When it rains on the Vancouver Whitecaps, it showers goals.
A thunderstorm-delayed game saw the Caps pelted 4-0 by the New England Revolution on Wednesday in Foxborough, Mass., their fourth consecutive loss in a seven-game winless skid.
In the past four games, the once defensively stout side has been outscored 14-1. The Major League Soccer squad seems to have no answers at the other end of the pitch either, getting shut out four times in their past five games — including once by the lower division Cavalry FC — and Yordy Reyna’s lone goal coming off a goaltending gaffe against LAFC.
Once the sheets of rain, lightning flashes and rolling thunder subsided over Gillette Stadium and Wednesday’s game began, the malaise that afflicted the Whitecaps against Sporting continued with a lethargic first half that was among the worst this season.
When Gustavo Bou scored in first-half injury time for the Revolution (7-8-6), who are now unbeaten in nine (5-0-4) after Bruce Arena took over for Brad Friedel, it didn’t appear there would be any way back for the Whitecaps (4-10-8).
Vancouver started the second half on a better foot and it looked like the Caps would make a game of it, but three late goals in quick succession by Diego Fagundez (82nd minute), Carles Gil (86th) and Teal Bunbury (90th) sent the slumping Whitecaps to another lopsided defeat.
“Right now, there’s a lot of fragility on our side, mentally. You know, it’s hard to get out (of),” said Caps coach Marc Dos Santos. “When we were down in the score in the first half, I thought we came out well (in the second). We created good chances. And once they scored the second goal, it’s kind of a hard blow for us.
“… We have to try and get out of it. Mentally, these runs happen with a lot of teams in MLS, and sometimes it’s just a patch that you have to get out of.
“This first half, it was us just being slow stepping up, slow closing down. Maybe some tired elements in the team, we don’t know. We have to address that and assess that. But we had a very tough time getting out. And when we had the time to have the ball, our decision making on the ball, we gave it away way too quick and then we spend a lot of time defending.”
In their first 19 games, the Caps had lost just once by more than a goal. They’ve lost their last three by a combined 13-1. Here’s what else we learned Wednesday:
RETURN OF THE 4-3-3 (and Crepeau)
With no Ali Adnan, suspended because of yellow card accumulation, and the underlying numbers of the 3-5-2 formation showing a team struggling on both ends of the field, the Whitecaps trotted out the 4-3-3 for the first time in five league games.
Rookie forward Theo Bair made a second consecutive start, Scott Sutter stepped in for Adnan at left back, Andy Rose replaced Jon Erice as No. 6, Derek Cornelius started for Doneil Henry, and Reyna pushed outside to right wing.
The start was sluggish. The first half saw the Caps outshot 17-0 and they only had 37 per cent possession while failing to create any key passes. The Caps rebounded in the final 45 to narrow the possession gap to 52-47, but had just four scoring chances by game’s end.
“The 4-3-3 is the tactical setup that we’re more comfortable with and the one we want to build the club around,” said Dos Santos. “We were waiting for everything to get together, so we had to play in another formation, but the 4-3-3 is what we want to build the club around.”
NOBODY PUTS BOU IN A CORNER
Bou was acquired by the Revolution from Liga MX side Tijuana last week for a $6-million transfer fee and another $6M in guaranteed salary as their newest designated player.
His goal off a corner kick — a first-time volley from 20 yards out — sparked the predictable “look what happens when you spend money!” posts on Twitter.
It also marked the sixth goal the Caps have conceded off corner kicks, and third in the past three games.
“I think it was a really good connection on that play because Carles told me on the first couple of corners that there was really nobody hanging back in the larger area behind the box,” Bou said through a translator.
“So in that specific moment, I wanted to go backwards a bit, and Carles screamed to me, and I screamed to him, and I think it’s a connection that had a lot of quality. It went really well and we finished really well, so I’m really happy.”
The big rookie forward was given the start over Fredy Montero and Joaquin Ardaiz, and spent the entirety of the first half fruitlessly chasing balls and pressuring the Revs’ back line as the Caps couldn’t maintain any kind of offensive cohesion.
But Bair started the second half brightly, giving his family in the stands something to cheer about, his 50th-minute shot ringing off the post after a cross from Lucas Venuto. He had another chance minutes later on another Venuto cross, but the ball was too far behind the rushing Bair for him to turn into the net.
He was subbed off in the 68th minute for Montero, five minutes after Lass Bangoura replaced Russell Teibert in midfield.
Crepeau spent last game on the bench, with coach Dos Santos saying after the game they were concerned about his load management. Zac MacMath served adequately, although a poor clearance led to Sporting KC’s second goal, and he made some simple saves more adventurous than they needed to be.
Crepeau was handed Wednesday’s start and again showed why he’s the front-runner for team MVP. If not for two point-blank stops on Juan Fernando Caicedo in quick succession from five yards out, the score line would have been out of reach in the first half.
He made eight saves as the Caps padded their league-leading shots allowed stats, getting outshot 33-6 (12-0 on target). He couldn’t be blamed on any of the Revs’ goals. Bou’s golazo was world class, Sutter forgot to mark Fagundez on his back-post header, and Gil’s left-footed curler was the result of getting too much space from the Caps defenders.
Bunbury’s injury-time goal, his series-best fourth all-time, came after slipping between the two Vancouver centrebacks who left him one-on-one with Crepeau four yards out.
Vancouver Whitecaps vs. San Jose Earthquakes
7 p.m., B.C. Place Stadium, TV: TSN 1/4; Radio: TSN 1410 AM
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