After watching Diego Rodriguez seamlessly fit into the Whitecaps lineup on Saturday, there was only one lingering question I had about the young Uruguyan Center Back; Why did it take so long for Carl Robinson to put him in the starting 11?
After two weeks of unsure, albeit intimidating play from MLS veteran Pa Modou Kah, the Whitecaps looked cleaner, and more composed at the back end with Diego Rodriguez in the mix. Kah had been left at home while the Whitecaps travelled to Orlando, something that Head Coach Carl Robinson has been known to do with his veteran players (see Jay Demerit, Andy O'Brien). While Kah brings size, a physical edge and snarling intimidation, his positioning and volatility are always a concern, especially paired with the equally aggressive Kendall Waston.
For Waston to be truly effective, he needs a positionally sound, smart defender that can act almost as his safeguard, a role Andy O'Brien filled perfectly in Waston's limited duty last season. Pa Modou Kah is not that type of defender, but Diego Rodriguez has shown he might be.
AtlantisB agreed in his report card from the weekend's match, in which he gave Rodriguez an 'A' grade.
Although Rodriguez may not be ‘better' than Kah (I believe he is), Rodriguez offers what has been missing during the first two games: a center back who loves to defend and has that as his focal point. I believe that with Rodriguez, the Whitecaps get a better Waston as it allows him to charge in on players and disrupt the play while still having cover should he miss the tackle. That is, the similarities between Kah and Waston leaves the team exposed too often when paired together. Maybe a Kah/Parker (or Dean) partnership for some games might work or Kah for Waston when cards accumulate.
It's not like the Whitecaps went easy on him either, throwing the 24 year old into a stadium with 30,000 fans, and featuring one of the brightest stars in MLS. Rodriguez was obviously equal to the task, and along with the rest of the backline, helped secure a clean sheet for David Ousted.
It's the second straight week of pleasant defensive surprises for the Whitecaps, who saw Sam Adekugbe perform well against Chicago in his first start of 2015. As with Adekugbe, we need to remember that it was just one match, and there is still plenty of soccer to be played this season. Rodriguez has certainly shown what he can do, but now he needs to prove he can do it on a consistent basis, something that won't be easy with Kah battling with him for precious minutes.
In my opinion, Rodriguez did everything that was asked of him in the match and has earned the next start. I mean, I would rather see Rodriguez continue to play and improve this season, as the 34 year old Kah obviously is not a long term position for this club.
What do you think? Who would you like to see get the nod for this weekend against Portland?