After waiting for play for two weeks, the Vancouver Whitecaps did not get the performance they wanted as they fell 3-2 to the New England Revolution.

Missing key pieces to international duty, a long flight, the weather—none of it was used as an excuse by head coach Vanni Sartini.

“It was too easy for them to break us,” Sartini said. “It was too easy for them to…beat our midfield and arrive.”

Sartini was forced into a few lineup changes with the international duties of a couple of his players. Both Andrés Cubas and Ali Ahmed were called up for their inclusion in their respective national squads (Paraguay and Canada) for the upcoming Copa América.

That meant Sebastian Berhalter was dropped into the Cubas role. He had done well in the previous two matches playing higher up, but there was no question about him being the main defensive midfielder cover.

Damir Kreilach was also given a rare start, his first since coming back from his injury. Sartini went with two no. 9s as Kreilach paired with Brian White. Ryan Gauld filled out the top three, slotting in behind.

A back line of Bjørn Inge Utvik, Ranko Veselinović and Javain Brown put the in-form centre-backs together as Mathías Laborda and Tristan Blackmon were given time on the bench.

Both teams had something to prove in this match. The international break had the danger of disrupting each team’s respective positive changes in form, and a good start was imperative.

That good start came early for the home side. A blocked ball bounced out to Noel Buck about 20 yards out. The single touch from the midfielder drilled the ball into the top corner, giving the Revs the lead in the seventh minute.

But the Whitecaps were not about to go quiet. The lead for the Revs was short-lived as Brown delivered in a well-placed cross from the right. Gauld got in front of Ian Hawkes with his head to redirect the ball past Aljaz Ivacic to level the game in the 13th minute.

Not to be deterred, the Revolution kept coming. In the 21st minute, Giacomo Vrioni regained the lead for the home side. The Whitecaps, stretched wide by how the Revs set up in attack, gave too much space to Carles Gil. The no. 10 received and quickly turned with the ball in the middle of the park to play in Vrioni, and the striker hit low beyond Yohei Takaoka.

“In order to limit [Gil]…we need to press better,” Sartini said. “We need to be more compact. Unfortunately, we didn’t do it very well today and that allows him to be more on the ball than we like.”

Esmir Bajraktarevic added another for the home side in the 40th minute. Gil continued to find space to manoeuvre as he switched the ball to the left side of the pitch. As the Whitecaps moved to respond, the ball was quickly played over everyone to Bajraktarevic on the right at the edge of the 18-yard box. 

His shot made it into the far top corner, aided by a deflection off Berhalter on the way, leaving the Revolution with the 3-1 lead at the half.

The second half saw the Revs sit back, content with the two-goal lead. The Whitecaps were able to build up slowly, but as soon as they entered the final third, their ability to move into the 18-yard box was stymied.

And even though New England was not as demanding in their attack, the middle of the park was still having the strings pulled by Gil. Time and time again, the New England DP played in wider players to hit crosses in the box.

The Whitecaps may have had better possession, but they had nothing to show for it. And Ivacic was given little work to do by the Whitecaps’ attack.

Gauld did find a second goal in the dying minute of the match. It was a fabulous strike from around 40 yards out, but it was a case of too little, too late.

“The second half became kind of an emergency game,” Sartini said. “From minute 60, we played very offensively…giving up to the middle block, trying to win the ball either very high or very low with the hope to score a goal. It came, unfortunately, too late.”

Up next

The Whitecaps are still on the road next weekend, but they will be closer to home as they face off against the Portland Timbers in a Cascadia derby.

Kickoff is on June 22 at 7:30 p.m.