in the 31st minute.

Bernardeschi’s goal and assist was the first time since 2009 a player has done that in his MLS debut.

Bradley also added a second in first-half injury time to give him three on the year. The 34-year-old has only scored more than three (5) in a season once in his 11-year MLS career.

The Reds also have an eye on Tuesday’s game, as Insigne and Bernardeschi were subbed off for the second half.

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