May 20, 2024
  • May 20, 2024
Vancouver FC Moses Dyer

Analysis: Eagles Held To 1-1 Draw At Home

By on May 13, 2024 0 332 Views

It was shared spoils on Sunday as Vancouver FC salvaged a draw against an undefeated and high-flying Atletico Ottawa.

Goals by Ruben Del Campo and Alejandro Diaz saw both sides be able to come away with a point each from a fiery Mother’s Day match in Langley.

Mistakes Prove Costly for Vancouver Once Again

It was a tense match come the half-time whistle, with both sides having some chances to pull ahead. The tension in the stadium reflected the unspoken feeling that goals would likely come from either a moment of brilliance, or a lapse in judgement. Unfortunately for Vancouver FC and one young Anthony White, it was the latter that gave Ottawa the opportunity to draw first blood.

White was caught in two minds under the heavy press of Ottawa’s front line, and was swiftly dispossessed by one of the last people you want bearing down on goal in Ballou Tabla. Callum Irving did well to make it as hard as possible for Ottawa to punish that mistake with some great saves, but in the end Ruben Del Campo, in red-hot form, tucked away his fifth goal in all comps and Ottawa’s first of the match.

White looked dejected after the goal went in, and had to be consoled by his captain Irving. For Ghotbi, he has lamented his side’s lapses of concentration in the last few weeks, but also understands that such incidents will happen, especially for young players. What he now wants to do is find a way to be able to balance those inevitable mistakes with growth and understanding for his young players to be able to move past them.

“How do we get those lapses [from] our players to end? I think only by the bitter feeling you get after making that mistake, living through it and learning from it,” added Ghotbi on how his team can learn from these mistakes. “It’s not something you can tell a player ‘don’t make that mistake’. I think what I try to tell them is to have no fears. Whatever you see, do and trust your instincts. If you make a mistake, we’ll correct it. Mistakes are a part of life, and a part of football.”

It is par for the course to have mistakes from young players, even more so from those who have played few games early on in the season. It will take time for Afshin Ghotbi and company to find that balance of playing experience and cultivating youth to be able to both compete for titles whilst growing talent, but they cannot take too long. They will not have much more time before the front-runners begin pulling away from those in the middle of the pack.

Diaz Makes the Difference Off the Bench

Afshin Ghotbi set out his team in a familiar way to how he fielded his 2023 Vancouver FC side for this match against Ottawa, in a 4-2-3-1. This saw Moses Dyer become the sole striker up top whilst giving the Eagles an extra body in midfield, likely to deal with the dangerous midfield three that Ottawa had in Manny Aparicio, Alberto Zapater and Aboubacar Sissoko.

While this change of tactic did quell some of Ottawa’s attacks through the centre, it also stunted the attack from Vancouver, thus creating a first half bereft of quality chances from the Eagles.

“In the first half, we saw Moses [Dyer] many times isolated, and our midfielders coming in and joining [the attack] either too far wide or too late,” explained Ghotbi on his team’s first half performance.

The gaffer then remidied that situation in the second half by bringing in another striker in Alejandro Diaz, as well as the fresh legs of Zach Verhoven against his former side. Diaz gave someone else for Dyer to play off of and thus brought him more into the game, while Verhoven gave that injection of energy that was so sorely needed for the Eagles.

“It was nice to bring on [Alejandro] Diaz onto the pitch [in the second half], I think he made a big difference in the game,” remarked Ghotbi on his half-time inclusion. “I felt like by making that move, I could make the team better.”

His instinct was proven to be a good one after Diaz equalized with just over 20 minutes to go. A sumptuous cross by Kadin Chung found Diaz in the box, who expertly placed it into the back of the next with a well-take header. Afterwards, both teams kept pushing to find that go-ahead goal, but neither were able to muster up enough quality to steal all three points.

Huge Retribution for Irving with Massive Performance

After back-to-back road defeats in the league where Vancouver FC conceded three goals on both occasions, criticism of the team’s back-line and goalkeeping is to be expected. Even Ghotbi acknowledges that his captain Callum Irving, usually a rock between the sticks, had been underperforming as of late – but the coach was impressed by the way that Irving managed to rise to the occasion and give another superb display in net.

“For Callum, as he struggled a few games before, how he stepped up today and had one of the best games of the season, it was amazing,” described Ghotbi on his captain’s improved performance on Sunday.

It was not just his performance that grabbed the eye in that match, it was also his leadership. The way he lifted a sorry Anthony White and pushed him to keep going, and the way he guided a fresh-faced Allan Enyou (who just got off the plane last week) was a prime example of what a leader should be. Both came in after injuries to Vancouver FC’s starting centre-backs and had the daunting task of facing a hungry and lethal Ottawa team. Such a tall order could make any player wilt once the whistle blows, but their nerves were dampened by that commanding presence of Irving behind them. It was something that Ghotbi clearly recognized as well.

“It was not only the fact that he made those saves and had that presence, but also that he helped everyone around him,” described Ghotbi. “He knew that having two young central defenders playing for the first time. he really had to [help them], and I think he met the challenge and did a fantastic job. I’m really proud of that.”

It goes without saying that it was crucial for Irving to have a good game, because with a quality ‘keeper like Niko Giantsopolous breathing down your neck, it was only a matter of time before he would see his name drop from the starting line-up. Now he has that renewed fight in him thanks to Sunday’s performance, and he will look to not only build on it but use it to inspire his teammates around him as they look to steady the ship and acquire more points on the board early on in the season.

Header Image Photo Credit: Beau Chevalier

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