The Whitecaps return to BC Place after road trip disappointment south of the border, falling 4-2 to the defending MLS Cup champions Portland Timbers.
It was a game packed with individual mistakes that cost the ‘Caps the points on the day. A wild pass that led to a penalty from Pa Modou Kah and a slip from Kendall Waston gave the Timbers a lead that they never really looked liked losing. Kekuta Manneh and Pedro Morales may have pulled a couple back to make the scoreline a little more respectable, but the truth is we did not deserve to win this game.
Carl Robinson should expect a reaction from his players. Waston’s reaction came a little too soon though and I expect to see a multi-game ban by DisCo. It could be a while until we see our towering Tico again, seeing as he’s already left for the Copa America in June.
Saturday sees Houston Dynamo stroll into town. Houston will be without a manager for the game, having parted ways with Owen Coyle on Wednesday. I never thought it would work out with Coyle, who managed Wigan Athletic in the Championship as well as a couple of stints at lesser Premier League sides. It just never really clicked for them, and losing to the bottom side in the Eastern Conference last weekend was probably the last straw for the men upstairs. The Dynamo will have three caretakers on the sideline in his place.
Easy games on paper don’t really seem to translate onto the pitch for the Whitecaps, who are themselves struggling to display consistent performances. I think we can all agree that Robbo has shown his tactical ability, and has also identified the best tactical system. Sunday saw the return of the 4-2-3-1, and while it was exciting to see the 4-4-1-1 against Toronto, I agree that it is the best fit for the players we have.
The problem again comes down to what mentality will the players have when they take the field. Robbo does not seem to have a problem installing intensity to the players, but is that really the best way to get the best out of certain players? I would argue that Waston and Jordan Smith would not thrive in that kind of environment based on their disciplinary record thus far. Then again, there are some who look better when they have had a kick up the bum (Morales and Rivero).
TACTICS AND LINE-UP :
I think that we should stick with the 4-2-3-1. This is also the perfect game for Morales to sit in that deeper position in the midfield alongside Laba. Having Morales there really opens up the rest of the field as his range of passing is frankly ridiculous. It was interesting to see Manneh in the more central positions, and he is back amongst the goals, so maybe we shouldn’t fix something that isn’t broken.
The other midfield positions should be filled by Nicolas Mezquida and Cristian Techera. Techera hasn’t had the best season so far, which has gone under the radar. We really need him to perform if we want to keep climbing the standings. Perhaps with Christian Bolanos on international duty this is his time to shine.
Defensively, David Ousted will have a different looking backline to work with Waston suspended and off for international duty. I think it will end up being Fraser Aird on the right hand side, Jordan Harvey on the other, with Pa Modou Kah and Tim Parker in the central positions (although Andrew Jacobson could be put back in after performing well against the Dynamo in March). Waston will be missed, but it’s a good thing that Houston aren’t the most dynamic going forward despite their club name.
Aird has been rated touch and go to make it on Saturday. If he is missing, Robinson is faced with reshowing some faith in Smith, giving Cole Seiler a MLS debut or moving Parker to there like he did in Portland. You have to hope that Aird is going to be good to go when faced with those options.
As far as adjustments for the opposition go, the only threat I see is Will Bruin. He’s a good MLS style striker who can bite you a couple of ways, but has made a name for himself as an effective target man. Parker should be able to keep him quiet. Ricardo Clark is also a great player, but I fully expect the Caps to overrun the midfield.
THREE QUESTIONS :
Will Kendall Waston be missed in the backline?
Can Robbo get his players in the right mindset?
Are we going to see a reaction from the Dynamo players following Owen Coyle’s sacking?
THE VIEW FROM 202 CREW’S PREDICTIONS :
Joe – 1-0 with a Techera goal
Nick – 2-0 ‘Caps
Dan – 3-0 ‘Caps from Manneh, Morales and Rivero