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Report Card: Whitecaps FC vs Toronto FC

The Whitecaps started the 2015 MLS regular season with a disappointing 3-1 defeat to Toronto FC. It's time to hand out some grades and look for positives with the first Eighty Six Forever report card of the year.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Toronto FC were the topic of much discussion around the league over the offseason, with hopes at an all-time high for the two Canadian clubs heading into 2015. A few months removed from their most successful campaign in MLS to date, many have tipped the Caps to surpass the heights reached last term and go on to achieve even greater feats under head coach Carl Robinson in his second year at the helm. TFC enjoyed no such success in 2014, however remain one of the biggest threats in the Eastern Conference thanks to the well documented arrivals of Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus and Jozy Altidore from Sunderland, among other key additions secured during another noteworthy winter at BMO Field.

The first half certainly lived up to the hype generated over the days leading up to kick-off, with the sides level heading into the interval after strikes from designated players Octavio Rivero and the mercurial Altidore. It was the blue and white who looked most in control, however the second 45 minutes came to prove that soccer truly is a game of two halves. After obtaining their first lead of the day, the visiting Reds maintained their discipline and were impeccably organized throughout what remained of the fixture. Although there were some cases where the officiating was questionable, Greg Vanney's men were worthy winners and have left the now crestfallen Whitecaps with much work to do before next week's trip to the Windy City to meet Frank Yallop's Chicago Fire.

Now is not the time for tears, but for reflection and I am here to provide just that in the form of Eighty Six Forever's first report card of the new season. Admittedly, I had hoped to be writing this with a spring in my step and smile on my face, but some somber evaluation should be equally as enjoyable. Welp. Nonetheless, there are some positives in the individual displays that I wish to highlight and hopefully you too can take the first steps of the recovery process. If you are looking for a platform to share your thoughts and opinions, and perhaps give some grades of your own, look no further than the comments section below.

Matias Laba: B+

Some supporters, this writer included, have argued that the 23-year-old was Vancouver's most valuable player in his first twelve months and his performance at BC Place was indicative of the influence he has come to hold in front of the back-line. Laba was awarded the Budweiser Man of the Match award for his efforts and for good reason too. He limited the damage Giovinco could inflict and in doing so proved to potential suitors from Europe that he can go toe-to-toe with the very best. According to WhoScored, the Argentine made a game-high seven tackles while also boasting an impressive pass completion rate of 89.6%. We saw the first glimpse of the advanced role he looks set to assume in the next stage of his development within the midfield too, as he broke up the play in his former employer's half before unleashing a superb cross to the edge of the box on one occasion. There was plenty to pleased with from Matias with scope for much more still to come.

Octavio Rivero: B

Nobody at the club will face more pressure from fans and media alike than Octavio Rivero over the course of his debut campaign in MLS. He was signed as means of avoiding a repeat of the lackluster production offered by Darren Mattocks and Erik Hurtado last year and definitely hit the round ground running in that respect on his first outing for the team. Latching on to a sublime ball pinged forward from the back-line, the ex-O'Higgins frontman was afforded a long time to make his mind up about how he wished to approach his attempt. This can often lead to the striker over-thinking the opportunity and subsequently squandering the chance, but there was no semblance of hesitation to his 19th minute finish past a hapless Joe Bendik. What made the goal all the more impressive was the fact that he had failed to convert into near enough an empty net seven minutes in from around three yards out. Again, a lesser forward would likely have let the error distract them from their responsibilities, but Octavio managed to move on with tremendous maturity and obviously reaped the rewards for it. There was little service supplied to #29 in the second half and he was unable to inspire a comeback, but there is reason to be encouraged by his showing nevertheless.

Kekuta Manneh: B

Manneh has long been identified as a candidate to progress into one of the league's premier wide outlets, however a lack of confidence has frequently prevented him from making that breakthrough over recent years. In his last two visits to CenturyLink Field the electrifying Gambian has exhibited that conviction - scoring a hat-trick over the Sounders in 2013 before notching the winner in last season's Cascadia Cup decider - and characteristics from those outings were apparent in this game. Vancouver were superior for swathes of time in the first half because of their surgical approach to attacking transition and Kekuta played an integral part in its devastating effect. He was involved in much of the action within the final third, very nearly getting himself on the scoresheet, as he tortured Steven Caldwell and the peculiarly high Toronto back-line. The dynamic changed in the second half and he was unable to replicate the mayhem he had caused beforehand, yet there remains a lot to be excited about where the 20-year-old is concerned.

Pedro Morales: B-

Nobody in North America can make a pass quite like Pedro Morales and, in typical fashion, some of the balls he completed seemed absolutely absurd. They met their intended target regardless of distance or the proximity of opposing players to both himself and his colleagues. There were instances where he held onto the ball for too long and was dispossessed seeking for the spectacular when the simple option was available, but this was somewhat understandable with it being his first competitive action since October. Hopefully, with Rivero opening his MLS account, the 29-year-old will go onto build a productive understanding with his fellow DP and combine to record some victories over coming weeks. The fluency in which the team countered during the opening 45 should be regarded as the benchmark for what Vancouver can achieve in 2015 going forward.

Kendall Waston and Pa Modou Kah: D

Toronto's star-studded attack was never going to be an easy test for a new partnership at the heart of the back-line and the match-up proved as difficult as anticipated. Waston and Kah were tormented by Altidore's power, Giovinco's class and even Robbie Findley's ability to exploit poor defensive positioning. On the equalizer, the mammoth Costa Rican resembled a spectator more so than a centre-back as Jozy managed to ghost in behind his 6'5" frame to slot home past David Ousted. For the second, both Waston and Kah were inexplicably poor, allowing Findley to stroll into the space vacated behind them and meet Justin Morrow's left-footed delivery to score. The lack of pace, and indeed concentration, shared by the two was particularly evident here. Altidore's destruction of the desolate pairing culminated with Kah nonsensically bundling over the USMNT striker in the box for a late spot-kick, which he went on to convert with a deft Panenka much to the disarray of the sell-out crowd. Patience is vital as chemistry doesn't form overnight, but one could suggest that the depth Robbo has at his disposal have strong cases to make the line-up soon.

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