Who saw that FC Dallas game coming? A fantastic game where everything click for Vancouver Whitecaps. I struggle to think of anything to improve, but this club’s biggest MLS-era struggle has not been mercurial results, but consistency. A result like that FC Dallas game is what gives supporters hope; but we Whitecaps fans have had our hopes dashed far too often after great results, especially when facing lower placed teams. A similar, or even respectable, performance by the boys on the road in Colorado on Saturday will go a long way to showcasing the maturity that this group have acquired.
As well as the usual entertainment, Video Assistant Referees (VAR) will be officially used for the first time in a Whitecaps MLS game. I am so excited to see how it pans out. Howard Webb, the head of the VAR project, has outlined the situations that it can be used with great detail, and in my opinion, it will greatly benefit the game as long as the protocol is followed to the letter.
VAR can only be used to award or discredit goals, penalties, straight red cards, and mistaken identity. In some test runs there has been large levels of ambiguity in the decision making process, and while I am not in agreement of the decision to leave the fans guessing during the decision making process, I can understand why the league has made that decision for the time being. This is an exciting time people. MLS will be showcasing how this system will work to the rest of the world. The hype is real.
Colorado are a team that any serious playoff team should be beating. The Rapids sit dead last in the Western Conference, and 2nd last overall in the league. It turns out signing a big expensive goalkeeper will not make your team play better football. Huh. That being said, Colorado Rapids have conceded the second fewest goals in the league, their problem is they have also scored the second fewest league-wide. Striker Dominique Badji leads the team with six goals, followed by ex-Irish international Kevin Doyle with four. I’ve always thought Badji and Doyle to be very similar players, which is a problem in the 4-4-2 system that Pablo Mastroeni deploys. The Rapids do have some threatening and skillful midfielders in Micheal Azira and Marlon Hairston.
To win this game, the ‘Caps will have to do what they did in Dallas: be clinical. Fredy Montero’s double will do wonders for his confidence. The difference in the quality of his service and support was noticeable; no longer was he stranded up field to take players on one-on-one or close down by himself.
The Whitecaps midfield pressed a lot higher and reaped the rewards. This was largely due to the eagerness of Yordy Reyna, who you can tell loves to have the ball at his feet. It seems he has been worth the wait. Bernie Ibini also made several intelligent runs on the right hand side that opened the attacking options up immeasurably. The other options that the ‘Caps have in that area tend to drift inside to receive the ball, whereas Ibini had a lot of success waiting for the ball out wide and then making his next move.
The backline also neutralized FC Dallas. Ideally you want that unit to be kept in one piece as much as possible at this crucial time in the Whitecaps season, with the re-addition of Jordan Harvey at left back for De Jong. The ‘Caps defence were calm and assertive in their approach in Dallas, and Sheanon Williams’ long throws are a great threat going forward. My gut tells me he’ll keep his place at the expense of Jake Nerwinski. but there’s doubts around whether Kendall Waston will play this one after having to go back to Costa Rica to sort out some kind of visa issues.
The midfield two worked a treat last week, and should be allowed to continue. We really do not appreciate Matias Laba enough, finding a ball winning midfielder that performs at his level is not an easy task. Tony Tchani has settled in the midfield, but we need the Dallas game Tchani, not the sleepy Tchani. The attacking trio of Yordy Reyna, Brek Shea and Bernie Ibini will need to continue to perform if they want to keep their place in the team past this weekend, which they must have earned due to last weeks performance. The only reasons that could justifiably bring about change is the fact that Reyna and Ibini are just back from injuries, in which case Cristian Techera or Christian Bolanos could be called upon.
Fredy Montero is the undisputable number 1 striker, and he will be praying that he has the support from his midfield that he experienced last time out. Montero’s technical ability and intelligence have never been in question during his time in Vancouver, the tactics just need to be tuned to get the best out of him.
Can the ‘Caps tackle their consistency problems and play well against a lowly opponent?
Will Montero get the support he needs to continue scoring?
Will VAR change how the game is played?