This was an up-and-down season for the Whitecaps. During the Summer, Report Cards were full of A’s and optimism. As Fall approached, the goals dried up and the wins disappeared. Correspondingly, our Report Cards included more C’s (and lower) and pessimism. There was hope going in to this playoff series against the Portland Timbers that the Caps could regain their Summer form and we could get back to handing out glowing grades. Sadly, that did not occur, and on Sunday night we saw more of the same from the previous two months. I now bring to you the FINAL Report Card for the Vancouver Whitecaps of the 2015 MLS season…it won’t be pretty.
Let’s start with the positives, the defense. As has been the case all season, the defense looked stalwart with wave after wave of Timber attacks, keeping their bend but not break mentality. As usual, Ousted made several superb saves and cannot be blamed on the Fenando Adi goal. While some of the ‘blame’ could be placed at the feet of the defense on the Adi goal as he peeled off the shoulder of Tim Parker and Kendall Waston to find open space at the top of the six, I think they deserve a break on this one and sometimes you tip your cap to great linkup from Valeri and Adi. In the veteran-filled back four, the concern was around whether Parker would be intimidated or play cautious in the biggest game of his professional career. Despite the obvious concern there was optimism as he had yet to show any evidence of being a fresh-faced rookie. Sunday night was no different and once again Parker was a standout on an otherwise solid backline. Going in to last season there were questions surrounding the centerback position on the Whitecaps. I believe that heading into the off-season it is clear who the starting two are on this team, and it is a starting tandem that we can all be excited about. Combined with David Ousted, Matias Laba, and Gershon Koffie, the starting defensive side of the Whitecaps look to be a force next season as well!
David Ousted (A), Kendall Waston (A-), & Tim Parker (A)
Continuing on the veteran backline of the Whitecaps, we turn our attention to the two fullbacks Jordan Harvey and Steven Beitashour. This season the two fullback could probably be best described as solid and steady but unspectacular. In the final game of the season, I believe the same could be said. Jordan had another great game while Beitashour looked lively to begin the game before quieting to close out the first half. Both fullbacks came out strong in the second half, pushing forward and looking dangerous in their crosses. While Beitashour was subbed off in the 82nd minute for more offense, he and Harvey looked solid and steady, but were unable to capitalize like so often this season, and thus unspectacular.
Steven Beitashour (B), & Jordan Harvey (B+)
After playing the last three games as the attacking midfielder Gershon Koffie was back at his normal position beside Matias Laba in the double pivot holding midfield. Not much to say on these two. They looked good. Maybe I give Laba the benefit of the doubt more as I do not expect as much offense from him, but if I were to note any negatives, I would say that Koffie was not as dangerous offensively as I believe he can be. He shows glimpse from time to time but never seems to be able to sustain it. For the double-pivot holding midfield to be successful next season, I believe that we need to see more out of Koffie going forward. Otherwise, Laba can handle that position by himself and Koffie’s position can be moved further up the field to address the anemic offense.
Matias Laba (A-) & Gerhson Koffie (B+)
Alongside Tim Parker questions surrounded Kukuta Manneh’s youth and ability to step up in a crucial game. Sadly, we never obtained the full answer as he was subbed off in the 26th minute, thanks to the BC Place carpet monster. Prior to the game Manneh said all the right words and that he was excited, not nervous, for the game. In the time Manneh played he certainly backed up his words. He looked lively and dangerous; something that could not be said about him over the past month plus of games. Manneh was visibly frustrated when he realized he could not continue and his removal from the game was clearly the key turning point in the match. The Whitecaps offense was in neutral (or reverse) for the remainder of the game. A bit of a side note, when Manneh initially came off, they heavily retaped his ankle. It looks like he already had a bad ankle and the weak ankle (and poor turf) lead to his injury. I would not be surprised if he has been dealing with a sprain for some time, which might help explain some of his poor, cautious play of late. In a do-or-die game he went all out (credit to him) and, sadly, it backfired.
Kekuta Manneh (Incomplete)
Going into the playoffs I felt that Cristian Techera (and Nicolas Mezquida) would determine whether the Whitecaps advanced. While the blame cannot be placed on only Techera, he was fairly invisible for most of the two games against the Timbers. It is disappointing as he has been the only offensive weapon over the past two months. Hopefully this is not his last game as a Whitecap. I suspect the front office will try to sign him, but hopefully that does not come at a DP pricetag as the Whitecaps need to spend some money on other parts of the offense.
