Caps Quietly Effective at the Back

Hurried, harried, and manhandled. The Vancouver Whitecaps hardly gave the Red Bulls a sniff at goal on Saturday. - Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Spor

Fervent Red Bulls fans will no doubt point to the absence of Thierry Henry as a key factor in their team's opening day 4-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. They'd all be wrong.

All the recaps and highlight packages following Saturday afternoon's drubbing of the Red Bulls focused on the spectacular showing of the Vancouver attack: Fernandez, Morales, Miller - even Mattocks. And, in truth, they deserved every second of it. But so too did Vancouver's defending.

In the 90' that Tim Cahill put in, he managed a grand total of 0 shot attempts, and there were spells where I had to double-check that he was, in fact, still on the pitch. Striker Peguy Luyindula managed two attempts, with only one on target, and Bradley Wright-Phillps, who relieved him for the final 17', notched one attempt - which beat Ousted in added time. Last year's Supporters' Shield winners were limited to just four shots on target in eight attempts.

In the Whitecaps' case, defensively it was most certainly a case of bend a bit, but don't break. And some key indicators bear this out:

Possession: NYRB 57%  VWFC 43%

Passes: NYRB 472  VWFC 360

Passing %: NYRB 85%  VWFC 77%

Aerial Success: NYRB 68%  VWFC 32%

Let's look a little more closely at the performance of the back six:

  • Matias Laba (M)
    1 block, 4 interceptions, 6 recoveries, 2 clearances, 87% passing and 2 key passes
  • Nigel Reo-Coker (M)
    4 tackles won, 1 block, 2 interceptions, 6 recoveries, 80% passing and 1 assist
  • Steven Beitashour (D)
    3 interceptions, 5 recoveries, 8 clearances, 73% passing
  • Andy O'Brien (D)
    1 block, 3 interceptions, 2 recoveries, 10 clearances, 65% passing
  • Jay DeMerit (D)
    5 interceptions, 4 recoveries, 5 clearances, 80% passing
  • Jordan Harvey (D)
    2 interceptions, 5 recoveries, 1 clearance, 79% passing, and 1 assist

Of the eight shots New York attempted to direct past David Ousted, five of them came from beyond the 18-yard box - and three of those were from 25 yards out or further. Vancouver allowed only one shot on goal from inside the 18, and that was Wright-Phillips' late header goal. Overall, the Red Bulls managed 4 shots on target in 8 attempts. Not even the presence of Henry would have been enough to help the Red Bulls.

Conversely, the Caps placed 10 shots on target in 14 attempts. Three attempts were blocked, and only 1was an out-and-out miss. While Vancouver gave up only one opportunity inside their own 18, they generated 8 of their own (PK included) inside the Red Bulls' box.

Clearly, there's room for improvement from the Caps in terms of winning aerial battles and maintaining possession in midfield. But so far, at least, in the defending third of the pitch they're looking very solid indeed.

Chivas aren't expected to be without their top sniper next week - and it'll be an away match for the Caps. Let's see if Vancouver's defence can continue to stand tall.

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