The Vancouver Whitecaps lost their second straight match Saturday night in Sandy, Utah, against RSL 1-0. While an overall improvement on last week’s 4-0 drubbing at the hands of DC United, the Caps were still unable to muster any type of offense that translated into goals. It is now three straight matches without a goal and SIX straight without a goal outside of a penalty shot. Indeed, it is looking pretty bad of late for the blue and white. For this report card, we will be examining groups of players and using a ‘C’ as an average grade. While it is obvious for this week’s match, don’t expect a lot of A’s or A+’s.
One of the few bright spots in the first 1/5th of the season (yes, we are 20% into the season) has been David Ousted. While the defenders in front of him were certainly better in this game, if it was not for Ousted, the start of this season would be a LOT worse. As has been the case thus far, Ousted was very steady, making saves when he needed to and when other keepers probably would have not. If there were any arguments over his stake to the title of best/consistent keeper in MLS last season, they should be put to rest. Sadly, keepers on poor teams typically do not get the larger credit they deserve.
The quartet of Fraser Aird, Kendall Waston, Tim Parker, and Jordan Harvey certainly made up for a subpar performance last week, with a solid effort against RSL. The central pairing of Waston and Parker are dominant and give the Whitecaps a chance on any night, while next to Ousted, Harvey should be considered a front-runner for team MVP thus far. Although there was nothing spectacular from him this match, he was once again ‘steady-eddy’. Fans still seem to be divided on Aird but place me in the camp of ‘for’. He has continued to improve every game. His blistering speed down the line and crosses will payoff once someone in the attacking group learns to put a ball in the net. He is NOT a liability on defense. I know this will garner criticism, but he is not. Plain and simple. And yes, I will write a piece on it later this week, with statistics. Is he a ‘good’ defender? No, most certainly not, but he is certainly showing capable and certainly not a liability.
Defensive Midfield: C+
Matías Laba is getting back into his typically destroyer-shape, but there still appears to be something lacking. He is good, but not as good as he needs to be, nor has been in the past. Of course, that can be said about pretty much everyone on this team of late. Andrew Jacobson has been a great pickup, although I must say I was a bit disappointed with him last night. Not because he did anything wrong but because it felt like he was just….there. Look, I understand he is a cheap veteran who can bring some stability to the field, but in his first couple of matches he showed some great precision with his passing and the ability to get forward a bit and fire off a few shots. That all seemed to be missing yesterday. I do not recall any pushes forward or his name being called out much. So, as a defensive midfielder he was dependable, however that is not what is needed from that position these days.
Attacking Midfield: C-
I don’t even know what to write these days. They looked great, and I mean GREAT for the first 10-20 minutes of the match. I was actually getting excited. Four young, pacey players that seemed to have a good understanding of one another and able to link up. Then it all disappeared. I do not know what is wrong with Kekuta Manneh right now but he is just terrible. We can blame the ankle and nervousness, but he has not really looked right since August of last year. The excuse at the tail-end of last season was being tired, but at some point you need to stop making excuses. Either you have the mental ability to get through fatigue and injuries or you do not. Yes, that is easy for me to say, but then again I don’t get paid to score goals and run at defenders now do I? That mental ability is what gets him paid. The lone, consistent, bright spot was Nicolas Mezquida. Wow, I did not expect to say this after his first season here, but the Whitecaps really need him in the lineup! I am not sure if it is a coincidence (not enough data yet) but the Whitecaps looked even worse when Mezquida was subbed off. They stopped pressing and maintaining possession. We will need more evidence, but he appears to be the best opportunity for the Whitecaps to break out of this funk they are in (missed goal aside).
I will not go into depth on this as I believe there has been enough talk around this. The one thing I will comment on is that it is not all at the feet of Octavio Rivero. I was excited about Masato Kudo coming in and while he showed glimpses in his first appearance, he has been invisible since. Mezquida also missed a golden opportunity, only to have RSL come down the field minutes later and score the winner. Early in the first half, Manneh should have put the Whitecaps ahead, but he was unwilling to put his HEAD into the ball. FIGHT FOR IT! Why did Manneh not score there? Because the RSL defender simply wanted it more. He fought for the ball. When your team has not scored in 6 games, you should be diving in with your head to get that ball in the net. However, I guess that really sums up the team currently: No fight!
Again, I will not belabor this too much, but Christian Bolanos looked very poor. In his first few games I was hearing people make plenty of positive comments about his play and I just was not seeing it. It seems people are starting to lean towards my feelings more. In reality, I believe the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Bolanos is a complimentary player and I think we are thinking of him being a star. If the team was performing better, than I believe we would see better out of Bolanos. Not because he cannot lift a team, but rather because he is effective at working with others and drawing attention from defenders. Finally, it is just sad now that Whitecaps fans are having to pin their goal scoring hopes on Erik Hurtado again. It looks like we are at the bottom of the barrel. Will it get better?