When the MLS fixtures computer churned out a Week 3 match-up between Seattle and Vancouver at the Clink, I’m not sure many of us expected it to be a battle between two winless teams struggling to find any sort of cohesion and rhythm. But that’s what we’re getting, adding even more of an edge to the first Cascadia Cup derby of the season.
And so it came to pass that Vancouver Whitecaps first road game of the new season followed in the footsteps of the home opener, and was also a loss.
It was an unfortunate individual error that caused the game to spiral out of control. Although if I am to be honest, the Whitecaps looked a little tired when they came out. The only time they looked alive is when the last 10 minutes needed to be played. Will this be a game where preseason type errors get eliminated, or do they have more to come?
Seattle are coming into this match after a defeat against RSL and like the Whitecaps, they also have had two losses to start off the season. They have looked a bit wonky at times, not the thrilling team that won the Supporters Shield and US Open Cup in 2014. Are they in a rebuild (having jettisoned Martins and others) or is this just a transition to a Jordan Morris led era? It may take us the whole season to play out to get the answer on that one.
FORM GUIDE :
Both of these teams are sitting down the bottom of the West after the opening games. That is definitely not something I would have predicted for the Whitecaps, but I don’t mind Seattle being down there. So I am a bit conflicted about this situation. Both have had a hard loss at home, and a tough loss on the road. Perhaps getting back to a good old Cascadia rivalry will be the switch the Whitecaps (or heaven forbid Seattle) will be looking for to their season going.
TACTICS AND PROJECTED LINE-UP :
Let’s be honest here, the game against SKC was an experiment. And as happens with some experiments, it failed. Where perhaps we may have seen the line up and been thinking about Kekuta Manneh’s speed, and Deybi Flores’ surging runs, with Jordan Smith on the overlap, we instead got an insipid performance with bad decisions. The changes were simply terrible for the defensive side of the Whitecaps game plan.
Obviously Smith was in la-la land with his ridiculously late tackle. He was getting burned all the time during the first half, with Zusi using all his guile on him. It was only a matter of time I felt before one of the young players made a big mistake, and it came first with Smith nonchalantly jogging back, a huge failure to help stop the second goal.
Thankfully this week we don’t have to make a choice if he will be starting or not. When Fraser Aird came on he at least managed to not get himself sent off. So he should be getting the start for the next few games at least. If he can be more responsible defensively and he still makes some great crosses, it will be a good week for Aird. It should also be noted that two games into the season I feel we have identified the Whitecaps problem position for the rest of this year.
Kendall Waston and Tim Parker looked like two statues against SKC. They had problems closing down, and it felt like they were glued to the field. This is supposed to be their game; closing down and dominating aerial duels. However they dominated nothing.
Perhaps I am a bit harsh, but I do feel that as soon as he is back match fit, it is time for Pa Modou Kah to get a start instead of Parker. He would bring some well needed fire against Seattle (and who can forget the goals he brought with him last time) and also add experience and communication that may be needed to organize the shambolic defense that has started out this year. Sadly this isn’t to be, and Kah is fighting to be fit for next week’s home match against Houston, even more crucial with Waston and Parker being away on international duty and Christian Dean out injured.
So Waston and Parker it is again this week. Hopefully one of them can continue where Kah left off down there in the goalscoring stakes.
Jordan Harvey was one of the few Whitecaps players who was not causing problems for the team last weekend. He timed his runs forward well and was stopping most of what was coming down the left side. It caused SKC to really concentrate on attacking along Smith’s side of the field. I will give props to Harvey for fighting to keep his spot and doing an excellent job at it.
For the second week running, Matias Laba did not have a great game, which is always a great. and usually costly, disappointment. He had some good tackles and interceptions, however, on the second SKC goal he lost the ball in a terrible position. If he can get his form back he should be hungry to destroy Seattle’s midfield, and he seemed to have his requisite ‘one bad game’ (well in this case let’s say two) of the year.
