Before we take a deep dive into the minutiae of analytics and tactics for which this blog is rightly revered, can we first acknowledge how great it was to be back watching live football again?
The manner of the result helped of course, but it was also about the off the ball vignettes you can never see when watching on a screen.
Florian Jungwirth constantly shouting the team on from the bench, the kit man desperately trying to get the blood out of Javain Brown’s discarded shirt (Why the laundry needed to be done quite so urgently is a question for another day) and the sheer mixture of exhilaration and relief shown by Marc Dos Santos in the moment he realized the game was won.
And how great was it to see that the price of the concessions at BC Place remain hilariously exorbitant?
It all felt surprisingly normal. Not “new normal”, just normal.
And the game felt that way too in the first half. The Whitecaps started brightly, pressing LAFC into mistake after mistake without ever looking likely to make the breakthrough the home crowd were aching for.
Then, around the twenty minute mark, Vancouver lost all momentum and the confidence visibly drained from the team. Nobody wanted the ball and those who did get the ball wanted to get rid of it as quickly as possible, regardless of who it went to.
It felt inevitable that the visitors would score and they did with a penalty that probably was one in real time, but shouldn’t have been one on VAR review.
But that penalty probably did Dos Santos a favour since it forced his hand in bringing on both Gauld and Baldisimo on for the start of the second half. Baldisimo always looks for the forward pass and Gauld, once again, gave the whole team a lift simply with his presence.
The Whitecaps still weren’t great, but they did at least test an LAFC defence that struggled to deal with anything other than the most straightforward of forays into their ranks.
Yet even the most world weary of cliched hacks could have written the script whereby Gauld scores the winning goal in the final minutes of the game. And he did just that by demonstrating an ability to drift into open space in the penalty area (This ability basically counts as a super power if you are a Whitecap) and his team saw out the inevitably extended period of added time with surprising ease.
The three points accrued felt vital from this game. Not just in terms of the standings, but in terms of giving the players the sense that BC Place was a good place to be. That it was home.
And, all other considerations aside, the coaches and the players deserved that moment after all they have been through in the last eighteen months and, quite frankly, so did we.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!
Crepeau-6*, Nerwinski-5, Brown-5.5, Veselinovic-5, Rose-4, Bikel-5, Teibert-4, Owusu-5, Dajome-3, Caicedo-5.5, White-5 (Gauld-5.5, Baldisimo-5.5).