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Report Card: Whitecaps at Portland Timbers

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The Whitecaps were down in Portland on Saturday night and played their Cascadia rivals to a 0-0 draw. We examine the game more in-depth with a report on individual performances.

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The Vancouver Whitecaps faced off against their rivals, the Portland Timbers, for the second time this year. Unfortunately, there were no late game heroics this time as the teams played to a 0-0 draw. While scoreless games can be exhilarating, this one did not fit that bill.

24 hours later, we are ready to hand out some letter grades to the Whitecaps performers. As a note, this system is based on a C+ being 'average'. Let's get started.

David Ousted (B): Ousted was not really tested but came up with saves when needed.

Ethan Sampson (C+): Ethan Sampson started the game at right-back for the injured Steven Beitashour. While not the best of games, Ethan did well to fit in to the lineup. Were it not for the rash challenge that gave him a yellow card early, I would have given Sampson a 'B'. The two yellows against Orange County, for the ThunderCaps, and the yellow card here need to be of concern as Sampson seems to have a tendency to go in to challenges that he has no chance of winning. Removing this from his game will hopefully be part of his maturation process. Supporting that was him not diving in on any more challenges after the yellow card infraction against the Timbers. Maybe he is learning.

Jordan Harvey (B+): After playing all but one regular season game last season, Jordan Harvey has been on the bench to start the 2015 campaign. However, Harvey has been the consummate professional, never complaining about playing time and playing solid when called on. It is good to know that when Adekugbe goes away to play for Canada that Harvey will be able to keep the level of play high at the left-back position.

Pa-Modou Kah (C-): Kah has certainly been a lightning rod for criticism amongst Vancouver Whitecaps fans. In many cases, it has been warranted as evidenced again last night. In addition to several other gaffs, Kah inexcusably turned his back to an attacker resulting in a hand ball and a penalty kick for the Portland Timbers. What is worse is that, in a halftime interview, Kah tried to argue that it was a bad call and, joking or not, tried to play the race card, saying that it was called because he was black. What? What keeps Kah from receiving a failing grade is that he does make some good plays in the back. The problem is, they are not enough to make up for his mistakes each game.

Kendall Waston (B+): What can you say about Waston, except that he is a beast! I burst out laughing when I saw him stand up the Timbers attacker late in the game, at the top of the 18. It was humorous to see Waston just stand there and the Timber’s player hit the ground. Best of all, and I was not aware of this before the game, Waston did not pick up a yellow card. Why is that important? Well, it means that he has one card ‘removed’ for good behaviour. So, his next yellow card now does not mean a suspension.

Russell Teibert (B+): Teibert seems to have really found his game this season and is playing very consistent soccer. I was impressed with his work-rate and his tenacity getting on the ball and pestering the Timber attackers. I think he has solidified his position next to Laba in the defensive midfield.

Gershon Koffie (C): While Teibert has done his part to take control of the starting position beside Laba, Koffie has done little to fight back. I found his play last night to be nothing special. It wasn’t that he was bad necessarily, rather that he seemed to play a bit timid at times and had poor distribution and several reckless challenges. Maybe his timid play was the result of the game plan for him to sit back and absorb the pressure, which would also lead to poor distribution, but he just did not seem to provide enough to warrant him starting in place of Teibert.

Mauro Rosales (C+): I have felt that Rosales has not looked his dangerous self since returning from injury. Maybe he needs to get a few games under his belt or maybe age is finally catching up with him. There was certainly nothing wrong with Rosales’ play, it was just not up to the level that I believe we have come to expect from him. Maybe this is an opportunity for Mezquida or Techera to get some additional playing time.

Darren Mattocks (C+): I initially had this at a ‘B-‘, but feel that might have been the result of my support of Mattocks. In reality, Mattocks had a bit of a dud game. To be fair, I feel that most of the Whitecaps players laid an egg. Mattocks looked neutralized by his Jamaican international teammate Powell for most of the night and never really seemed to get going. I suspect that we see Manneh get a run of games now.

Pedro Morales (C+): I feel like an average grade for the captain needs to be defended. Moreover, I feel that my comments about him not being the most suitable captain choice means that I have to defend my grade more. Without going getting too long-winded, Jason de Vos brought up an important point during the broadcast, and after the game to Robbo, I agree with. Jason noted that players seem to try and get the ball to Morales too much. I believe this is a major issue for the Whitecaps and I was disappointed to hear Robbo brush it off and disagree (what are your thoughts?). We have noted that as Morales goes, so do the Whitecaps. However, that is a major issue for this club as the entire offense seems to hinge on Morales far too often. Far too often I believe that Whitecaps players try to force the ball to Morales. This makes defending the Whitecaps a much simpler process: swarm Morales, get the ball. The play de Vos was remarking about was when Koffie won the ball and Morales came right over to him, at mid-field, and basically stopped Koffie in his tracks and took the ball; after which he shot a poor ball out-of-bounds. I agree that the play would have been better served if Koffie continued forward and Morales pushed out-wide and acted as an option for attack rather than the starter of the attack, neutralizing Koffie. Morales is a great distributor but I feel that can be exploited more if he is not always the first passer. If someone else starts with the ball and hits it to Morales in space, who then finds that tiny hole to a forward, the Whitecaps will be far more successful. I believe this reliance on Morales is, in part, why the Whitecaps lack depth in scoring, and part of Rivero’s current ‘slump’. They are too predictable.

Octavio Rivero (B+): Although he has not scored in several games, I always feel the Whitecaps only need one opportunity for Rivero to score a goal. That feeling has not existed in the past. Rivero put in a solid all-around game for the Whitecaps that included some key defensive clearances. I would like to see him play less time in his own end but I believe that the Whitecaps are currently faced, as I just noted, with the issue of being too predictable. It is basically a game of Morales and Rivero and teams know to key in on those two guys. As a result, Rivero has been smothered and been unable to generate much offense of late. Hopefully the Whitecaps can find an answer.

Substitutes

Tim Parker (I): Parker made his MLS debut last night and looked good. Hopefully this can continue going forward. I gave an ‘incomplete’ as he played only a few minutes.

Nicolas Mezquida (C): I felt that Mezquida did little to change the game when he came on and feel he has been a bit out of form of late. Maybe his age means that the next step for him is consistency, as we have seen some great play from Mezquida as well as being invisible.

Kekuta Manneh (B): Despite limited minutes of late, Manneh has had an impact on games when he plays. As is always the question with Manneh, it is unclear whether he works best as a starter or as a substitute. I would like to see him get a run of games starting, in place of Mattocks, and see how he does. I believe that the Whitecaps would benefit from a Manneh/Mattocks combo where one starts several games and the other subs at 60-70 minutes and then they switch.

And that is everyone that played for the Whitecaps on Saturday. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.