In a week where four of last week’s starters were called away for international duty, the Whitecaps pulled out a tough 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo.
Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, Christian Bolaños, and Blas Pérez were all unavailable after last week’s win in Seattle, resulting in three Whitecaps seeing their first action for the year (Pa Modou Kah, Sam Adekugbe & Nicolás Mezquida), while Kah, Andrew Jacobson and Masato Kudo all getting their first starts of the season.
This week’s lineup, though out of the ordinary, showed promise and ultimately ground out the win. It could be said that the recurring theme for the team after four games is, as stated by Jason De Vos during the broadcast, "Right Idea, Wrong Execution," but hopefully the promise of better execution yields concrete results later in the season.
David Ousted – B
The majority of the shots that found their way to Ousted didn’t seem to trouble him, though he did come up big in the 37’ on a close stop from Andrew Wenger. He also benefited from the woodwork being hit twice, but hey, if you’ve got your angles covered…
Fraser Aird & Jordan Harvey – B-/B
Offensively, both had great contributions early on: Harvey with a header at 14’ and Aird blazing downfield to set up Kudo at 15’. In their own half, Harvey had his side of the pitch on lockdown for the majority while Aird continues to improve, though tired legs may have been at fault once Abdoulie Mansally moved to his side late in the match.
Andrew Jacobson – A
Dropping to centerback from the midfield, this guy was a rock. A number of clearances in the air, held the ball well, and nearly volleyed home a goal off a corner kick.
Pa Modou Kah – C-
I don’t know if it’s a fitness thing, or just not having played a live match in a while, but Kah looked awkward on the night. Anything he could handle using his head was done with ease, but I counted two separate "karate kick" clearances where he completely whiffed on the ball. Made for some angsty moments.
Cristian Techera & Kekuta Manneh – C+/B-
Both showed flashes of brilliance in varying ways (Techera in anticipation on runs off the ball & Manneh getting in to space with the ball at his feet), but both had trouble distributing once it was time to make a pass. Admittedly, these are the guys that will move the team downfield on the counter, but there needs to be either a quality shot or layoff to make it worthwhile.
Pedro Morales – B
OK, so we know he can bury PKs; that can’t be questioned at this point, as he’s now leading the league in scoring with 4 PK goals after 4 games. Sitting deeper in the middle allowed for some clutch defending we haven’t seen in past years. In doing so, it made for his long balls to be either Hero or Zero, as in they either found the target with aplomb or were knocked down. To me, that becomes a questionable tactic once you’re running on fumes trying to protect a one-goal lead.
Matías Laba – B
Doing his usual thing: getting stuck in, blocking passes & shots, making solid tackles. Only iffy moment was when he left his boot mark on Mansally’s face.
Masato Kudo & Octvaio Rivero – C+/C+
Like Techera & Manneh, both had moments that were either awe-inspiring or groan-inducing. Kudo made several good runs to the corner off long balls, but really should have buried Aird’s pass at 15’. On occasion, ran a route the passer was not expecting, or wanted a route different than what was provided, though this will improve with familiarity with the team. Also: drew the foul that led to the PK, so at the very least he was causing headaches off the ball.
There were times where if Rivero could just get a tiny bit more oomph behind the ball, he would have buried 2 or 3 goals. Could just be a matter of timing, positioning, or even dumb luck. Either way, resulted in nothing truly threatening the goal. However, he did quite well in non-attacking roles, when he was bringing the ball down, coming back to receive passes & distribute, or the occasional sprint back to make a tackle.
Sam Adekugbe – C+
First action of the season, and became the defensive sub the Whitecaps needed. Though he couldn’t replicate Techera’s offensively (after their swap at 69’), did an excellent job shutting down Houston’s right side (though the result was running everything at Aird going forward). Passing could be a little better, but that will improve with more playing time.
Jordan Smith – Incomplete
Returning from suspension after the horror tackle in Kansas City, I’m inclined to buy him a sign that reads, "One Game Without Workplace Incident" following his 78’ minute substitution for Kudo.
Nicolás Mezquida – Incomplete
Good to see him finally on the pitch, coming in for Manneh at 86’, what with his mysterious absence during the first three games.