May 20, 2024
  • May 20, 2024
Cavalry FC Sergio Camargo David Norman Jr

Analysis: Three Road Defeats On the Bounce For The Eagles

By on May 4, 2024 0 534 Views

After such a bright start, the Eagles have been brought back to reality in Alberta after losing 3-1 to Cavalry on Friday night.

Vancouver FC has now suffered two defeats to Cavalry in quick succession thanks to goals by Tobias Warschewski and Charlie Trafford.

Cavalry FC Lucas Dias Elage Bah
Photo Credit: Tony Lewis

Experimental Selection Brought Mixed Success

The starting lineup from Afshin Ghotbi’s side looked a little different from what we were used to when it came to game-time, as they set up in a 3-4-3 formation. Former Whitecap Matteo Campagna made his debut and first start for the Eagles, whilst Kembo Kibato kept his place in theeleven alongside Vasco Fry and Renan Garcia.

This new-look formation was meant to be an experiment for Ghotbi as he looked to try to get the best out of his rotational players. Unfortunately for him, the experiment did not go all to well as Vancouver looked off-the-pace for large swaths of this game.

“I have to take full responsibility for the first half,” admitted Ghotbi after the match. “We tried to play a different way, partly because we’re experimenting to see how we can use other qualities that we have. I felt that it was the right moment to try it, especially because always when we come here [to Spruce Meadows] it’s difficult to get results.”

The Eagle’s attack looked stagnant and its midfield equally static when they were in possession, and they gave away possession cheaply which then turned into dangerous transitional attacks for Cavalry. That was indeed how the hosts got the first and the third goal, both of which effectively killed the game in either half for Vancouver.

Overall it was a far-cry from the organized and effective performances we were getting accustomed to in the first two matches of the season, and it seemed to have demonstrated that more tinkering is necessary to get results on the road for VFC.

Silver Linings in the Subs, But Late Surge Not Enough

The game did turn more in Vancouver’s favour after they made some tactical (and injury-related) subs in the game. David Norman had to come off injured towards the end of the first half, giving Elage Bah his first appearance for the club. Later in the second half, Grady McDonnell and Thomas Powell also made their debuts off the bench as all three players were dressed for the first time this season.

These changes gave Vancouver a breath of fresh air and an injection of energy that had been lacking. McDonnell in particular, despite being just 16 years of age, was stellar in his cameo. He made the most of his youthful exuberance to track down opponent runs, twist past markers, and draw fouls that gave his side opportunities from set-pieces. It was a performance that was not lost on the young man’s head coach.

“What a fantastic performance by Grady,” exclaimed Ghotbi about his young debutant. “To be honest, I’ve been waiting to give him the playing time at the right moment, and this kid is special.”

Moses Dyer’s goal in the 81st minute gave a glimmer of hope for Vancouver, as they threw everything forward and put Cavalry under the cosh. Some heroic defending and a few close shaves helped Cavalry keep the scoreline to 3-1, but it was far from comfortable from the home side.

“I’m really proud of the grits and the heart we showed in the later stage of the second half,” declared Ghotbi to media in the post match presser.

The Eagles can take some positives from that period, but they must strive to be more consistent. They have to find that similar winning formula for road matches as they have seemed to find at home so far this season.

Road Form Needs Addressing To Keep Pace At Top

Three straight road losses in all competitions do not bode well for a team that was in such hot form at home to begin the season. They’ve conceded seven goals and only scored one in those matches, and that includes a game against ten men. It’s no secret that the Eagles have certainty improved from those woeful matches of early last year, but there still seems to be an element of experience, concentration, and mental fortitude that’s missing from this side.

“It was not a good result for us, it was disappointing,” confessed Ghotbi about his team’s performance. “But we’re going through a tough road trip, three in a row. I feel that we’ll get it right on the road… we just have to improve ourselves as a group, especially how we play on the road, to be a lot more disciplined tactically and error-free.”

“Part of what I see is that the moment we take a goal, we saw the players lose their discipline, their composure, and that’s something that, given the experience that we have in the team, should never happen. That’s something I have to work on [with them].”

Ghotbi has been calling out his team’s lack of concentration for some time now, and it was clear that just switching up the personnel and formation isn’t enough to bandage over the cracks. There needs to be some serious soul-searching for both coaches and players to be able to get those results away from home, especially if they want to be within touching distance from the teams at the top. It only takes a few bad results to fall behind the likes of Forge and Cavalry, and if the Eagles truly want to be title-contenders, they need to steady this ship quickly.

Header Image Photo Credit: Tony Lewis

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