COMMERCE CITY, CO - after Wednesday's dull outing against the Montreal Impact fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps may have been willing to write the evening's performance off and perhaps blame the two week World Cup break as reason for their substandard performance. After tonight's two-nil loss at the hands of Colorado Rapids fans may now have reason to be a little concerned.
It is, of course, far too early to start ringing the alarm bells and suggest that the entire season is in jeopardy. Far from it. Considering the Whitecaps went into tonight's match with the longest winning streak in MLS, they must have been doing something right. Unfortunately for Vancouver the two-week break really appears to have interrupted any momentum and chemistry they had going for them.
Vancouver manager Carl Robinson made several changes to his starting lineup for this match. With the return of Steven Beitashour (World Cup duty) and Nigel Reo-Coker to the Caps' locker room Robbo finally had some options at right full back, but the main changes to the defensive corps came at centre back where Carlyle Mitchell and Johnny Leveron replaced veterans Jay DeMerit and Andy O'Brien. Intent on rotating the players in his squad Robinson started the Uruguayan duo of Sebastian Fernandez and Nicolas Mezquida in place of the speedy pair of Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks.
The opening 15 minutes of the match were fairly uneventful as both sides settled into the game, although Vancouver did have an early chance to open the scoring in the eighth minute when midfielder Russell Teibert put a shot just wide of Clint Irwin's goal after some clever passing by Mezquida and Pedro Morales.
Just after the quarter hour mark, the Whitecaps appeared to become a little unhinged at the back and were fortunate not to fall behind when Dillon Powers' shot beat David Ousted, but thundered off the crossbar and stayed out. Sadly, the defensive miscues and poor communication that led to the near miss was punished just minutes later when Colorado continued to take advantage of Vancouver's sloppy play. This time Powers would not be denied, and his confidently struck shot opened the scoring for the Rapids.
The match continued in much the same fashion and in the 36th minute Deshorn Brown raced into the Caps' area and was needlessly upended by Reo-Coker. Referee Ted Unkel pointed to the spot, and the penalty kick was smashed home by Vicente Sanchez to double Colorado's lead over the Whitecaps.
After the restart Robinson switched tactics from a 4-3-2-1 formation to a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield and replaced Mezquida and Fernandez with Gershon Koffie and Darren Mattocks. Twenty minutes from full time Robinson bought off Matias Laba in favour of Medhi Ballouchy. Ballouchy, who was making his Whitecaps debut after recovering from a long-term knee injury, completed 19 of 24 passes and had 28 touches on the ball in his brief appearance. Robinson's changes did register the occasional beep or two on the Caps' EKG meter, but ultimately Vancouver could not find any chemistry or rhythm and a disappointing outing ended in a two nil victory in favor of the Rapids.
The Final Word:
While there is still plenty of soccer to be played this season, the Whitecaps (W5-L3-D7) have to find a way to start winning matches. The Whitecaps currently still are sitting in the fifth and final playoff spot in the MLS Western Conference with one, or even two games in hand on the teams that sit above them in the table. On the flip side however, apart from the Portland Timbers, who are in sixth place and have played two games more than Vancouver, the other three teams at the bottom of the table have two or even three games in hand on the Caps. It's time to start bringing home the points because if the Caps continue to struggle and hemorrhage points here and there as the season continues, they could find themselves in a tough spot later in the season.
Hopefully Robinson and his men can turn things around quickly because we have seen that this is a team that can compete with any other side in the league, and if they can find their form, then hopefully this will also be a team heading back to the MLS Cup playoffs at the end of the season.
After two games in four days, the Whitecaps do not return to action until next Saturday - when the Seattle Sounders return to BC Place for their second visit of the year. No one said it would be easy, but perhaps the intensity of a Cascadia Cup match is exactly what the Caps need to wake up out of their funk and start firing on all cylinders once again.
Man of the Match: Jordan Harvey
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