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Caps Struggling in Transition

"There has to be a response." In just six words, Joe Cannon, talking with earlier this week, summarized precisely the situation facing the Vancouver Whitecaps as they prepare to battle the San Jose Earthquakes this evening in California.

Nigel Reo-Coker and the rest of the Whitecaps midfield need to step it up tonight.
Nigel Reo-Coker and the rest of the Whitecaps midfield need to step it up tonight.

And with the news yesterday that Whitecaps striker Kenny Miller won't be available (hamstring), the need for a re-ignition of the team's engines becomes even more critical.

And it all starts in transition - namely the Whitecaps' midfield. Following last week's 2-1 loss to Chivas USA, coach Martin Rennie offered a wholly unfiltered view of his impressions of his midfield's play: "very disappointing." To a man, the midfielders Gershon Koffie, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Jun Marques Davidson - had "an off night". In other words, they were wholly ineffective.

Perhaps the most conspicuously bad performance was turned in by Nigel Reo-Coker, who if not being accorded a DP spot to begin with, was certainly brought in to be an impact player for Vancouver. And he was - for the first two matches on home soil. But on the road - in both Houston and again against Chivas - Mr. Reo-C's performance has dropped off. At the Home Depot Center, his stats include: an abysmal 20/38 passing, and just 1 tackle.

But Reo-Coker is not alone. Koffie's game involvement has taken a nosedive. Against Columbus, the Opta chalkboard data available at shows he was involved in 112 game events. Against Houston? 75. In the last two matches he was credited with only 1 tackle won.

As for Davidson, his play has been more steady, but there's no question that he struggled mightily versus Chivas. A bounce-back match from him tonight would not be asking terribly much.

It's no secret that Darren Mattocks still hasn't really gotten on track yet this season, and Camilo Sanvezzo has been begging for minutes. Neither have set the world on fire so far this season. Kekuta Manneh and Erik Hurtado have shown very brief flashes of effectiveness - which is pretty much all one could ask of an MLS rookie just four matches into the season.

Without Miller, who's been the catalyst on the attack this season, the Whitecaps will find it very difficult to generate a lot of opportunities, and will need to capitalize on just about every sniff they get tonight. I don't know who will get those chances, but I'm fairly sure that most of them will begin with decent service and committed play from the midfield.