Cristian Techera (C)
A lot was made of Pedro Morales’ return to the Starting XI. However, I was less optimistic, and was sadly proven correct for my pessimism. Thanks to being in the United States, I watched the American broadcast of the match. Pre-game they were pointing out the importance of Morales to the Whitecaps. I recall saying (yes, talking to my TV again) ‘yes and no’. They talked about Morales being the engine to the offense. That isn’t actually true. A few games back I remember a stat that showed that the Whitecaps scored LESS with Morales at the helm (compared to Mezquida). Morales certainly has the ability to make the beautiful pass but… I have been vocal in my ‘dislike’ for Morales. Not that he is a bad guy, just that he is not a good fit for this team. Sunday’s game epitomized this feeling. I was regularly frustrated, especially in the second half, in Morales’ playmaking decisions. All I saw was long bomb after long bomb. It seemed so useless and counterproductive. The Whitecaps were having struggles with possession and as soon as they regained possession Morales would fire a 60-yard prayer that went unanswered, and the Whitecaps were quickly on defense again! In addition, Morales was taking the corner kicks again. STOP! Techera (or Rosales) should be taking them. Have we not learned over the past two years that Morales SUCKS at taking corner kicks? To me, Sunday’s game displayed why Morales is not a good fit for this team going forward. Hopefully I am proven wrong next season, but the concerns I outline were evident last season and this season. There is no reason to believe they will go away.
Pedro Morales (F)
Octavio Rivero. What can we say about him? You had a great first six games… yeah, that is about it. In the final 25 MLS matches he played in (1,769 minutes) Rivero scored one goal from open play. ONE! And it was against Colorado. Not good enough by a long shot. Carl Robinson has done well in bringing in players. He has not had many misses. So far, Rivero is a miss. He can be lauded regularly for his non-scoring play, but when you are in a one-striker formation and your striker CANNOT score, then it is not going to work. While Darren Mattocks and Robert Earnshaw are not the solution, even they did better this season.
Octavio Rivero (F)
Speaking of Mattocks and Earnshaw, the two saw brief periods in the final game of the season as substitutes. I have long been an advocate of Mattocks but I believe he has played his last match as a Whitecap, and I am okay with that. Whether it is the lack of playing time or something else, Mattocks has looked useless when on the field. I was looking forward to seeing what he would do with 30 minutes. Outside of three starts since the beginning of June, Mattocks has not played more than 16 minutes in a match. This was his chance to be a hero and to leave on a high. On Sunday night he was invisible and failed miserably.
Darren Mattocks (C-)
It is sad that the offensive highlight of the last 75 minutes of a team’s season was an awkward, improbable, bicycle kick attempt from a 34-year-old who played 43 minutes during the regular season (and scored two goals). Yet, that is what we saw in the waning minutes of Sunday night’s game from Robert Earnshaw. Like many of you I was sad to not see Earnshaw receive more minutes throughout the season. He was certainly not the answer to this team’s woes but in the little bit of time he was on the field Earnshaw made a difference. It is unclear why he was brought in as a player on $100,000 if he was just going to be a coach for the ThunderCaps. Despite the wonderful two goals and final memorable play of the 2015 season, I will really question the decisions of Robinson if Earnshaw is on the payroll again next season. This team needs offense. If you are going to spend $100,000 on a player, either play him or spend it on someone else.
Robert Earnshaw (B)
We conclude this Report Card and 2015 season with what will probably be the final grade for Mauro Rosales as a Vancouver Whitecap. Rosales has been a valuable part of the Whitecaps these past two seasons and brings a hard work ethic and veteran leadership. He has been an important part of this team. However, I believe I was not alone when my hopes for a victory diminished greatly when I saw Rosales being subbed on for Manneh. Now, to be fair, I am not surprised by that move and I am not sure that I would have put Mattocks on instead, but Rosales was ineffective on Sunday. Like many of the offensive weapons, Rosales was missing in action. I thank Rosales for his hard work and contributions to this team (they have been many) but it is time to move on from him.
Mauro Rosales (C-)
What were your thoughts on the individual performances Sunday evening? Agree with my assessment? Do you believe we need to see more offense out of Laba or is his defensive prowess enough? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for all your comments throughout the season!