Cristian Techera: A
There was some degree of hype surrounding the early season arrival of El Bicho, however the influence he is exerting at present was anticipated by a very select few. Over recent weeks, while fixtures have hit the Blue and White with exhausting regularity, Techera has ranked among the most effective individuals at Robbo's disposal. He has enjoyed some insatiable form as he's helped spur the Caps to great feats, capturing the hearts of the fans with his mesmerizing blend of flair and industry. This outing against the Rapids - a side very much in contrast to the Uruguayan with regards to style and physique - was further evidence of his value to the club. He assisted Rivero's opener by intelligently maneuvering space for himself, before producing a sublime delivery diagonally across the pitch, and relied on similarly brilliant movement to issue his strike on the night.
Six goals coupled with four assists in a very impressive haul from seventeen appearances, more so considering the learning curve attached to acclimating to Major League Soccer. In a pint-sized punch, Techera encompasses the creativity of Morales, the dynamism of Rosales, the electricity of Manneh, and the genius of Rivero into his role on the right flank. On a recent episode of From The Backline, my Eighty Six Forever colleague Jorge Mendoza highlighted the diminutive 23-year-old as "an important part of Carl Robinson's deployment,". This is exactly true of what he has become, offering dimensions to his manager's approach that were nowhere near conceivable twelve months back. If nothing else has changed since then, Vancouver now has their antidote to the bunkering tactics employed by teams like Colorado.
Octavio Rivero: A
Had you remarked to anyone following the team back in April that it would take a fully fit Octavio Rivero until September to reach double digits on the MLS scoring charts, you would have simply been laughed out of the conversation. That blistering start was always going to represent a dangerous precedent, but instead of letting that pressure overwhelm his game the former O'Higgins forward has diligently found other ways to contribute. His selfless qualities have been promoted ad nauseam by writers such as myself, and the benefits of his complete play on those around him can be recognized by even the most ardent of doubters. With that being said, the fact remains that he'll need to hit the back of the net with greater consistency if the Caps are to capture the Supporters' Shield and challenge for MLS Cup in the postseason.
His headed effort served as a timely reminder of his well-honed instincts in front of the sticks, meeting Techera's cross with superb anticipation and composure. Much like at the beginning of the campaign, El Cabeza was the difference in a tightly contested meeting against a stubbornly organized opponent. If he can use this goal, or indeed can continue utilizing his tally from the second leg of the Voyageurs Cup final, as a springboard to prolific production there will be no ceiling on what can be achieved in Upper Cascadia this term. Yellow cards for celebration are never optimal, yet with Octavio the gesture felt vindicated; amidst scepticism from all corners of the fan base he never wavered in his commitment to what was asked of him. He is of a rare calibre.
Pedro Morales: C
Matias Laba and Russell Teibert missing out on availability through suspension and international duty respectively provided Robbo with a rare selection dilemma in the middle of the park. Although Deybi Flores has shown promising glimpses during his debut season at BC Place, there are many aspects of his raw body of work that necessitate development before he can compensate for players as vital as Laba and Teibert. For that reason, the 38-year-old opted to partner Koffie with his captain, Pedro Morales, in a look not before seen with the Chilean Maestro. While Rosales occupied the #10 role on this occasion, the long-term system would likely include breakout phenomenon Nico Mezquida in that advanced position. Nonetheless, it was a move drenched with intrigue as to how it would function in practise, even if the circumstances weren't perfect.
Well, to the anticlimactic disappointment of those watching with high expectations, things didn't quite pan out as optimistically hoped. Pedro was replaced at the interval with a tight hamstring, unable to provide the rhythm anticipated prematch. Kianz Froese came on in his place and played a part in the making of both goals, offering the urgency often exhibited by compatriot Russell Teibert. Just because the first experiment didn't yield any mind-blowing results doesn't mean that the technical staff should abandon the idea. In theory, having Laba and Mezquida on the pitch at the same time would create more balance than what we witnessed on Wednesday night. Rusty has demonstated the effective nature to what an expansive passing range can do in collaboration with a destroyer, and hopefully we'll have an improved sample size before ruling on feasibility.