When I saw the Starting XI for the Vancouver Whitecaps for their Saturday night game against FC Dallas, I was excited to be conducting the report card because I saw no excuse for any player to note be ‘perfect’. In my opinion, the Whitecaps fielded their best possible Starting XI; whether Kah was healthy or not. We can debate the point in the comments, but name any player you would have switched out that would have improved the lineup (healthy or not)? With it in mind that this was the best possible lineup, I am going to pick on the little things.
David Ousted (A): Not much to say. Wasn’t really tested. He continues to show why he is the best keeper in the league as, when tested, he is always ready to make the save. His decision making has certainly improved. He knows when to come out and challenge for balls and when to let his defense take care of it. His distribution has been excellent as well, as he can be credited with starting the rush several times a game. He really only had to make one ‘good’ save, and that was early in the first half. While it might have not seemed that difficult, it required strong concentration and hands as it was a ball that was skipped/bounced in and could (and probably did) take an odd bounce.
Steven Beitashour (B): What I had planned to write about Beita was completely different at the half than what you see here. There has been criticism from fans throughout the season about the play of Beitashour. Not that he has played poorly but rather that there were higher expectations of him. He has certainly had some shaky games, especially at the start of the season, but has seemed to settle in and be dependable, yet unspectacular. The reason I give a ‘B’ grade is that he was getting beat pretty badly by Castillo. Now, I give him a bit of a break as I would anyone who was dealing with Manneh all game. However, I just felt that the first half really epitomized the concerns Whitecaps fans have had with him at right back. I am curious if it was also the concern of management and hence the signing of Smith. We will see what happens, however, if Smith impresses, given Beitashour’s higher contract, do not be too surprised if he is gone next year or the next.
Kendall Waston (A): Wow. I know that there has been talk about how the SKC game would have ended a lot differently if Waston had played. While I do not like to play the ‘what-if’ game and do not subscribe to the notion that one player makes all the difference between winning and losing, if it was not clear to everyone before this game how much Waston swallows up any ball in the air, in the box, it was certainly made clear during this game. It is amazing to just watch teams try to play the lob/dump game, late when they are trying to get back and nothing is working, and see how easily that plays into Waston’s wheelhouse. I mean, the end of the game may have been nerving for many fans, but at the same time, there were few times that the team truly looked to be scrambling. Waston had a lot to do with that, because FC Dallas would throw a ball into the box and Waston would easily clear it out.
What I would like to draw more attention to with Waston, and why I will give him an ‘A’ grade is because of his leadership on the backline, even ‘chirping’ at Ousted, and the effort he made in this game to cool his emotions when he was incorrectly called for a foul….all 8, 9, 10? times. We know, he knows, that Waston will be called for a foul simply because of his size –I will note that the Whitecaps do get advantages on the other side because of Techera and, to a lesser extent, Mezquida. Each time Waston was called for something, you saw him just walk it off and not let it get to him. I think this is a big part of Waston’s growth going forward. He is a great player and vital to the Whitecaps. He now needs to control those emotions a bit better. It will help him to maintain focus during the game.
Tim Parker (A): What poise from such a young player. Does Parker ever really look out of place? For me, the reason Parker has done so well is that you really do not talk about him during a game. He just goes out and does his thing. When you do talk about him, it is for all the positive reasons. It is rare where you sit there and say ‘he messed up and that is why the opponent scored’. Great to have in such a young centerback. I expect to see a Waston/Parker tandem more as the Whitecaps play out the stretch and will be SHOCKED if that is not the starting pair next season. And really, would you want a different pairing?
Jordan Harvey (B+): Jordan had a tough game. I mean, he wasn’t bad, but he also did not seem the best. Credit to him though as he pushed through as best as possible and provided some good leadership.
Matias Laba (A): Nothing to really be said about Laba that has not already been said. He just keeps going about his business and is tenacious.
