They didn't make it easy on themselves, but the Vancouver Whitecaps have their first win since the MLS regular season restarted.
The Whitecaps topped Toronto FC 3-2 at BC Place in a match that saw them jump out in front twice only to relinquish the lead both times. A winner from Jake Nerwinski in the 77th minute proved to be the difference, with coach Marc Dos Santos saying after the game that while he was happy with the end result, there's still plenty of work to be done.
“I think it was more relief to get the three points and keep working and keep trying to do things in training to better the team. But was it fully joy? No," Dos Santos said on his postgame video call. "We have to hold ourselves accountable that it was good three points, good win, good to score, but so much to still work.”
"It was a win, a fight and commitment and guys doing things with passion, but it wasn't very good. It wasn't very good in some parts of our game," Dos Santos continued. "Again, we have to grow with the ball, we have to. If we grow with the ball we're going to have even more opportunities to score. Defensively, in 1-v-1 situations, we didn’t close down all the time very well and aggressive. I think the margin to progress is so high. And to do that while you win is important.”
One of the most encouraging signs for Dos Santos had to be seeing striker Lucas Cavallini get on the scoresheet. The Canadian international was expected to carry much of the goal-scoring load this season, but he hadn't found the net through five games.
He broke through in the 17th minute of Saturday's match, heading home a pinpoint ball from left back Ali Adnan for the opener. And Dos Santos was pleased with the early returns of Cavallini's play up top next to youngster Theo Bair: "They were able to in some moments be a threat or put Toronto in a position that they need to back off, so it was positive."
Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said he thought it was set-piece defending that was his side's undoing, in a match where he felt they did a good job of limiting chances from open play. That, along with failing to convert more of the many chances they did generate, is Vanney's key areas of focus.
“I’d say generally from 18 to 18 great [performance],” Vanney said. “Games aren’t won between the 18s. They’re won in the 18-yard boxes. So on the attacking side we’ve got to turn some of this good play into goals. Having said that, giving up three goals is very, very difficult to win a game or draw a game. And I think [Vancouver] had four shots on which we give up three goals, two of which on set pieces or second phases. It’s a bit infuriating because they really weren’t able to get much going other than the set pieces that we don’t deal with.”
“For sure it’s frustrating,” said Toronto FC veteran Jonathan Osorio. “To dominate a game like that, we created a lot of chances, scored on two [chances] probably should have scored on a few others. And to give up so little chances and then to concede on those ones [we did], it hurts.”
It's now two losses in a row for Toronto FC who failed to add to their lead in the race to clinch a Canadian Championship final berth, which goes to the top team in the current series of nine matches played among Canada's three MLS clubs. It sets up a critical showdown on Wednesday against the Montreal Impact.
"We need to go into that game with the mentality of three points or nothing," Osorio said.
"We've got to win that game. There are no ifs, ands or buts. We can't tie it either. We go there with the mentality to get three points and put ourselves in position to finish this phase with three points."