Whitecaps 1, Fire 1: Nikolic penalty kick denies ‘cursed’ Vancouver first win of MLS season

Anyone who didn’t think the Vancouver Whitecaps are cursed might change their mind after Friday’s game in suburban Chicago. Heck, even former Whitecaps are cursed.

After a baffling gaffe by ex-Vancouver goaltender David Ousted that gifted the Caps the opening goal at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, Ill., the dreaded VAR call cost the Whitecaps again, leading to an 84th-minute penalty kick and the game-tying goal.

Instead of leaving Chicago with their first Major League Soccer win of the season, the Caps had to settle for a 1-1 tie.

Yordy Reyna had a 53rd-minute goal for Vancouver (0-4-2), while Nemanja Nikolic converted the penalty kick for Chicago (1-2-3).

Here’s what else we learned in the Windy City:

IN A LAND VAR, VAR, AWAY

For those who are counting — and that’s pretty much every Whitecaps fan now — that’s four penalty kicks in six games this season, an unprecedented number in MLS history.

In the 81st minute, and with the Whitecaps weathering a withering Chicago bout of possession, Fire forward Aleksandar Katai kicked a quasi-bicycle kick right into the arm of Doneil Henry. Referee Jair Marrufo, who had a direct line of sight on the play, didn’t make the initial call, and play continued.

But three minutes later, the call went to VAR review, and Marrufo adjudged he’d made a clear and obvious mistake. Nikolic put a powerful, non-panenka shot into the back of the net to rescue the Fire.

REYN MAN

Reyna has been a ghost of his former self this season. He had just a single shot on goal and one assist coming into the game, a year after leading the team in assists with 11.

Friday’s goal was his first since Oct. 21, 2018 — a 2-2 tie with LAFC, next Wednesday’s opponent — and he’d lost his starting spot this season, sitting against Seattle and then coming off the bench against the L.A. Galaxy.

Friday, he only had 13 passes and was accurate on just 61.5 per cent of them. His first touch was far too heavy at times, adding to his team-leading 15 dispossessions.

“What I’m still learning about Yordy is there are very high moments and very low moments,” said coach Marc Dos Santos. “Sometimes he’s at 80 per cent and then at 15 per cent. I have to find a way to have him playing at 70 to 80 per cent all the time.”

Reyna’s goal came thanks to a mistake from Ousted, who came charging out of his net, and after sliding past the ball, tried punching it to safety. But the ball went right to Reyna, who placed it cooly in the back of the net from a sharp angle.

DUELLING KEEPERS

Both keepers made mistakes Friday, but only Ousted’s was costly.

In the first half, Max Crepeau had a 35-yard shot from Basitan Schweinsteiger bounce off him and onto the foot of Nikolic, who fired wide to the left.

But Crepeau made the save of the match late in the game, securing a point for the Caps. After midfielder Jon Erice got the ball tangled up in his feet in the six-yard box, C.J. Sapong pounced on the loose ball only to see Crepeau deflect it wide with an incredible reaction save.

Crepeau made five saves in the game, as the Whitecaps were outshot 23-9 (6-2 on target) and out-possessed 60-40.

PANENKA HANGOVER

Coach Dos Santos lauded Ali Adnan as “the best left back in MLS” this week.

He wasn’t Friday.

The Iraqi international, still taking heat for his bungled panenka penalty attempt against Los Angeles last week, looked as pedestrian as the rest of his team in the opening half.

He was roasted twice by Aleksandar Katai in one-on-one situations, then the Serbian winger put him on a rotisserie — nutmegging Adnan, then making him gracelessly slip as he tried to recover — before firing a curling shot Crepeau was forced to parry away.

SMOOTH LIKE SUTTER

Scott Sutter, making his 50th MLS start in place of Jake Nerwinski, was a sea of calm and competence for the Whitecaps.

The veteran right back had a tackle, an interception and two clearances in the scoreless first half, and had far more success containing Katai when he switched to his side.

Despite being a “depth” signing, he’s shown well in the two starts and one sub appearance — at left back, too — to push Nerwinski for more starts.

jadams@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/TheRealJJAdams


NEXT GAME

Wednesday

Los Angeles Football Club vs. Vancouver Whitecaps

7 p.m., B.C. Place Stadium, TV: TSN 1, 3; Radio: TSN 1040 AM


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