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Vancouver Whitecaps Defeat Iwaki FC 1-0 to Advance to Final of Pacific Rim Cup

The Vancouver Whitecaps defeated Japanese 6th division side Iwaki FC 1-0, with 90th minute PK goal. We break down all the key points from the match.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC

The Vancouver Whitecaps played their second match of the 2018 preseason on Thursday evening, kicking off the Pacific Rim Cup. The match was against Japanese 6th Division club Iwaki FC. While it was probably not what Caps fans were hoping for, given the 4-0 victory of J1 club Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on Tuesday, the Whitecaps were able to come away with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a 90th minute penalty kick goal by Cristian Techera.

Although we need to temper expectations and remember that it is only the second preseason match, there were some important takeaways from this match.

The fact that the Whitecaps could only muster a last minute (literally) 1-0 victory against a 6th division Japanese club should be cause for concern and not at the same time. A lot has been made of Iwaki making a strong push up the Japanese soccer pyramid and that they should not be viewed as a 6th division club. However, the Whitecaps have a history of playing down to their opponent, and it could be viewed that they did the same thing again here. You will recall from seasons past that they club has looked strong against some of the bigger clubs, in MLS play, but then faltered when they should be, for example, a Portland Timbers side that cannot field a full squad due to injuries.

For those hoping that we might see something different in formation, the evidence so far suggested ‘No’. In both Tuesday and Thursday matches, Carl Robinson elected to begin with his traditional 4-2-3-1. There are valid arguments against the formation being defensive, but with the personnel that Robbo puts out there, it is hard to make that argument in the Whitecaps situation.

Does Carl Robinson’s 4-2-3-1 formation in the preseason mean that we will not see something else this season? No, but if you were going to play something different, it seems that the preseason would be the time that you would play around with it, rather than waiting until the matches start; granted, we still have several preseason matches remaining.

The Whitecaps started the match with a strong squad, with Marinovic, Nerwinski, Waston, Henry, de Jong, Ghazal, Juarez, Ibini, Mezquida, Shea, and Blondell. I was curious to see how Henry and Blondell did in their Whitecaps debut, and how the pairing of Ghazal and Juarez would manage. If Robbo is set on having a two-defensive midfield, then the Ghazal/Juarez partnership will be key!

Although Juarez looked good, Blondell and Ghazal were among those we felt look poor in their showing. It is worth noting that in both of his halves of play, Marinovic has looked sharp!

For the second half, the Caps fielded Rowe, Bloom, Parker, Maund, Fiddes, Tchani, Teibert, Norman Jr., Techera, Kamara, and Davies. While the front three looked very sharp again, the back five was very poor. Rowe had poor distribution and made some suspect plays, while Bloom and Fiddes looked very out of place.

Some additional notes. Davies went down at the end of the match. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but hopefully it is nothing serious. Teibert had another great match. Looked very sharp. Blondell looked a bit timid. Had a chance for a header and seemed to pull up. Juarez looked good again. Still no Reyna. He is in Hawaii with the club but has not featured. Hmm....

With Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo defeating Columbus Crew in the other match, the Caps will face Sapporo again on Saturday (9 pm PST). The match will be streamed on Whitecaps Facebook page.

What were your takeaways from the match.