Much like the Whitecaps’ defending, our match previews are back from a summer break to look towards the next potential playoff decider.
This Saturday sees the first of two consecutive games against Sporting Kansas City; the first, in Kansas, comes in MLS action, quickly followed by a home game next Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League group stages.
Sporting KC are sitting five points above the ‘Caps in the Western Conference standings, two places above the playoff cut-off but having played a game more. A win on Saturday would considerably close the gap between the Whitecaps and post-season action and it would very much be game on for the remaining eight league matches. A defeat could see Vancouver drop off into the group of bottom feeders, whose playoff hopes have seen dashed for some time now. Basically that’s Houston in the West!
Like so many seasons before this, we have entered a must-win stage of the year in order to keep expectations alive.
That being said, the Whitecaps don’t look like they have much to offer. While I genuinely believe the defence has been strengthened by the additions of Marcel de Jong and David Edgar, the organizational side of things has completely fallen apart.
The usually well-oiled midfield machine has stalled continuously. Matias Laba, who we laud and praise, is going through a rough patch which is hitting the team’s performances hard. It is not solely on his shoulders however; there seems to be a lack of character in the team.
Kendall Waston is a great player, but he’s having a patchy season; the right back position has been a revolving door since March, and David Ousted can only do so much.
The problem is not helped by a lack of offense. Masato Kudo is not physically imposing enough to make consistent impacts (as we saw against the Earthquakes’ centre backs), and Blas Perez isn’t getting his chance. Giles Barnes seems to be a pacey, strong player, but he seemed to be unable to make an impact in the ‘Caps wing positions. Alphonso Davies has been handled well: we can not be starting a 15 year old in order to get out of a rough patch. A talent like his needs to be eased in, and Robbo has man managed him well.
The team looks like it needs a spark, and whether that be a new signing (scan those free agents) or a change in formation, we need something and we need it quick.
Tactics, formation and line-up options:
The 3-5-2 was cool and all, but I don’t think we are a team with the personnel to carry it out regularly.
To explain this, look at Italy, who played this formation at the European Championship this past summer. Instead of filling the team with talent like Sebastian Giovinco and other such pacey, jinky players, Conte filled the team with gritty, tactically aware players like Graziano Pelle, Emanuele Giaccherini and Eder.
The Whitecaps don’t really have the players that fit this profile. The only ones that come to mind are the aging Perez, the out of form Laba, and the robust Mezquida. Wing backs are super fun to watch: I believe that Fraser Aird and Marcel de Jong are better suited to that position than the classic full back, but the midfield would be calamitous. We also don’t have two strikers that you could get to throw their weight around and create chances. Or even score right now.
I see Robbo sticking with the 4-2-3-1, but first giving the players a firm kick in the butt after last week’s shambles. I would like to see Pedro Morales back in the number position: we need him further forward.
I love the guy, but I think Masato Kudo needs to be dropped. Put Giles Barnes up front and put Mezquida on the wing. A result is desperately needed, and change is necessary at this point.
Sporting KC play a 4-3-3, which could spell trouble for our leaky defence if Graham Zusi and Dom Dwyer are up for the game, and why wouldn’t they be? Dwyer especially needs to be marshalled with care. If we can get our wingers going we should be able to overrun the midfield, but with the way we have been playing of late, I wouldn’t get my hopes up of us carrying it out.
AFTN’s Man to Watch:
Dom Dwyer – the pest of a striker will look to be a thorn in the side of Kendall Waston all game long.
The View From 202 crew’s predictions:
Joe: 2-0 SKC – We aren’t great on the road in the best of times
Nick: 1-1 – They put in a good fight, but defensive problems will continue
Dan: 1-0 SKC – The least said about it, the better