The Vancouver Whitecaps came away with a surprising (?) 3-2 victory Saturday evening against Eastern Conference opponent Philadelphia Union. Despite the win, and really it was 3-1, it was not a great performance by the Whitecaps. After 18 hours or so to reflect, we now grade the performance of individual players and get your thoughts on those performances. As usual with my report cards, a C+/B- is average.
Let’s start at the back. The Whitecaps have had some struggles keeping the ball out of its own net, having the second most goals against in MLS. Like most weeks though, the leakage of goals has very little to do with the Caps keeper David Ousted. While I disagree with being man-of-the-match, David Ousted had another solid performance (A).
The goal-leaking problem for the Whitecaps is more the result of poor defensive marking and turning-off at multiple points. Jordan Harvey is not perfect, but like Ousted, very few of the team’s defensive miscues each week should be attributed to him. Again, this week, Harvey had a solid outing (B+).
Harvey’s fullback counterpart for this match was Jordan Smith. Smith started the season rather poor but has shown some consistency over the past few matches. In my opinion, Smith showed some of his weaknesses in this game. He can certainly get forward but it seems that he too often forgets that he is to defend, and when he does defend he looks lost and confused. His speed allows him to counter some of those mind-gaps but I feel they are just too frequent for him to be relied upon consistently, like the Whitecaps can rely on Harvey (C).
With Kendall Waston serving the second of his two-game suspension, we were presented with a pairing of Tim Parker and Andrew Jacobson. I have to agree with many who felt that Jacobson was a deserving recipient of man-of-the-match. He certainly had a solid match; and despite my negative comments on Twitter during the New England game about his lack of pace, in reality Jacobson has not really made a misstep this season. He can certainly be in the running for unsung hero. Likewise, Parker had a solid match (A).
Matias Laba was Laba. Nothing spectacular but still solid. One thing I do notice is that when he has Pedro Morales playing beside him he ventures up the field less (for obvious reasons). I was enjoying his runs into the middle earlier in the season and I would like to see that come back. Maybe we see that more at home compared to on the road where he needs to be more defensive-minded. I saw a few times yesterday where he would push up and then you would see him peel off and jog back instead of continuing his run into the middle (A).
Pedro Morales has been playing better on the road this season but I felt he was just ‘okay’ yesterday. He certainly got the job done, but he did not seem to be consistently dynamic (B-). Likewise, I felt Christian Bolanos was similarly ‘okay’. He had the late goal that proved to be the winner, but I felt he just floated around. It seems like he plays great while on international duty and then takes a few games to get to the MLS pace. Hopefully the international breaks do not come too frequently the rest of the way (B-).
I preface this with saying that I will probably rub some people the wrong way with these comments. Despite scoring a wonderful goal off a long run, I was very unimpressed with Kekuta Manneh. To be honest, I am often unimpressed with Manneh. Some have argued for him to be played as a striker and I think I will have to agree with them. Not necessarily because he ‘should’ but rather because I feel his weaknesses limit his value elsewhere. Let’s quickly go over those. He cannot cross a ball at all! He also seems to lack the passing vision. I am NOT going to blame Manneh for Rivero’s poor play here, but I recall multiple points seeing a clear opportunity for Rivero if Manneh just passed the ball. By the time he elects to pass (IF he passes) the opportunity has disappeared. I saw the constant frustration from Rivero and often it seemed like Manneh didn’t care. I was always curious if they did not like one another. Anyway, an argument for another article. The point is, Manneh lacks the ability to cross to the center forward and the vision to see the intricate pass quick enough. As a result, he is not well used on the wing. He needs to be central. While he lacks in passing, he footwork and nose-for-goal are great. Does Manneh see more time at striker with Rivero (probably) leaving, or do we see the Caps bring in a high-priced striker. Again, a conversation for another article maybe. In the end, I give Manneh a grade of C for this game. Yes, even though he scored a goal.
I finish off with Erik Hurtado who has come back from exile last year to be a solid contributor to the Whitecaps depth. He is certainly not a scoring answer, but neither has Rivero filled that role. If Hurtado finds a way to put the ball in the net a few times, I feel he has a very important role on this team as his strength and work-ethic are solid. Sadly, I don’t see him scoring much. For what Hurtado brings though, if we accept his ceiling, I give him a grade of B in this match.
Those are my thoughts. The grades ended up being higher than I thought they would. What say you? Agree? Disagree? Let us know.