Final Score: Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-0 Valour FC
Goalscorers: Teibert 18′, Raposo 21′
2022 Canadian Championship
Match in a minute or less
For the first time since 2018, the Vancouver Whitecaps have won a Canadian Championship tie, as they nabbed a 2-0 win over Valour FC at home in preliminary round action of the 2022 tournament on Wednesday.
Despite a resilient performance from their guests, Valour, who did well to battle toe-to-toe with the Whitecaps for most of the game, Vancouver were clinical when they needed to be, nabbing two early goals through Russell Teibert and Ryan Raposo before cruising to victory.
As a result, they’ll now advance to the quarterfinals, where a date with Cavalry awaits them, a team that famously beat them at that stage back in 2019, which should make for a fun rematch.
Valour FC shows no fear away from home, but lack of clinical edge proves costly
Faced with the challenge of playing an MLS team for the first time competitively — away from home, to boot — it was always going to be a challenging game for Valour.
Yet, despite that, Valour did the one thing their fans would’ve wanted to see from them – play without any fear.
Facing off against a Whitecaps team who has struggled in this competition in recent years, Valour came out with confidence, showing no indication that they were fazed by the occasion.
As a result, they ended up playing some very good soccer on the night.
From their play on the ball, to their hard work off of it, they came out with every intention of going toe-to-toe with their hosts. And seeing some of the moments that they had, such as a few sequences where they went back-to-front in possession, to some occasions where they defended well, they overall had a lot to like with their game.
“Yeah, that’s one thing we pride our team on,” Valour midfielder Brett Levis, noted. “As long as the game is in reach, there’s always an opportunity to swing the game.”
But for all of the good flashes that they had, they weren’t perfect on the night, and that’d prove costly.
Offensively, for all of the good flashes that they had on the ball, they didn’t necessarily muster up the shots nor the dangerous opportunities to really put the Whitecaps defenders under enough pressure.
Combine that with a few tough moments defensively, ones where the Whitecaps showed no hesitation in making them pay, and that’d be a recipe for trouble, one that would prove to cost Valour.
But alas, that’s just the reality of these cup games, one that Valour is well familiar with from past forays into this tournament.
In a one-off game, you need to be at your absolute sharpest, as the match can often be decided on the finest of razor-thin margins. And in this game, the Whitecaps would be on top of those margins, and as a result, leaving Valour to ponder what could’ve been had that’d not been the case.
“We have a good group,” Valour head coach, Phil Dos Santos, added. “We have a group that’s going to grow a lot, the margin to progress is very big in their mentality and their ability to stick together in difficult moments, even in times of the game where it’s hard.”
Whitecaps snap four-year CanChamp drought in style
Heading into this game, they admitted that it was their biggest match of the season.
Currently struggling in MLS play, sitting tied for last place in the league, the Vancouver Whitecaps came into this knowing that they had to go all-in for the Canadian Championship. And their lineup would reflect that, as they went for a pretty experienced side, despite making six changes from their most recent XI.
Yet, while they certainly talked the talk in terms of it being their biggest game, they still had to walk the walk. And considering that they had last won a Canadian Championship match back in 2018, when they downed CF Montreal (then the Impact) in the semi-finals of that year’s competition, before going on a run of five games without winning as they got knocked out in the preliminary round of both the 2019 and 2021 tournaments, that was easier said than done.
But despite that recent history, they did well to put it behind them in this game. After weathering a strong start from the guests, they really found their legs after about 15 minutes, allowing them to grab those crucial first two goals, allowing them to breathe a little.
Not only that, but unlike their previous few Canadian Championship matches, where they often sat back and let their opponents dictate play, they grabbed that lead through some dominant play, as well, showing good intent with their play.
“We approached with the right mindset to play at the top of our game,” Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini admitted.
Especially in transition, where they were especially dangerous, doing well to find gaps in the Valour defensive line, it’d be a confident performance from the hosts, who started to look nothing like the team that has been struggling mightily in league play. And considering that they finished with 49% possession, 14 shots and 1.5 xG, the numbers back that up, as well.
Through that, they’d be able to finally shake off some of the struggles that had previously dogged them in this competition, snapping their winless drought in the process.
Which for the Whitecaps, is huge. They’ve long stated that they’ve got big ambitions in this tournament, wanting to regularly compete for the glory of being able to lift the Voyageurs Cup (and nab the spot in the Concacaf Champions League that it provides), yet their results haven’t always reflected that.
This year, however, they’re hoping that can change, especially given how the draw has stacked up for them, allowing them to play all but one game at home if they are to indeed keep this up and make the final.
Of course, before they can even dream of the final, they must first take things one game at a time, starting with a tough visit to Alberta to take on Cavalry FC away in the next round, but if they keep up this level of performance, they’ll certainly fancy their chances, potentially allowing them to fully bury those past Canadian Championship nightmares.
“It’s good for the confidence of the team,” Raposo explained. “No one’s overly excited like they weren’t expecting it, but yeah, it’s good. It’s good for the team morale, it’s good to get a couple of goals, and more importantly, keep a clean sheet.”
Rayane-Yuba Yesli helps show Valour goalkeeper depth
Despite it being such a big game for Valour, they turned to a new face in goal for this game, as Rayane-Yuba Yesli started in what was his first professional appearance, and first game for his club (although, interestingly, this was his second Canadian Championship appearance having played in this competition with PLSQ outfit AS Blainville last year).
The change was forced, to be fair, as usual starting Valour goalkeeper, Jonathan Sirois, was unable to play in this game due to a clause in his loan contract from CF Montreal, but despite that, Dos Santos was confident in Yesli heading into this game, noting that he felt that he had two really solid goalkeepers.
Which after this game, certainly seems like a fair statement, as after a nervous start, Yesli really grew into the game, showing why the 22-year-old shot-stopper was so highly-rated coming out of Quebec at the start of the year.
Sitting at six feet and seven inches tall, he showed strong movement for someone of that height, getting down to several low shots, including some from close range. On top of that, he was relatively calm on the ball in most situations, helping Valour play out of the back, something that is a key pillar of their game.
As a result, it left him to finish this game with six saves, many of them solid stops, showing what he can bring between the sticks. He’ll feel like he could’ve done better on the first goal, of course, but other than that, he left the game with a lot to be happy about, especially in his first professional appearance.
So although he’ll be in tough for more minutes with Sirois, the 2021 CPL Golden Glove winner, sitting in front of him, look for him to continue to push his Quebecois counterpart in training.
And should he be called upon again, he’ll look to build off of what he showed in flashes in this game, bringing that into that next appearance, helping deliver on the potential that many have said that he holds in bunches, for good reason.
“It was good for him to come here and have a game of very high level of difficulty,” Dos Santos said. “And to show that he’s someone that was drafted by the club (for a reason).”
CanPL.ca Player of the Match
Ryan Raposo, Vancouver Whitecaps FC
Ryan Raposo might’ve only seen the pitch for 61 minutes in this game, but he made the most of that time, scoring one goal, and creating the other, while adding five shots and two key passes to go along with that. As a result, it felt like most of the Whitecaps attack came through him when he was on the pitch, showing his growing influence on this Vancouver side, who has increasingly started to rely on the young Canadian in recent weeks.
Having won this game, the Vancouver Whitecaps will travel to Calgary for the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship, where they’ll take on Cavalry FC at ATCO Field sometime between May 24th and 26th, with a spot in the semi-finals against either Pacific FC or York United sitting on the line for the winner.
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