Three things vs. TFC
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Three things from Saturday's match vs. Toronto FC

VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC fell 3-1 to Toronto FC Saturday afternoon in their season opener at BC Place. Here are three things that stood out to me.

TALE OF TWO HALVES

Highlights: Whitecaps FC fall 3-1 to TFC in season opener

We hear this phrase often, but Saturday’s match was truly a tale of two halves.

The ‘Caps were outstanding in the opening 45 minutes. In Carl Robinson’s words, “there was really only one team in it.” Whitecaps FC created several chances and could have very easily had two or three goals.

They only got one though – and so did Toronto FC, who looked harmless for most of the half.

It was a different story after the break, as the Reds began to take control.

So what changed?

Toronto FC was playing a very high back line in the first half, which the ‘Caps exploited on numerous occasions. In fact, that’s how Vancouver scored their only goal. The likes of Kekuta Manneh and Octavio Rivero were finding a ton of space in behind.

That space just wasn’t there in the second half. As Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said after the match: “We had to drop and give ourselves a little space, and make them play in front of us.”

One player who played particularly deep in the second half was right back Warren Creavalle. By my count, the ‘Caps had four Grade A scoring chances in the first half (Teibert's cross to Rivero in the eighth minute, Manneh's partial breakaway in the 13th minute, Rivero's goal, and Manneh's left-footed opportunity in the 40th minute) and they all came down the left side. Manneh was having a field day.

There was nothing doing on the left in the second half, however, as you can see below (click to enlarge). You can also see that most of Vancouver's possession in the second half was in their own half (though they also attacked the right flank more). 

OPENING HIS ACCOUNT

What a ball, what a run, what a touch, and what a finish.

Need I say much else?

I will say: good on Rivero for bouncing back after his early miss. That couldn’t have been easy to deal with mentally.

MAKING THINGS HAPPEN

One of the best players, if not the best, on the pitch in the first half was Russell Teibert (though Manneh and Matias Laba, who had a game-high seven tackles, were right there with him). 

The Canadian midfielder picked up where he left off in Vancouver’s preseason finale against Chicago Fire. Not only was he relentless in his out of possession play, which limited the time and space of Sebastian Giovinco, Teibert also got forward and made things happen in the final third. Case in point: his attacking run and subsequent cross to Rivero in the eighth minute.

Robinson challenged his midfield players to get more involved in the attack this year. Clearly, Teibert received the message loud and clear. 

Also of note, Teibert had the best passing accuracy among the game’s starters. He completed 30 of his 31 passes (see graphic below) for a 96.77 per cent completion rate. 

If you're Robinson, there's clearly a lot of reason for optimism based on some of the individual performances we saw on Saturday. But there's also a lot of work to do. 

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