Last season, the Vancouver Whitecaps were ‘the best’ when it came to scoring from set-pieces. In fact, nearly 1/3 (18) of their 55 MLS goals in 2017 were from set-pieces. Next closest was Houston (17 of 60) and Orlando City (11 of 39) at 28%.
Heading into the 2018 season, Kei Kamara proclaimed that the Whitecaps were “going to be the most dangerous team on set plays”.
Given the club’s success, and reliance, on set-pieces last season, coupled with the club getting taller and acquiring one of the best set-piece goal scorers in MLS, in Kamara, it was understandable why this mentality would exist. Many fans were thinking “finally, a striker that plays to the strengths of Carl Robinson’s system”.
Nine games into the 2018 season and the Whitecaps are only one of three teams (Dallas and Minnesota being the others) who have not scored from a set-piece. I would not necessarily see this as a major issue, as being completely reliant on set-pieces, unable to score from the run-of-play, is not a recipe for success. However, this is an area in which the Whitecaps should excel. Moreover, it isn’t like they have had their opportunities and have just missed.
Much of the success on set-pieces last season can be attributed to Cristian Techera. To start this season, Techera has been in and out of the lineup to start the season. After his stupid sending off last match, I suspect he will be out more than in over the next little while. When in the lineup, his service has been dreadful, and appears to be getting worse and worse each match. I cannot state the exact number, but far too many times against Real Salt Lake, Techera had trouble clearing the first defender on corners and set-pieces.
When Techera has been out of the lineup, the Caps have been reliant on Felipe Martins. Despite being slightly better, he still has not been great. Felipe appears to be more of a soft-pass expert rather than the driven-pass required for set-pieces.
While the losses of Tim Parker and Tony Tchani could be argued as part of the reason for the lack of set piece goals this season, it is important to note that neither was prolific on set-pieces; although it could be argued that their presence drew attention away from players like Kendall Waston.
With all the struggles that have been happening in Whitecaps land, the importance of set-pieces should not be ignored. The club rose to the place that they ended in the Western Conference in 2017 in large part to their proficiency on set-pieces. If they are to make waves in 2018, they will have to return to this strength. The question is whether they can or not.
What are your thoughts on the lack of goals from set-pieces this season? Is it a major point of concern? What is the solution?