A young Vancouver Whitecaps side, missing key players and mourning the death of a teammate’s mother, came close to shocking the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday at the MLS is Back Tournament.
The depleted Whitecaps built 2-0 and 3-1 leads, resisting wave after wave of San Jose attackers as the match wore on. But Vancouver could not hold on, losing a wild game 4-3.
Goals by substitute Chris Wondolowski, in the 72nd minute, and Oswaldo Alanis, in the 81st, tied the game at 3-3 and set the stage for substitute Shea Salinas’ 98th-minute heroics.
Vancouver was reeling during the nine minutes of stoppage time before Salinas administered the coup de grace at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. The former Whitecap dribbled through the Vancouver defence, got a fortunate bounce and knocked the ball past goalkeeper Maxime Crepeau.
“It’s an emotional one, for so many different reasons. Our team has gone through a lot to get to this point and the boys played their heart out tonight,” said Whitecaps captain Russell Teibert, who made his 200th first-team appearance.
“It’s one of those that’s really hard to take in right now because we put so much into the game and we deserved so much more out of it...This one hurts. We wanted to win this one for Bryan and his mom.”
Backup goalkeeper Bryan Meredith left the team Tuesday to be with his family in New Jersey after the death of his mother Beth. Whitecaps players wore black armbands with B.M. on them, with fullback Jake Nerwinski walking out holding Meredith’s jersey with Beth Meredith’s name written under the number.
Forwards Lucas Cavallini, Fredy Montero and Tosaint Ricketts, defender Andy Rose and defender/midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa did not make the trip to the Florida tournament for personal or medical reasons.
Defenders Janio Bikel (adductor strain) and Eric Godoy (quadricep strain) were injured in training Sunday.
Vancouver only managed nine players on its bench, compared to 12 for San Jose.
The Earthquakes dominated possession and had eight corners in the first 30 minutes but found themselves down 2-0 to the opportunistic Whitecaps, who led by two despite having just one shot on target.
Ali Adnan and Cristian Dajome scored for Vancouver, which also benefited from an own goal.
Andy Rios also scored for San Jose.
The Quakes outshot Vancouver 30-7 (11-2 in shots on target) on the night, set a league mark with 22 corners and had 67.8 per cent possession. The Whitecaps lived dangerously on defence but made the most of their few chances at the other end, helped by San Jose blunders.
“Very valuable and painful at the same time,” said Vancouver coach Marc Dos Santos, summing up the night. “There’s a lot of positives we’re going take from this game. We’re going to analyze the mistakes and see what we could have done better on the goals.
“But when you come out of 130 days without playing, with so many guys not being here with the team, and you play against a team that’s fully equipped...and you play toe-to-toe with them, face to face, you didn’t back off, you created, you scored. Unfortunately you give too many goals away.
“I could only be proud of the group that is here and the guys that worked here. So I’m very excited with what this team could become in the future.”
Adnan, Vancouver’s Iraqi international left back, opened the scoring in the seventh minute, curling a shot past a diving Daniel Vega from just inside the penalty box.
Vancouver made it 2-0 in the 22nd minute on an own goal when Dajome, after a San Jose corner went horribly awry, stole the ball from Brazil’s Judson and fed Yordy Reyna behind the Quakes defence. Reyna tried to slip the ball back to Dajome in the box but instead it bounced off Judson’s leg into the goal.
Rios cut the lead to 2-1 in first-half stoppage time off the Quakes’ 12th corner of the half, deflecting the ball in with a delightful flick of his foot with his back to goal.
Dajome capitalized in the 59th minute when a dreadful pass from Vega went straight to David Milinkovic, who found the Colombian alone in front for his first MLS goal.
The 37-year-old Wondolowski started the comeback, flicking in a header to cut the lead to 3-2. The goal was the 160th of his career, adding to his MLS-record regular-season total, and his 14th against Vancouver.
Alanis then rose high to score off San Jose’s 19th corner, which tied a league record, to level the score.
Vancouver was the last team to see action at the tournament, taking the field at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex after Orlando City and Philadelphia had already qualified for the knockout rounds.
The Whitecaps were originally slated to open July 9 against FC Dallas but the game was scrapped when Dallas withdrew due to a rash of COVID-19 positive tests.
San Jose, the first team to arrive in Orlando, opened the tournament last Friday with a 0-0 tie with the Seattle Sounders.
Vancouver plays Seattle on Sunday before facing Chicago, which replaced Dallas in Group B, on July 23.
Group games at the tournament count in the regular-season standings, leaving Vancouver at 1-2-0 and San Jose at 1-1-2.