The Vancouver Whitecaps have always found difficulty in getting results when playing away to the LA Galaxy, so from that perspective Saturday's 0-0 draw is certainly a positive. However, we're getting closer and closer to the end of the season, and its matches like this one where we'll look back with dozens of "What Ifs???" if the team happens to fall on the south side of the playoffs' red line.
So, who could have done what better?
David Ousted - B-
Wasn't really tested (only faced 3 shots on net), but reacted well in some tough situations. HOWEVER, it could have all went to hell after that 46th minute clearance went straight to Emmanuel Boateng. Very fortunate that errant pass amounted to nothing.
Kendall Waston/David Edgar - B
Nick Dasovic summed it up best during the match, saying this was the Kendall Waston we've been waiting to see since last season, coming up with tackles like this one. His pairing with Edgar finally looked solid (both had plenty of blocked passes and shots, and both kept the defensive front organized.
Organization was important considering the risks that go with playing such a high backline, to create the counterattack the Whitecaps relied upon, but these two kept everything shipshape.
Marcel de Jong/Jordan Smith - C+
Both had odd starts to the match as the Galaxy kept trying to go over Smith and through de Jong, and each rebounded well to the early pressure. A perfect example of this was when de Jong let Sebastian Lletget run straight into him in the 57th, resulting in Lletget falling hilariously to the ground.
Offensively, their respective forays upfield were generally positive, though Smith has to stop dribbling straight into the feet of defenders, while the timing of de Jong's runs usually was not the best (though his being stuck upfield in the 26th minute did result in Giles Barnes' fantastic tackle of Robbie Rogers).
Pedro Morales - C
Had some nifty little link up, but his long balls were a far cry from their usual effectiveness. Is he losing his touch? Or just in need of some inspiration these days?
Russell Teibert/Matías Laba - C+
Even thought the Whitecaps were playing a 4-4-2, both were playing far more defensively than any sort of distributing center midfielder. It let the D stay bunkered but may have allowed for the huge possession discrepancy between the 'Caps (31%) and Los Angeles (69%).
When faced a 1v1, both Teibert and Laba tended to give space to the ball carrier and follow the run off the ball. It looked odd, watching them shy away from the ball, but doing so funneled attackers into bad shooting/passing lanes. It was Buckley's Cough Syrup defending: it looked awful, but it worked.
Fraser Aird - B-
Pushed the tempo in the second half, and his speed on the outside not only made the 2nd Half counterattacks greatly effective, but he looked far more comfortable on the wing than he did at leftback. The downside? The respective returns of Christian Bolanos (suspension) and Kekuta Manneh (injury) will surely push Aird down the depth chart.
My only complain of Aird for the night was over some of his decision making. It was 50/50 as to whether or not any decisions he made would work, whether it would be better to dribble or pass (or for that matter, where to pass).
Giles Barnes - B+
Barnes was everywhere. Made a great run to set up Hurtado's early header (which I'll get to shortly), and got all the way back to the 'Caps penalty area to cover for de Jong, on the aforementioned tackle on Rogers (that ALSO earned a goal kick). Unfortunately, his only effort on net was the free kick that floated just over the LA cross bar. A deserved goal will come soon enough.
The guy was a workhorse on the night, which, as recent posts in the comments section have noted, will most likely result in Barnes not starting next Saturday (unless he becomes the king of training sessions).
Erik Hurtado - B (...but also an F)
Overall, he had a great, hardworking and well-fought game (how many "Ric Flair Eye Rakes" did he suffer from on the night?). Pushed the tempo during the second-half counterattacks, and created some decent efforts on net while helping to create for others.
But that header? Yowza. EdmondK's rant from yesterday does well to thoroughly question Hurtado's "finishing", but in short: that headed ball HAS to go in the net. The game certainly could have ended differently had he scored, whether it becomes a win or a loss, but we'll definitely come back to this moment if the Whitecaps finish 2 points out of the playoffs.