The reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year is having some trouble in his sophmore campaign. Pedro Morales, the Whitecaps Captain and arguably the most talented player on the squad, has looked very flat in his first two outings of the 2015 season. It's concerning to see, especially because this is supposed to be the rejuvenated Pedro, fresh after a much needed break in the off-season. Remember, he had gone essentially 15 months without taking a break from professional soccer last season, and his fatigue became very apparent during the Whitecaps final stretch of the season, most notably the playoff match against FC Dallas.
It may be unfair to criticize Pedro so early in the season when players are still getting their feet under them and trying to gel with their new team-mates, but as the Whitecaps highest paid player and default face of the franchise, Morales simply needs to be better.
Let's talk game number 1. While Morales had some jump to his game early and was making those magnificent passes we've come to expect from him, a second half adjustment from TFC was enough to suffocate him, and by extension, the rest of the attack in a 3-1 loss. Russell Berrisford of the Vancouver Sun did a great write-up on that topic, by the way.
In game 2, Morales again looked flat offensively, although the Whitecaps were bailed out thanks to some stellar play from David Ousted, and a late marker from Octavio Rivero. So, what's going on with our midfield wizard? Well, Eighty Six Forever writer Alistair Ogden had some ideas in his report card entry, which I thought were very on-point.
1. It's early in the season. This time last year we had a man fresh out of La Liga itching for playing time. Give Pedro time to find his groove.
2. The chances are still being created. On another day one or both of Pedro's big chances could've found the back of the net and this discussion wouldn't be happening. As long as he's finding himself and his teammates in the right spots, good things will happen.
3. He's not ready for the captaincy. It's quite clear that Morales is feeling the pressure of an increased leadership role, and perhaps that's taking its toll. If Russell Teibert can hold onto his starting spot for the foreseeable future, perhaps he'll be promoted from Vice-Captain to the real thing.
So, with all that negativity out, I should mention I have plenty of faith in Pedro, and I think so do most of the Whitecaps faithful. While it's natural to worry about the biggest star on the club, all we can do is wait it out and hope he finds his groove as the season progresses. The good news is the Whitecaps finally have a legitimate attacking option up front in Octavio Rivero, who has looked sublime in his first couple of matches with the 'Caps. Once Morales is playing at the level we're all used to seeing, the duo could become absolutely lethal.