Wright-Phillips scores a pair as LAFC torch lacklustre Whitecaps

LOS ANGELES — Vancouver Whitecaps coach Marc Dos Santos has no words to explain the early minutes of his team’s ugly loss Wednesday night.

“I really don’t know where it came from,” Dos Santos told reporters after the Whitecaps (5-8-0) suffered a nasty 6-0 thrashing at the hands of Los Angeles FC.

Much of the damage was done in the first 14 minutes of the game, where Dejan Jakovic scored off of a corner, Bradley Wright-Phillips added a brace, and Vancouver’s Ranko Veselinovic had an own goal.

“The first 14 minutes looked like it was going toward a huge nightmare,” Dos Santos said. “We were late to everything, we weren’t focused. The first two goals from corner kicks, from situations that were easy to control. And when you’re down 4-0 after 14 minutes, you have to find ways to stop the bleeding.”

A nice give-and-go between Diego Rossi and Canadian Mark-Anthony Kaye widened L.A.’s lead yet again the 33rd minute.

The goal was Rossi’s 11th of the season. The Uruguayan international leads Major League Soccer in scoring this season.

The tally also marked the fastest five goals in MLS history, narrowly beating a record set by Seattle less than two weeks ago in the Sounders 7-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Another own goal from Vancouver’s Andy Rose in the 68th minute rounded out the scoring.

Things got tough in the first minute of the game when the ‘Caps nearly allowed a goal on a corner, Rose said. From there, the team scrambled, allowing two goals on set plays in the first five minutes.

That gave LAFC (5-5-3) rhythm and confidence, said Rose.

“It’s quicksand, you know? It’s very, very difficult to stop that and collect yourselves,” he said.

“You have to look back at it as a humbling experience? You also have to look at this as three points lost. I think we’re two points out of the playoff race at the moment. And kind of put it to one side. Think about the goals we conceded and move on quickly.”

Goalkeeper Bryan Meredith made his debut for the Whitecaps on Wednesday and stopped 7-of-11 on-target shots.

Dos Santos said he told his players at half time that it wasn’t okay for them to defend so passively against a team like LAFC, especially when it was Meredith’s first game for the club.

“It’s not fair. It’s not fair for him,” the coach said.

Meredith’s last Major League Soccer outing was in June 2018 when he suited up for the Seattle Sounders in a 3-2 loss to the Portland Timbers.

The 31-year-old from Scotch Plains, N.J., joined Vancouver in January via a trade from Inter Miami CF. He’s the third ‘keeper to start for the Whitecaps this season.

Star netminder Max Crepeau fractured his thumb in a game at the MLS is Back tournament in Orlando. Meredith had left the tournament’s bubble due to the sudden death of his mother, so the ‘Caps were forced to call upon 21-year-old third-stringer Thomas Hasal.

The Saskatoon native performed admirably through the rest of the tournament, earning himself a starting position when the MLS resumed regular-season play in August.

Dos Santos doesn’t remember another season where he’s been forced to use three goalies.

“But this year brought us to situations like that. And we need to protect our goalkeeper better,” he said.

Wednesday was an unusual day for the Whitecaps.

Generally, the team would fly to California a few days before the game to get settled and allow for ample preparation. But due to COVID-19 concerns, teams across Major League Soccer have been staying home — or in the case of Canadian clubs, at their temporary U.S. homes — as late as possible to minimize exposure.

The ‘Caps left their “home base” in Portland around 10 a.m. for the 7:30 p.m. game — their fourth match in 11 days.

Dos Santos said he didn’t want to use odd travel and lack of rest as an excuse for a poor performance, however.

“When it comes to fatigue and legs and travel in and out, we’re going to have to find solutions, react,” he said. “Because this is going to be the reality until the end of the year.”

The Whitecaps were set to fly back to Portland late Wednesday night. They will play the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

Before then, the team needs to address what happened against LAFC and find ways to improve, Dos Santos said.

“The message at the end of the day is that we lost three points,” he said. “We have to regroup, think about the things we want to do better and be ready for the game on Sunday.”

NOTES: The loss snapped a two-game win streak for the ‘Caps. … Both LAFC and the Whitecaps used all five subs. … Vancouver was without midfielder Russell Teibert, who suffered an undisclosed injury in the team’s 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

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