Flores was not good. He was constantly showing his inexperience. All Flores could do was lose the ball and then immediately foul the person who took it away. It was either him or Smith that was gonna get a red card in that game, he is lucky it happened to Smith.
I have a feeling we need to go back to some experience, that is why it may be time for the new Whitecaps signing Andrew Jacobson to come in and make a start beside Laba. Are we throwing him in at the deep end? Sure, but he is an MLS veteran and should be able to survive it. At least he should be able to stem any mistakes that were happening in SKC. He may be the true box to box midfielder that Robbo is hoping now-suspended Kianz Froese or Flores will one day turn into. Whether Jacobson is up to the necessary match sharpness that a Cascadia derby dictates could be the key deciding factor here.
As for David Ousted, there was really nothing he could do on those two goals. One was a laser of a shot, the second goal he was hung out to dry by Smith’s lack of pressure. He is gonna get the start again, and he is another veteran that understands the importance of a good outing against Seattle to kickstart the team’s season.
One of the few people who have been good in both starts is Octavio Rivero. He has not, unfortunately, had the service he has needed. But his work rate and his tracking back have been incredible. It is unfortunate he hasn’t gotten a goal yet, but he did show some creativity with a pass to Manneh that should have been put away. If he stops working hard the goals will never come, but he has that hunger for goal that the Caps need now more than ever.
Pedro Morales is another player who has looked good (but just barely). He perhaps needs to continue to get a bit of rust out of his system. One thing that I have noticed though is his poor defensive work rate; which frustrates me, sometimes we need a person in to pressure the midfielder receiving the ball. He doesn’t do that grimy work. I was hopping it wouldn’t be like this, as in preseason he showed a willingness to do that, however now it seems to have faded away. Anyway, we don’t really have anyone who can pass the ball like him so he gets the start against Seattle.
Cristian Techera was a bit exposed in this game. He was not able to cover the ground he should have, and helped contribute to the defensive shakiness on Smith’s side of the park. I think now that Christian Bolaños has served his suspension he should get another shot. He should take up Manneh’s spot. It was not that Manneh was terrible. But he was not the Manneh that we need. He seems to be nursing himself back to full health. That is proven by his pace and his unwillingness to get into tackles. It may be better for him to come on as a sub later, even though the temptation to see if he can produce another Seattle wondershow must be huge for Robinson.
Techera looked a bit out of sorts this game. He was looking more and more tired as the match went on. Perhaps he needs more fitness training. I would be content letting Techera start and trying to see if he can get his craftiness and lungs back. He is an intelligent player so hopefully he can have a good understanding of what Aird’s weakness’ are and compensate for them.
It’s hard not see another Robbo 4-2-3-1. Seattle is trying to go for the 4-3-3 after many seasons with the 4-4-2.
As this is an away game we need to see the counter attack start clicking again. We saw glimmers late in the SKC game of what it can be. But the key to any counter attack is a solid defence. So that is what needs to get sorted out before we hope to win any game on the road.
Seattle will be desperate to get a win and I expect them to come out and exploit Vancouver at right back. It will be important for Laba and his partner and the winger in front to co-operate defensively. If that doesn’t happen watch the Caps get sunk.
THREE QUESTIONS :
Can the Whitecaps get rid of those individual errors that caused the goals for the last two weeks?
Will Octavio Rivero finally get a reward for all his good work?
Tied in with question one, will Vancouver’s defence, and those tracking back to help them out, finally gel and work as a cohesive unit?
AFTN’s MAN TO WATCH :
Clint Dempsey. Loathe him or absolutely despise him, he is one of the great players of the league and can make the game turn on the drop of a free kick. If he continues to play on the left wing, he’s on a collision course with Fraser Aird and the dodgy right side of the Whitecaps defence. Only one winner in that one?
PREDICTIONS FROM THE VIEW FROM 202 CREW :
All predictions were wrong for the last two weeks so better luck this time around?
Joe : 0-1 Seattle
Dan : (On vacation!)