It was a night of firsts at BC Place on Wednesday night.
The Vancouver Whitecaps' first win, LAFC's first loss. Marc Dos Santos' first MLS win, Inbeom Hwang's first MLS goal. The milestones for Vancouver were encouraging, as was the club's complete performance to seal three points over league-leading LAFC.
It came at a great time for the club and their star man Hwang.
“It’s going to be a lie if I say I did not have any pressure on me," he admitted after the game. "I know I’m an international player and also a [Designated Player] for the team, so I did have a little bit of pressure. But at the same time, yesterday Marc wanted to have a chat with me. He said that the team and the coaching staff, the entire team, we don’t want you to feel pressure."
Dos Santos also expounded on his chat with Hwang that week.
"Inbeom is a player that is not finished," Dos Santos said. "He is still in development and he cannot play with the pressure that he has to carry the Whitecaps on his back because he cannot do that alone. He’s an important player on the roster, he needs to play with freedom in his role and if he focuses on that the team is going to get better and he’s going to get better.”
The win didn't come without consternation on the sideline. Over the final 15 minutes, LAFC really dialed up the pressure in search of an equalizer.
“My heart was beating a lot, it’s going to take five hours to fall asleep," Dos Santos said. "It’s hard because you’re talking about a team that has scored 21 goals.”
While the club's first win is encouraging, Dos Santos is sure to keep the celebrations measured and the big picture in sight.
"We didn’t win any trophy, we didn’t win anything," Dos Santos said. "We got a win, and even if it’s positive, it’s a good step but we need to continue to build on that. In the last few games there is growth, and that’s what we’re focusing on. We need to win more games if we want to make the club grow and get to our objectives.”
Meanwhile, center back Doneil Henry, who is quickly becoming a rock in defense for the Whitecaps, apologized to LAFC midfielder Latif Blessing. Henry's mistimed challenge on the Ghanaian in the first half earned him a yellow and also ultimately led to Blessing's early substitution because of an apparent shoulder injury.
“Sorry, Latif. I didn’t mean to hit him," Henry said. "I thought I’d seen the ball, seen the opening. After that I just had to be more patient in my defending and make sure that I didn’t make any more mistakes.”