PORTLAND, Ore. — The Vancouver Whitecaps are on a win streak for the second time this season but coach Marc Dos Santos says his squad has yet to reach its goal.
“We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep fighting," Dos Santos said Wednesday after the 'Caps took a 2-1 decision over Los Angeles FC. "These two games, we didn’t achieve anything. We won the two games but we still didn’t achieve our objective of finishing in the (playoffs).”
The victory vaults the Whitecaps (7-11-0) up the standings in Major League Soccer's Western Conference, at least temporarily. Vancouver held the eighth spot - the final playoff position - at the end of league play Wednesday night.
Stringing together victories has been a struggle for the 'Caps this season. The squad's last win streak was snapped by LAFC three weeks ago when Vancouver suffered a brutal 6-0 thrashing in California.
Beating L.A. (7-7-3) Wednesday meant even more to the Whitecaps because of the previous result, said defender Ali Adnan.
“It means a lot for us," said the Iraqi national. "The game against Real Salt Lake when we win (on Saturday), right away we say ‘This game, it’s over, we have to focus on our game against L.A. It’s going to mean a lot for us.’”
Lucas Cavallini scored both of Vancouver's goals Wednesday, but he had a lot of help from teammates Fredy Montero and Cristian Dajome.
The first marker came in the 30th minute after Janio Bikel made a long pass out of Vancouver's end to Dajome, who dropped the ball back to Montero. Montero then passed it back to Dajome deep inside LAFC territory. The forward made a no-look pass to Cavallini in the box and the Canadian striker tapped it in to put Vancouver up 1-0.
Cavallini added another in the 59th minute, snapping a pass from Montero in past L.A. 'keeper Pablo Sisniega to give the 'Caps a two-goal lead.
Dajome said he's been spending a lot of time with Montero and Cavallini at the team's current home - a hotel in Portland - watching game footage.
“We’ve been watching the games and seen what works and what doesn’t," he said through a translator.
“I’m really good at finding space. And Cava’s really good at making those post runs. And Fredy’s just a magician with the ball when he’s passing it.”
Dajome has been through a lot this season, Dos Santos said.
After arriving in Vancouver, the Colombian forward spent seven months separated from his wife and three daughters as the family awaited their immigration paperwork. Soon after they were reunited, Dajome and his Whitecaps teammates had to relocate to Portland due to COVID-19 border restrictions.
“I think Cristian right now, he’s slowly settling in and creating good connections on the field," Dos Santos said.
Dajome admitted that he feels more confident in his game knowing that his family is safe and somewhat nearby.
“It’s really important to have them here supporting me. I feel a lot of relief. And I feel I play better because of it," he said.
Dajome's two-assist performance Wednesday night helped propel the 'Caps to a win, but Dos Santos said the group still has a lot to work on.
“Incredible first half. Very, very good first half. Second half? Not as good. We had to suffer a little big more," the coach said.
Vancouver held L.A. off the board until the 83rd minute on Wednesday.
After a flurry of activity in front of the 'Caps net, L.A. argued there'd been a handball by defender Jake Nerwinski inside the box. The play was reviewed and referee Tori Penso awarded the penalty shot.
Eduard Atuesta took the kick, sending a low, rolling shot into the gloves of Vancouver 'keeper Evan Bush. The shot was reviewed, then called back, with Penso saying Bush moved off his line early. The goalie was shown the yellow card.
Atuesta buried his second chance, getting L.A. on the board and registering his first goal of the season.
Though the Whitecaps flagged near the game's end, Dos Santos felt his team deserved the three points.
“I think it was a good day for the club, it was a good day for the Vancouver Whitecaps but we still have a roller-coaster and a lot of action that we’re going to have," he said. "But I promise you, if we continue like this, we’re going to be in the (playoffs).”
The 'Caps will be back in action on Sunday when they visit the L.A. Galaxy.
NOTES: The Whitecaps are now 4-0-0 when Cavallini scores. … Bikel was shown the yellow in the 89th minute. He'll miss Sunday's game with a suspension due to yellow-card accumulation. … Russell Teibert made his 179th regular-season appearance for the Whitecaps, tying the club record held by Jordan Harvey. Harvey also figured in Wednesday's match, starting for his current team, LAFC. … Cristian Torres made his first MLS start. The 16-year-old is the first LAFC Academy player to start for the club.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2020.