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Report Card: Whitecaps vs Earthquakes

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The Vancouver Whitecaps finally bumped the scoring slump after 450'. The blue and white managed to put two past Jon Busch, but neither of them came during open play against a defense about as impenetrable as a wet paper bag.

The Beast of the Backline, Vancouver Whitecaps CB Kendall Waston (#4) keeps SJE forward Tommy Thompson under control.
The Beast of the Backline, Vancouver Whitecaps CB Kendall Waston (#4) keeps SJE forward Tommy Thompson under control.
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

You'd think I was about to devote even more time to breaking down the performance of Vancouver's attackers, who've rightly or wrongly been on the receiving end of much attention in this city. But I'm not. Instead, this report card is devoted to the other reason why the Caps were so successful Wednesday night - the back four, and defensive front man Matias Laba.

Coming into Wednesday's match, San Jose had only one viable scoring threat: perennial goal-bagger Chris Wondolowski. This season, with the partial dissolution of the bash brothers (Alan Gordon's now in LA) and injury woes for Steven Lenhart, Wondo's been left pretty much to his own devices.

As a testament to the forward's quality, Wondolowski has still managed to notch 12 goals - good enough to put him in a tie for 6th spot overall. After Wondo, the next-highest men on the scoring ladder for the Earthquakes are Yannick Djalo, Cordell Cato, and Atiba Harris, only one of whom is a forward.

If you can neutralize Wondo, you're well on your way to victory - if you can score, that is.

So how did Wondo do on Wednesday? Well, how many times can you recall hearing his name? That's right... not many. Let's look at his numbers:

Shots attempted: 3
Only one, which was at close range at the 55' mark, fell on target. One of his attempts (wide) came from 25 yards out.

Passing: 86%
A decent rate of completions, but almost all were balls being played back to midfield. He registered only five pass attempts in and around the Vancouver penalty area - two of them attempts to play forward, both of which were unsuccessful. His supporting CMs Sam Cronin and J.J. Koval didn't register a shot.

In short, Wondolowski got a lot of attention from Caps' defenders, who not only turned him back on almost every occasion, but nullified most of his attempts to feed others in an attacking position.

Matias Laba: B+

Tackles: 3
Blocks:   0
Interceptions: 8
Clearances:      3
Recoveries:      11

Jordan Harvey: B

Tackles: 0
Blocks:   0
Interceptions: 0
Clearances:      9
Recoveries:      4

Kendall Waston: B+

Tackles: 1
Blocks:   1
Interceptions: 4
Clearances:      13
Recoveries:      7

Andy O'Brien: B+

Tackles: 1
Blocks:   0
Interceptions: 3
Clearances:      11
Recoveries:      6

Steven Beitashour: B

Tackles: 2
Blocks:   0
Interceptions: 6
Clearances:      7
Recoveries:      5

As the Whitecaps returned to the long-lost 4-4-2 diamond formation, the Caps' fullbacks got the opportunity to join in the attack. Harvey, in particular, pushed upfield often, as both contributed to the move forward.

The cross of the night comes in the 34th minute from an unusual source this week: CB Andy O'Brien. Playing out of his end, O'Brien delivers the ball out wide right to Mauro Rosales on the touchline. This pulls San Jose's LB Jordan Stewart over to challenge Rosales. O'Brien sees the gaping hole in the Earthquakes' back line and immediately hops on his bike to turn the play into a give and go sequence with Rosales. O'Brien's curling effort from the right flank is served up perfectly, but winds up half a yard too long for Erik Hurtado to get his head on it.

Much of the attention from this match has gone to a variety of Caps stalwarts: Russell Teibert, Pedro Morales for the goal and assist, as well as the two Uruguayans Sebastien Fernandez and Nicolas Mezquida for their solid performances.

But it's the blue-collar work done by the back line and Laba that played a big part in this one. Any time the Caps can send Wondo home without a point, it's a sign that things are clicking at the back end.