Three straight study defensive performances to start the season followed by an Alain Rochat injury begs the question: can the Whitecap's continue their streak of clean sheets without one of the leagues best left backs?
Real life has once again delayed the Sunday standard weekly Two Up Two Down. But maybe it's a good thing, as I, like many of you, left BC Place doing a lot of angry muttering. Perhaps the couple extra days have given me a little bit of perspective.
So here it is. Week 3's thumbs.
THUMBS UP: 3 Games, 7 Points, 3 Clean Sheets
The Whitecaps have not exactly had the most potent of attackers to cope with, but they have started the season without shipping a goal for 270 minutes. For much of that period, the Whitecaps haven't even looked like the goal was threatened. There have of course been a few chances, requiring a Joe Cannon Save of the Week last week, and a contender again this week, but throughout the run of play there have been few moments where the back four looked truly threatened or outclassed. Even against Dwayne De Rosario, who can single handedly give defenses fits, the Whitecaps stood fast and looked like a side that even the best teams will have problems breaking down.
They say defense wins championships. It's early, and it's against second rate opponents, but with defending like they've seen so far, the Whitecaps look like a team that will be a difficult draw for any opponent. Let's hope a knee injury to Alain Rochat doesn't shake the resolution of the Whitecaps.
THUMBS UP: Canada beats US in a meaningful game. And for once I'm not talking hockey.
On March 24th, Canada defeated USA 2-0 in CONCACAF U-23 Olympic Qualifying. This was a huge game for the Canadians, as it meant they were in the driver seat and a win would likely have meant they would not face the Mexicans in the semi-final cross-over.
Now, full disclosure, I didn't see the game due to work, and I regret it, as from all accounts it was a perfectly executed match against a team with much more raw talent. Smart defending, soak up the pressure, and counter-attack. Seeing the looks on the Canadians faces after they scored was priceless, as they clearly knew how big of a game it was.
The Canadians going to the Olympics would be massive for soccer in Canada. Especially after a massively successful winter Olympics, the summer games in London would be a wonderful stage for soccer to once again be on the minds of casual fans.
Which is why this would be such a massive story if it wasn't for...
THUMBS DOWN: Canada performs poorly against lesser opposition.
Perhaps we should tell the Canadian Men's National Team and the U23 players to play like women. The Women's National Team did what they were supposed to do. They beat all the teams they needed to in the Olympic Qualifiers and nothing more.
Granted, we didn't know much about El Salvador or Cuba and how good, or not good they really were. But the Canadian team is full of professional footballers of some level and really should be able to take three points from ONE OF Cuba or El Salvador.
I suppose that's the thing with supporting Canadian soccer. At the point you begin to get optimistic you should sit down and hold on because you're likely to be in for some disappointment.
THUMBS DOWN: Uninspiring in attack. Again.
For the second week in a row the Whitecaps attack looked out of sync, and this time it was in front of almost 20,000 of it's own fans instead of being away where a lack of attacking pressure is expected.
I'd much rather be in 0-0 draws at this time of the season than 3-3. Our defense was the question mark going into the season, and there is no additional support coming as there is for the forwards. Etienne Barbara, Darren Mattocks, Atiba Harris, Russel Teibert, and Michael Nanchoff are all capable attacking options that will no doubt add something to the attack. It is without real surprise that with Chiumiento and Camilo as the wingers, the Whitecaps attack has no width and ends up as a one trick pony with four left hooves.
And part of this can be attributed to luck. Barbara injured in his first training session. A kitchen mishap to the speed demon Mattocks. Harris and Nanchoff continue their poor luck with early season knocks. Teibert is called up to play for Canada U23. A technical attack forced to play on a wet and shaggy pitch at the Home Depot Center. Add in the odd blown call (Hassli was onside, damnnit,) and we shouldn't be surprised the Whitecaps aren't lighting up the scoreboard.
No excuses should be made though. The first choice attackers have been available and must do better. And it's probably time to get back to basics. Like shots on net. If I am Martin Rennie and I see more failed cheeky back heels or players trying to go 1v3 before they have tested the keeper like against DC, that player is sitting out next game. The Whitecaps had zero shots on target against DC. Zero. That's a good place to look to if you want to score goals.