Reviewing the Whitecaps' performance against Toronto FC in Tuesday’s first leg of the Voyageurs Cup/Amway Canadian Championship/CCL-according-to-Vic Rauter (that’s what they’re qualifying for, Vic) has been an odd task.
Like AtlantisB said in his recap, "the Whitecaps were unfortunate to be down 1-0 at half and fortunate to only lose 1-0," but further to this each starter seemed to have his own personal "Jekyll vs. Hyde" situation going on. There were highs and lows; equal parts skill and silliness.
For what it’s worth, everyone on the pitch got a "C", with a few getting either a "+" or "-" added in. I know, it’s a cop out, but what else can you do when you’re faced with this bitter mix of great and terrible, and end up losing on a deflected goal?
Paolo Tornaghi – C+
Was occasionally sloppy on his clearances, but generally had decent positioning on all the shots he faced. Got lucky with the post (but had the angle covered), but not so much on the redirected goal. Can’t really defend something like that.
Sam Adekugbe/Fraser Aird – C
It was good to see Aird back in the lineup, and he had some great tackles deep in the Whitecaps end, but his long passes seemed aimless. And despite his great run deep into the TFC end in the 42nd minute, the ultimate result was the counterattack that led to Giovinco’s goal.
Similarly, Adekugbe was great at clearing the ball and had no problem in getting himself up-field, but could have been a lot better when passing the ball up his wing.
Pa Modou Kah/Kendall Waston – C+
Combined, they had thirteen clearances throughout the match. But like, Adekugbe & Aird, their long balls were lacking. They really need to be hitting the wing outlets or the midfielders right in front of them.
In his first action since May 22nd in Portland, we didn’t see any more "Kah" moments, which was fantastic! And Waston had a weird night: no cards (well, that's weird for him), deflected a goal into his own net, was great at stepping up and owning the ball, except when Giovinco drilled the post, and nearly scored on a bicycle kick.
Russell Teibert/Ben McKendry – C/C-
It almost seemed like McKendry was trying to out-Teibert Russell Teibert, which isn’t the worst person to model your game after, but today the result was a one-dimensional act coming from the defensive midfielders. Passing was good when it was square balls, but not when it was upfield. And if the passes were bad, at least each did a decent enough job of recovering the ball afterwards. You know, balls they never should have given up in the first place.
For what it’s worth, McKendry only gets the minus because he gave up a couple of bad fouls right outside the penalty area. TFC may be defensive this year, but they can bury in the 24-yard range.
Alphonso Davies – C
Wasn’t as strong as he had been in the second leg against Ottawa but, as opposed to Manneh, when he goes 1v1 and loses, he generally has a better chance of winning the ball back right away. That’s why he ended up with 10(!) recoveries on the night.
Mind you, saying, "He's great at usually getting back the ball he just lost," isn't a brag, but it's still something where when it happens, he's keeping the ball in the attacking end rather than losing it and having absolutely nothing to show for it.
Pedro Morales – C-
The captain was weird. He looked straight-up lethargic, similar to how he played during the tail end of his first season with the ‘Caps. His one-touch passing was fantastic, but any moment he held the ball it was always for too long, and TFC was all over him. For the return leg, I hope he goes back to playing deeper and Carl Robinson makes Nicolas Mezquida the 10.
Christian Bolaños – C+
Good, quick passes, was decent at getting back on defense… until he got skinned on the end line and took a yellow card in the 64th. That was just brutal, and he was somewhat fortunate it didn’t happen a second later in the penalty area. If he can keep working the tic-tac passing with Aird to get up field, he’ll definitely help advance the offense as a team.
Octavio Rivero – C
Early on, the passing was great but he was poor at controlling the ball for himself. As the game progressed, the passing went sour as well. If Morales didn’t look so tired, I would have put Blas Perez in for Rivero first, just to have someone bring down the ball & distribute late into the match.
Carl Robinson – D-
I don’t know if this was his game plan, but it’s certainly something he needs to fix: the Whitecaps cannot punt the ball up-field as if everyone in the attacking half is Kekuta Manneh. The ‘Caps have found recent success by maintaining possession and finding the right opportunity to lead with deep passes, not just throw Hail Marys.
One immaculate segment occurred in the 25th minute, when Pa Modou Kah intercepted a TFC throw-in. In order, the passing went like this:
That’s 16 passes in a row, working the ball from right to left, allowing Adekugbe to get off a sneaky-difficult shot for Clint Irwin to parry, right before Rivero fell over in the box (I'm still debating whether that was a real foul or not, but the rolling around didn't help).
There’s an expected level of paranoid urgency that comes into effect when away goals play a massive role, but if the team could maintain this type of patient build-up, they won’t need to keep attempting a dump-and-chase game against a Toronto defense that knows how to collapse. Ultimately, the coach has to guide the players to avoid this.
And one more, just for fun...
Vic Rauter – F
Feel free to tell me I’m on my own here, but from the bizarre word enunciation ("O-so-ri-OOO!", "Gi-o-vinc-OOO!"), erroneously calling the match the "Champions League," or only being able to compliment Paolo Tornaghi by repeatedly reminding us that it’s his birthday, I’ve got to say I have a renewed appreciation for Luke Wileman and Jason de Vos. Dude, stick to announcing curling.