After starting the season with two losses, the Vancouver Whitecaps have bounced back with two wins, against Seattle Sounders last week and this evening at BC Place against Houston Dynamo. The Whitecaps now move into a tie for 3rd in the West; albeit with one extra game played. Also, after leading the league in clean sheets last season, tonight brought about David Ousted's, and the team’s, first clean sheet of this season.
Tonight’s match-up with Houston Dynamo began strong with the Vancouver Whitecaps showing a lot of attacking prowess, but as has been the common theme for the last season and a half, those attacking moments were wasted and the Whitecaps failed to score. Luckily, for the second week in a row, the Whitecaps were gifted with another penalty kick. While Masato Kudo was certainly brought down, it was very clear that he was not going to get onto the cross. In my opinion, it was one of those situations in which a penalty should not be called. Nevertheless, it was, and in the 23rd minute Pedro Morales scored his fourth from the penalty this season to put the Whitecaps in the lead; and take the MLS lead in scoring.
After a fast-paced first half, there were expectations that goals were coming in the second half, especially with the goal machine/sieve Houston Dynamo in the building. However, those goals never materialized and the second half was played at a fairly pedestrian pace with few highlights. The Whitecaps had to be careful finishing the game though as the slow pace could have been their downfall, as evident by Houston’s shot off the post in the 71st minute; their second post, after a blistering shot from the top of the 6-yard-box in the 30th minute.
There were a lot of questions going into this matchup as the Whitecaps were without both their starting center backs in Kendall Waston and Tim Parker, arguably their best winger in Christian Bolanos, and a key contributor upfront last week, Blas Perez. These missing pieces meant first starts for Pa Modou Kah, Andrew Jacobson, and Masato Kudo. While Kah had his typical moments of fear-inducing play, Jacobson and Kudo were standout players for the Caps on the evening, with Jacobson being named Man of the Match and Kudo certainly receiving an honorable mention. Overall, Whitecaps fans should be happy that when players are away for international duty there are players that can step-in and hold down the fort.
A few notes on the match. Although winners of their last two matches, it is important to highlight that the Whitecaps have won with only three penalty kick goals. While some may say that is not important, because the Whitecaps are creating chances, we have been saying that for the past two seasons. With the play of Kudo, is it time that we see a Perez and Kudo duo upfront? Do the Whitecaps need more
Despite being a strong critic of Pedro Morales in seasons past, I must state that Morales has looked great this season, with an unexpected high work-rate. He has also settled in well alongside Matías Laba and has aided in making the attack look more dynamic. Speaking of Laba, he appeared more ‘Laba-like’ tonight. This included almost taking an opponent out with a high-kick to the face. Might we see a third suspension for the Caps?
Kekuta Manneh has looked poor thus far this season. Hopefully Kudo takes him under his wing and they talk, because Kudo has the speed and intelligence to make the runs off the shoulder of defenders. Manneh needs to add that to his game.
After a shaky start Fraser Aird has looked good in the last two weeks and had some great crosses tonight. It was an important match for Aird, with Canadian National Team coach Floro probably in attendance. Canada did not look very sharp in the right back position last night, with center back Henry playing in that role. Aird is certainly trying to make a case for playing in that position.
Finally, with many non-regulars getting playing time, I feel some should be touched on. First, I am thankful that the Whitecaps are not relying on Kah regularly this season. He reminded us tonight about how scary he can be at CB. Second, although Sam Adekugbe certainly deserves some playing time, he will probably only see close-out duty in a midfield role for the next little while as Jordan Harvey has been one of the most consistent performers in the early season. Third, the fact that Carl Robinson is STILL allowing Jordan Smith to see field time with the senior team scares me. He needs to slow the game down with the ThunderCaps. I am a bit concerned that Robbo continues to play with fire. There is a fine line between not crushing a young lad's confidence and running a player out there when they are not right and losing the game as a result. Lastly, it was great to see Nicolás Mezquida get his first minutes of the season. He was a game-changer last season and hopefully this is the first of many minutes to come throughout the season.
Next up for the Vancouver Whitecaps is a home match against the LA Galaxy, next Saturday night at 7:00pm again.
Give us your thoughts on tonight’s match. Are you concerned about the lack of goals from open play? Happy with the replacements this weekend? Thoughts on Aird’s development? Who between Manneh, Techera, and Bolanos start next week?