I go a holiday and the Whitecaps start doing very well! Perhaps I should be doing this more often. It would be good for the Whitecaps, and good for my sanity, but not good for my bank account though.
The ‘Caps are now unbeaten in four games and are 6-2-2 in their last ten matches. Long gone are the days of the Whitecaps struggling during the summer. But as we close in on the postseason, they will perhaps want to aim for a bye in the playoffs. Every change that Robbo has made has been working, and they have been squeezing out points and finding ways to win games they may not have any right to.
The Whitecaps have eight matches left and are leading the Western Conference on points gained per game. A playoff spot looks all but guaranteed. If they screw this up, then heads will surely roll.
Next up, in the second match of a four game home stand, are struggling expansion side Minnesota United. What will the Loons hold in store for the ‘Caps and will Vancouver be sitting atop the Western Conference standings come the final whistle?
Formation, Tactics, and Line-up
The Whitecaps have been doing well by integrating their offseason signings, which has made the existing formation better and better. The arrival of Jake Nerwinski as a legitimate starting fullback has had a huge effect, and things just look like they are getting better and better for the young American, with talk even of Rookie of the Year honours.
Nerwinski has won this starting spot. He has been excellent in the build up and in the defensive phase. He seems to get better with each passing game, learning and improving. The Kendall Waston and Tim Parker partnership continues to grow. Waston has found his old form and if he and Parker continue to win the aerial battles and make smart decision, then the Whitecaps lack of possession will not be a problem.
Jordan Harvey continues to lock down his spot as the ageless goal machine. He has been making some mistakes as he ages but they are few and far between recently. He has seen some time out of the side to rest those old bones, and we could see that again against Minnesota, allowing Marcel de Jong to deputise, keeping him fresh for the tougher that that will be Columbus Crew on Saturday.
In goal, David Ousted has been on fire recently, Saturday’s first half mishap aside, making saves that most goalies have no right getting to. Hopefully he stays hot. With the main game plan to cede possession he will occasionally be called on to bail the team out.
With Matias Laba out injured until next spring, it appears that the signing of Aly Ghazal is a brilliant piece of business. He was decent on his debut on Saturday and now that he has been bloodied for his first 90 minutes I would love to see him get more time in this game against Minnesota.
He did well winning balls and pushing the team forward. Can he go another 90? 60? Carl Robinson indicated on Saturday that he may have to look at his involvement against Minnesota, which could see Andrew Jacobson or Russell Teibert coming in off the bench around the hour mark, or possibly even getting the start.
Tony Tchani has been a great threat from set pieces. Not the best passer, but he puts in lots of fight and pushes the opponents around and I expect to see him as one part of the two man defensive shield, no matter who ends up playing alongside of him.
Fredy Montero has been doing well up top. He has not lit the MLS on fire, but he has been consistently dangerous and he has gotten to double digits for goals. I look for him to continue to lead the attacking unit against the worst defence in MLS.
Behind him, Yordy Reyna has been absolutely fantastic. He pops up and scores when the team needs it most. Not only that, he seems to have built some fantastic chemistry with both Montero and Bernie Ibini. I would love to see him get some more time with a start and pick apart a Minnesota side that has just one win on the road all season.
On the wings, Cristian Techera has continued to produce and is the Whitecaps second top scorer. He should continue to play as he is key to the ‘Caps scoring by committee. Brek Shea, or even Ibini again, should start on the other wing. We seem to have something of a thing for a tall winger (wide target man?). Both have been impressive recently with their contributions and are fighting for time.
Minnesota are coming to BC Place still struggling to produce in their first MLS season. They are certainly not as bad as earlier in the season, and neither are their results, but they are not having as good a year as Atlanta (the other expansion team). They have decent players, but not players that can change the game on an amazing set piece.
If the Whitecaps want to prove to the league that they mean business, this is exactly the type of team they should be putting away. But as we’ve seen on a couple of occasions already this season, this is also exactly the type of team that they seem to struggle to do that against.
How much rotation will there be from the Whitecaps?
Can Reyna and Nerwinski keep getting better with each passing game?
With their playoff fate in their own hands, can the Whitecaps keep up this excellent run of recent form and finish the night first in the Western Conference standings?
AFTN’s Man to Watch
Kevin Molino – he can score, he can pass, and has good off the ball movement. Any offense that they get going will involve him.
Nick: 2-0 Whitecaps. They keep on rolling (Montero and Shea to score)
Joe: 1-0 Vancouver