I’m going to be honest, Saturday was the first time I had a chance to see WFC2 in live action. I’ve been looking for a chance all season, but have had to settle for highlights on YouTube or the occasional Facebook live stream. But finally, last Saturday, my two brothers and I put on our raincoats and took the long awaited pilgrimage to UBC.
The atmosphere was pleasant, with Curva Collective ensuring that there was plenty of noise. The weather was bordering on biblical at points. The game that took place on the jaded looking Thunderbird field was nothing short of box office.
The angle from the stands took a little while to get used to, but it was quite obvious that WFC2 play a well drilled 4-4-2 that transitions into a 4-5-1 without the ball, with plenty of industry coming from the partnership of Kyle Greig and Daniel Haber.
Haber in particular was not afraid of throwing his weight around. As we saw with the first team, without the forwards willing to run their socks off, the game plan will have limited success.
There were two key features that I saw which led Whitecaps 2 to victory.
The first was the defensive solidity that they showed up until the spirited OKC comeback. This was possible because of the aforementioned strikers dropping in to limit the OKC midfielders time on the ball.
Kyle Greig reminds me of an old school target man. His strength is there for all to see, and he fulfils the old cliché of “good feet for a big man”. I was impressed by his intelligent decision making that has no doubt contributed to his first team call ups.
The central midfield tended to drop quite deep to shield the back four, this could have been a preventative strategy, because as we saw, OKC can score from distance. This lead to key feature #2; the shape was of great benefit to the wide players, because it created isolations on the counter attack where the players could cut in.
As the graphic below shows, by splitting the winger and his fullback on the counter, the ‘Caps repeatedly found favourable matchups. This was mainly found on the Whitecaps right flank.
The second and third Whitecaps goals came from this type of situation. Kadin Chung (from the fullback position) ran across the top of the box, warping the narrow OKC backline out of shape before finding the fantastically spatially aware Greig who slotted home with placement rather than power. The winner from Haber occurred because the winger chose to go on the outside before crossing in after exploiting one such isolation. The ball fell to Haber who showed poise and ability before slotting home.
Alan Koch knows the strengths of his team. I noticed three main attacking outlets: the long ball to Greig, Kianz Froese’s surging runs through the middle, and the through ball to the forward running Brett Levis.
The latter needs to be carefully engineered; the shape of the team needs to enable Levis to get forward. In order to create space in front of Levis, the midfield needs to shift to the opposing flank. Naturally the opposition will match this, creating the space needed. I noticed this more in other games than the playoff game against OKC, and would likely serve better for a counter-attacking game plan.
Credit to Alan Koch, who not only instils his team with confidence, but also for having and executing a game plan. Koch has done a fantastic job with these young players, and has already ushered a couple of them into the MLS. If he continues this good work, he could be a leading candidate for the number one job in the future.
What WFC2 are doing for the club is more important than any of us can fathom. It is a place for players to develop; think of all the talent that has been wasted over the years due to lack of competitive match time. In this season where little else is worthy of being happy about, the WFC2 have plenty to be proud of.