While there were some positives to be taken from the Whitecaps’ 3-2 loss to Montreal Impact on Sunday, in Carl Robinson’s words, a “lot of improvements” are needed throughout the team is the ‘Caps are to get their season off and running at Sporting KC on Saturday night.
Well the first game is now down in the record books. It was not the best way to start the season, but then, as we know all too well, the ‘Caps lost the opening game last year and that ended up being an amazing season for the club.
So I will continue to say that one game doesn’t make a season. However, it may have shown us a glimpse of some things that are yet to come this season. The Whitecaps just need to get up, dust themselves off, and get ready for a tough two-game road trip in America.
After last season’s opening day loss, the Whitecaps also faced two games on the road, but they were not against powerhouses of MLS (this year Seattle and SKC, last year the Chicago Fire and an expansion Orlando side).
SKC, I feel, have been a very underappreciated team. Consider that in the last four seasons they have won three major trophies (two US Open Cups, and a MLS Cup). Yet somehow, the intelligence of Peter Vermes, and what he has built in Kansas, is not lauded. Perhaps Kansas City is not as well-respected as some of the more glamorous cities in the MLS but they are a powerhouse side.
FORM GUIDE :
After having a front seat for the Piatti and Bush show, the ‘Caps will be wanting to bounce back and show the league that the first game was just some hangover of new squad teething problems not rectified from the preseason.
They’re on the road for the first time this year to visit Sporting KC, and if there is anything from last year that the ‘Caps will be hoping to replicate, it’s their league-leading road form.
Sporting KC, meanwhile, are riding high after beating Seattle. The Sounders did get a red card, however, and KC were up a man for about 50 minutes and didn’t look very creative when trying to break down the 10 men of Seattle. It should be noted that they were without the attacking intellect and touch of Benny Feilhaber. That said, they did get the job done on a long range 73rd minute effort from their new defender Nuno Coelho.
TACTICS AND LINE-UP:
There are a couple of things that I noticed from both the KC and Whitecaps matches. Let us start with who should be starting where for the Whitecaps.
Having Fraser Aird and Christian Bolaños on the same side was terrible for the Whitecaps. During that first game neither was getting back fast enough and Bolaños seemed to lack the defending instinct. Perhaps this is just part of the adjustment period for him in the MLS (I will give him the benefit of the doubt for now). He may not realize just how physical this league can be and how much defensive work is required from the attacking players with the way teams set.
Together they just couldn’t deal with the interchange of Nacho Piatti, Harry Shipp and Dominic Oduro. Bolaños is now out of the next game due to suspension, so, if deemed fully fit, Manneh will probably come in on the left. The introduction of Manneh could mean a lot more pace on the counter and support for Octavio Rivero, but I was not terribly impressed with him when he came on as sub last week. He is clearly nursing himself back to fitness and looked a step off his usual self.
The adjustment that I would consider making is having Techera switch sides. When that occurred last game, the more experienced MLS player was able to minimize the mistakes of the other. Jordan Harvey did a good job picking his runs and being able to make sure he was not terribly out of position to get burned by a counter.
On the other side, Techera was able to get back more and support Aird. Aird needed the support. He really did look like fullback was not his natural position. When he went forward he left large gaps of space that Piatti, Shipp and others were able to exploit. This week, it is likely that Techera will be able to help him with the defensive work.
David Ousted had a gaffe against Montreal, and that can be the nature of the goalkeeper: you can make a huge save and be the hero (Evan Bush denying Rivero) or miss the ball and be the demon (Ousted missing Piatti’s ball to Oduro). All that said, Ousted is a leader and he took responsibility (even if you win and lose as a team) and seems ready to move forward.
Tim Parker and Kendall Waston both were able to have okay, but not great, games. Barring the slip up on Piatti’s goal by Parker, everything in the center of the park seems stable. And I don’t have huge qualms about their play. I enjoyed seeing Waston pick up the consolation goal. Hopefully we can continue to see our defenders chip in with goal scoring.
Speaking of goals, Rivero was picking up where he left off last year. He just couldn’t get a break no matter how hard he worked. Hitting the crossbar on his wonder shot was unfortunate. Bush was shutting down everything Rivero threw at him. If he doesn’t work hard though, he is never going to get the chances. I would start him again, simply based on his hold up play (however he was still a bit isolated up top) and the good runs off the shoulder he was having last game.
Pedro Morales seemed to show a bit of rust, and some brilliance. If he can unlock his more traditional awesomeness every game I will be much happier. I will be gracious and chalk this up to more preseason rustiness.
As for the subs, Manneh we’ve discussed and Kudo was well… still a bit of an unknown; he really didn’t have enough time to make something happen. Blaz Perez, as much as I may not have liked him previously, deserved some credit. When he came on he was winning balls with tackles and headers. His flicked headers looked delicious, now we just need someone to run onto them.
It would be good to mention that I really liked the look the team took when they brought on two strikers. Perez and Rivero both worked hard and seem to have a good chemistry together. Not only that, when the crosses and passes were being thrown through the box the team looked much more dangerous. I look forward to seeing this as a formation we start with.
Mati Laba continued to be Labaesque (6 tackles, he is off to a good start to winning the most tackles in the league).
Kianz Froese had an excellent outing for his first start at home. Although he played his passes fairly safe, it was his surging runs forward that made me cheer. He was trying to drag the team up, and his runs were making some space for others (he just needs to keep his head up and see those passes). I think he should be getting the start again.
As for Kansas City. Against Seattle they played a 4-3-3 that at times looked more like a 4-5-1. Without the creative midfield force of Feilhaber they seemed to pass the ball a bit aimlessly and left Dom Dwyer (who is a great striker) without anything to do. I would not be surprised that if with the injuries they have experienced they will continue to struggle with creating opportunities for Dwyer to put in (add in the fact that he has to deal with Waston or Parker, and he may not get a sniff at goal).
The Whitecaps should be playing the 4-2-3-1 against SKCs 4-3-3. Not namely because they have the look about them as a team struggling to score, but we may be able to use our good counter attacking abilities to get some goals against them. SKC had it a bit easy against a 10 man Seattle and struggled to score.
This is an eminently winnable game for the Whitecaps and hopefully the deadly counter-attack from last season shows up in this match and kickstarts Vancouver’s 2016 campaign with their first three points.
THREE QUESTIONS :
Will Aird bounce back if given the start ?
Can the Whitecaps get rid of those individual errors that caused the goals last week ?
Will someone finally be in the box to get on the end of the chances created and the flicked on balls or will they go to waste like so many times before?
AFTN’s OPPOSITION MAN TO WATCH :
Dom Dwyer – he is a proven finisher in the league and he will score on you if you give him the slightest chance.
PREDICTION FROM AFTN’s VIEW FROM 202 CREW:
Nick – 2-0 Vancouver, with goals from Rivero and Techera
Joe – 1-1, Blas Perez late on to rescue a point
Dan – 2-0 Van, Kudo and Rivero
Leave your predictions in the comments and ‘Mon the Caps.