On a relaxing Sunday afternoon in Vancouver British Columbia, the Vancouver Whitecaps appeared to cruise to a convincing win against the struggling San Jose Earthquakes. Coupled with a quick start to the match, the Whitecaps never appeared to extend themselves too much. While the win never appeared to be in doubt, the lack of intensity required did come to bite the Whitecaps in finishing out the game. We now examine the team and individual performances of several noteworthy Whitecaps.
First Half (A-): The Whitecaps began quickly with a 5th minute goal from Mauro Rosales; although it could be argued that the team received a fortunate bounce and the lack of pace behind Rosales’ shot could have resulted in another missed opportunity. Nevertheless, soccer is not about 'ifs' and the Whitecaps looked in control throughout the half. This was certainly aided in the 13th minute with central defender Clarence Goodson being subbed off with an injury. While certainly not impressive beforehand, the Earthquake defense looked completely out-of-sorts after.
Second Half (B): It has been noted many times this season that the Whitecaps appear to be a completely different team in the second half of games. It was interesting to see whether the Whitecaps would continue to drive to begin the second half or whether their play would once again be lackluster. For the first 30 minutes after the break, the team remained on-pointe. The last 15 minutes…
Minutes 75-90 (C-): Shortly after their third goal the Whitecaps appeared to shut the engine down and see out the rest of the game. That is when it became sloppy. Having not achieved a clean sheet in a while, it appeared that the team would finally get another. However, this was not to be as the team became passive and a shell of the team from the first 75 minutes. In addition to giving up the late goal, Russell Teibert picked up a 90+ minute yellow card –the Whitecaps now lead the way with 53 yellow cards by the way. Potentially minor and non-consequential, the tackle was unnecessary and it could lead to Teibert missing a crucial game down the stretch for accumulation.
I am going to ignore most of the defense, with the exception of Dean, as they had a fairly easy game and, I would argue, there was not much data to give a proper report card.
Christian Dean (A): In only his third MLS start, second in two games, but at different positions, Dean had a great game. There were a few reasons why I ended up giving him an ‘A’ rating. First, his drive forward was superb. I was curious if he would sit back and not providing much support up the wing, given his natural position. However, Dean provided plenty of support to the offense with his strong throw-ins and great passing. I had been impressed with his balls last week from center and I was even more impressed this week. His passes had great pace and purpose. One that probably sticks out was his through-ball to Manneh. Although just out of his reach, it was a great ball and displays Dean’s ability to find the small openings and ignite offensive opportunities. Second, he was rarely caught out of position. In the few cases where he was, his recovery was great. He appeared to remain calm and get back into the play without any critical errors. You could argue that against a better team maybe he does get caught. Again though, soccer is not about ‘ifs’. The play that stands out most for me was when he was around midfield, reaching in too far, and realized that he needed to get back as the ball was lifted over his head into the empty space. Sure enough, he hustled back and was able to strongly, and convincingly, take the ball away and start the play back up field. What was even more impressive about that play is that he followed the ball up the line instead of quitting and staying back. He could have a) been afraid of getting caught again and been timid, or b) been tired and elected to take the play off after fulfilling his defensive duties. He did neither. Great, professional, attitude from Dean.
Mauro Rosales (A): Where would the Whitecaps be without him right now? With Pedro Morales being down the last two months, Rosales has been the veteran leadership that has guided the offense. Not only has he been in control of the offense but he is so professional in his play. A never quit attitude who is always hustling, showing young players how to do their job. You might have noticed, if you watched the broadcast, that Carl Robinson was annoyed with Rosales just before he came off. Why? Because Robbo wanted him to go down so the play would be stopped and Rosales could be subbed off. MaRo don’t play that way! Always giving his all until he comes off. Great game and great to see him finally get a goal!
Kekutah Manneh (A+): Do I think Manneh actually deserves an ‘A+’? No, but I want to give him one to draw attention to how well he played throughout the ENTIRE game. Kekutah has really stepped it up over the last few months and has truly become the dynamic, all-game, game changer we expect. I give Manneh an ‘A+’ because I do not think he will get enough credit from the casual fan given that he did not score. Although he will not get the headlines, what I saw from Manneh is something new: THINKING! Manneh has often been criticized for his selfish play and just trying to blow past everyone, however, he showed a level of team-focused maturity that has only recently begun to creep into his game. Manneh showed a calmness to his play and looked for the open teammate when he was closed down. There were times at the beginning of the season when I would yell at Manneh to SHOOT! Then I started yelling at him to PASS! It seems he is finding that right balance and determining when to take on the opponent and when to pass it to his wide-open teammate. If this continues…..WOW. It is not only great for his long-term development but it will be huge for the team as opponents will not know whether he is going to blow by them or lay it off….and then it will be too late! The maturation of Manneh, I believe, is paramount for the success of the Whitecaps at the conclusion of this season.
Octavio Rivero (B): Like I gave Manneh ‘too high’ of a grade, I am going to give Rivero ‘too low’ of a grade, simply to draw attention to something that I feel needs attention. Rivero’s play, once again, was great. His hustle is wonderful, his hold-up play superb, his distribution fantastic. HOWEVER, he was brought in to score. He is a striker. HE NEEDS TO SCORE (from open play). I think he is playing very well and I do not want to see any of his non-scoring contributions go away, however, you need your strikers to score goals. That is why, mainly, Rivero was brought in and what he is paid to do. It is great that the Whitecaps are getting first goals from Laba, Rosales, and Waston, but Rivero has now played 11 games (842 minutes) without a goal from open play. Like Manneh’s maturation, Rivero’s goal scoring will be key to success going forward for the Whitecaps. He can continue to contribute in all the other facets of the game, but the Whitecaps cannot win if they do not score, and in a one-striker formation, Rivero is a central part of that scoring.
Nicolás Mezquida (B+): Nico has shown that he has the skills to be successful. The problem has been stringing multiple good games together. After a great game against Portland I was curious to see how he performed against San Jose. Nico put in another great game and showed his importance to this team’s depth. With 8 games in August, across three competitions, and Morales’ and Rosales’ injury concerns, Nico will be important. It was nice to see him have another solid game and increase fan confidence, and hopefully his own, in him.
I jotted down a few players that stood out for me and deserved more discussion. Are there any other player performances that you would like to discuss? Disagree with any of my thoughts/interpretations? Let us know in the comments.