Gershon Koffie (A+): Yes, Techera had a great game and was a deserving recipient of MotM. At the same time, I felt it was a travesty that Koffie was NOT given the Man of the Match award. He was everywhere and did everything! Offensive, defensive, possession, cover…..he did it all. As much as I want to be a homer and see Russell Teibert starting, how can you really take Koffie out? He has been playing amazing alongside Laba. Has he finally turned that corner that has been discussed for the past few years? We have known that he is a great player at times –remember when there was all that discussion a few years back that he would only be here for a year or two because he would get swooped up by a bigger team? – the problem has always been consistency. That consistency was not only from game-to-game, but even within the same game. If he has finally found that much-needed consistency, the Whitecaps will certainly benefit over this season and into the future. Teibert….sorry buddy, but you have to be on the bench for now.
Kekuta Manneh (A-): Another great game by Manneh. What has been great about his play over the past two months is his consistency. You know what you will get from him. You also know what you will not get from him. I will be brief on this report as I will be writing a longer piece on Manneh specifically in the next day or two. However, it is important to acknowledge that his speed causes plenty of problems for opposing teams and he is improving in his ability to find open players. It is still not great yet, but that is why he still plays for the Whitecaps and not a team in Europe. As he continues to increase his ability at slowing down the game for himself and knowing when to go for it alone and when to pass it off to a teammate, he will be even more dangerous and will probably be moving on from the Whitecaps organization.
Cristian Techera (A): There was a reason why Techera was brought in and why he was raved about. He has quickly integrated himself with the team and is a key asset to the offense, and defense. With both Techera and Manneh clicking, it must be scary for other teams. I was trying to keep my head level and not be too into the Whitecaps, as a supporter, but teams must be terrified to play the Whitecaps. I was watching the LA Galaxy demolish NYCFC this afternoon and in the closing minutes, the announcers highlighted the Whitecaps as a team that can serious contend with all the firepower the Galaxy have. It was shocking to hear that kind of respect and acknowledgement from an American broadcast, but also highlights the attention the Whitecaps are getting from other teams and the media. Techera has been a key part of that attention, and he was a key reason for the Whitecaps winning against Dallas, beyond the lovely goal scored.
Pedro Morales (B+): It was great to see the Maestro pulling the strings in the middle of the Whitecaps offense. No question he is not where he needs to be yet, but it was good to see glimpses of his strengths. However, what I want to highlight was something I noted a week ago. I noted that it was night and day when Morales replaced Mezquida as Morales looked like a sloth in comparison. Was it the new contract he signed, pressure from Mezquida, or just feeling healthier, but wow, Morales was actually playing defense AND making sliding tackles……ummm….what? Great to see when it is not all going 100% for him yet. Important to do the other things well. Which brings me to the final player in the Starting XI
Octavio Rivero (B): I will note right now that I will NOT give Rivero a grade higher than B going forward until he scores. That sounds harsh, but here is the reason why. There is no doubt Rivero earns his place by doing all the little things well. He is great at controlling key parts of the offensive with his hold-up play and getting others involved. HOWEVER, his ‘job’ is to score goals. I know, I know, it isn’t all he was hired to do. Fine, but let’s make a comparison for a moment. Let’s look at…..say….Kah. There has been mixed feelings about him given some of his poor defending decisions early in the season. The past few weeks, he had a few good games and scored some goals. Great. Awesome. Glad for the contribution. That isn’t his ‘job’ though. His job is to defend. The odd goal is wonderful and certainly needed/expected, but if he was terrible in defense, but scored a goal every…..4th or 5th game, I think fans would still be upset. Let’s translate this over to Rivero. I am fine with him not scoring every game. I am fine with him having a slump. I am happy that he is finding other ways to contribute. I really am. However, his main focus needs to be scoring and no matter how good of a shift he puts in over the next little while, until he scores from open play, he is NOT doing his primary job. So, he gets a ‘B’ for his hard work off the ball.
A lot of great talking points from this game and it was nice to see the team bounce back and go into the important Cup Final on Wednesday on a high. Let us know your thoughts on my report card and on the performances in general.