It's interesting to see how different segments of Whitecaps fandom have reacted to the club's first foray in the CONCACAF Champion's League (CCL) this season. Some fans have been rabidly anticipating the competition, while others have treated it with ambivalence or even with outright disdain.
On Wednesday night Carl Robinson and his team faced the Seattle Sounders for the latest "winner takes all" match. Last weekend it was the Cascadia Cup on the line, and on Wednesday it was a berth in the CCL quarterfinals which was at stake. Sadly for the Whitecaps and their fans it was the Blue and White who once again ended up on the wrong side of a three-nil final score.
Keeping in mind that the MLS playoffs, and specifically a home playoff match, has been the Whitecaps' main priority this season, one may begin to understand Robinson's rationale to start what was largely an youthful and inexperienced squad for the CCL match. They may have been a young team, but it was a team with a fairly strong spine consisting of experienced players including Pa Modou Kah, Matias Laba and Robert Earnshaw. Robinson then completed his lineup with some talented younger players including Tim Parker, Kianz Froese and Sam Adekgube. Prior to kickoff there was hope that this group of players could nick a result on the road in Middle Cascadia, but it didn't turn out that way and the Whitecaps now have to travel to Honduras to play a meaningless match against CD Olimpia.
So, with that all said let's turn our attention to a selection of players from Wednesday's match and rate their performances:
Paolo Tornaghi (GK): C - while Tornaghi cannot be faulted by Diego Rodriguez's poor marking on the first goal, or Rodriguez and Kah's disappearance on Seattle's third goal, Paolo completely misjudged his timing and the flight of the ball on Seattle's second goal. At times Tornaghi looked hesitant and indecisive, and was less than convincing between the sticks for most of the evening.
Tim Parker (RB): B+ - one of the bright spots for Vancouver, Parker had a solid outing and seemed to get better as the match went on. In the later stages of the match Parker's desire to help claw the Caps back into the match was evident as the young defender crossed several balls into the box for Kekuta Manneh. Once again Parker has demonstrated that he is more than ready for first team minutes, and a legit contender to become a first team regular.
Christian Dean (LB): D - Dean had a very poor performance on Wednesday night, which is very concerning for a player who is already in his second season as a professional. Dean looked as though the pressure of the occasion was weighing on him, and made many bad decisions which lead to loss of possession or committing fouls. Dean will have to pick himself up after this one and learn from his mistakes if he is to make a claim for a spot in the first team.
Matias Laba (MF): B+ - Matias picked up a two-match ban for a sending off and yellow card accumulation at the match at Houston Dynamo a couple of weeks ago. With just a handful of matches remaining in the Whitecaps season, the only thing worse than a Matias Laba missing matches through injury would be a Matias Laba missing matches through suspension. As one of, if not the most important player in the Whitecaps' MLS squad, Mati needs to be at his peak for the final matches of the season and for the playoffs. On Wednesday the Argentine pitbull was his usual self dishing out crunching tackles and making opponents wish they had taken the evening off and stayed at home. Laba even had a decent chance to put the Caps on the board with a cracking shot in the twentieth minute.
Sam Adekugbe (F): C- - with Manneh on the bench and Darren Mattocks unavailable because of injury, Adekugbe was recruited to play as a winger. Striker Robert Earnshaw was left without service for most of the evening, and at one point in the second half lashed out at Adekugbe in frustration for a poorly placed pass. Sam's season and progress has been interrupted by injury, and one has to expect that with more playing time in his natural position at left back Adekugbe will deliver the performances we know he is capable of.
Robert Earnshaw (F): Incomplete - Earnie may have played the entire ninety minutes of the match, so it seems a little strange that he has not been given a grade. As mentioned earlier in this article Earnshaw was left without service for most of the match, and the only memorable impressions he left were for a couple of offside calls and a forgettable free kick that landed somewhere in the neighbourhood of the famous Pike Place Market.
Kekuta Manneh (F): B - while Kekuta did not start this match, he did enter into the fray in the fifty-fifth minute for Nicolas Mezquida. Manneh was ultimately unable to find the back of the Seattle net, but he did provide a spark to the Whitecaps' otherwise anæmic attack. Manneh and Parker combined nicely in the late stages of the game, but Kekuta was only able to challenge Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei only once.
And now it's your turn - if you have something to say then you can add your voice to the conversation by leaving a comment in the section below.