The Vancouver Whitecaps went into Wednesday night's SCCL match against Central FC of Trinidad & Tobago in search of goals. After having wrapped up the top of Group C two weeks ago in Kansas City, the only thing left to be decided is the team's ranking in next spring's quarterfinals.
And what did we get as a result? A high-pressing defense and a fast pace offense against a team that had little to play for other than pride and preparation for the upcoming TT Pro League season. Nevertheless, the Whitecaps took advantage of a lax, preseason team having traveled 4,400 miles, to the tune of a 4-1 victory.
So how'd we get there?
Paolo Tornaghi - C-
Made a couple of nice saves when pressed, but... was it me or was he way out of position on Central FC's free kick goal? The shot wasn't nearly as pinpoint as Shkelzen Gashi's goal for Colorado Rapids last Saturday, and Tornaghi was still a foot or two away from even getting a hand on it. It was as if he was under the belief that no one on Central could get a ball up and over a wall.
Brett Levis/Fraser Aird - B/B-
Levis looked a little shaky at times, but was never under duress: if he slipped on the turf, he'd maintain possession, and if he lost the ball on a 1v1, he'd somehow win it back right away. And that stepover? Yowza.
As for Aird, on its face it didn't appear that Central FC read the MLS scouting report for the Whitecaps, which I'm assuming says, "ATTACK THE RIGHT BACKS." And for the few times he was targeted, he still made 12 recoveries, 3 tackles and 2 clearances. His only negative? That yellow card was a little silly and unnecessary.
Kendall Waston/Tim Parker - C+/B
With all the successful high pressing of the Whitecaps midfield, these two did not have much to do on the night. Waston ranks a little lower for committing the foul that led to the FK goal, even if it was a little soft. He even contributed to the offense... in the form of an offside, one of seven on the night (although the stat sheet shows it for Techera, I'm certain it was Waston).
Cristian Techera - A+
2 goals and 2 assists! That generally makes for a great night. The PK was cheeky as hell and the side-volleyed goal was perfect (not well hit, but on target), as he wrong-footed the keeper off a screened shot. Some of his passing was sloppy at times, but it can't help but be overshadowed when you have a hand (or foot) in all four goals on the night.
Marcel de Jong - B+
No shots of his own, but picked out Techera twice on 2 goals, the first was a long cross that led to Kudo's goal while the second was on Techera's volley. His passing down the flank was a little suspect, but was a huge part of the pressing midfield that gave Central FC no time on the ball.
Nicolás Mezquida - A
Had the "hockey assist" on the first two goals (or in the case of the PK, a fantastic over-the-top ball to Blas Perez). And, according to Opta, made only a single bad pass before being subbed in the 64th minute:
Was the high press in the center of the park, and was the key part in preventing Central FC from having any time on the ball.
Andrew Jacobson - B
Unlike how he fared on the last SCCL report card, Jacobson was the best kind of anonymous on Wednesday. He played a more defensive role in the center than Mezquida, so he never pressed as high or as hard as the rest of the midfielders, every time he appeared on screen he did his job well. Had a slide tackle in the 16th minute that was immaculate: wins the ball, subdues the player, and gets the pass off & up-field successfully.
Masato Kudo - C+
Offside way too often for my liking, but the tight angle finish on the third goal was class. Maybe I'm ranking him a little too low, but he was overshadowed by the play of his attack partner on the night...
Blas Perez - A
The guy was a bull in a china shop, though if you don't want an idiom the announcer of the Facebook broadcast put it best: "If he's not creating, he's creating problems for the referee." 3 shots with 2 on goal, one of which was the opening tap in, and also earning the PK. Although he was responsible for 4 fouls, they were never malicious and always part of the high press the Whitecaps executed all night. If the linesmen had called some of his offsides correctly, he may have ended up with a goal or two more. Earned the full 90 on the night.