We are nine matches into the 2018 season and Carl Robinson has started nine different combinations of players. This should not necessarily be seen as a negative though. It is important that the Vancouver Whitecaps rotate players, especially at the start of the season. In addition, the Caps have had to contend with injuries and red cards. With so many new players this offseason, it is understandable that Robbo would use the first half of the season to get players minutes and to determine who his best XI, so as the season draws to a close in the Fall, he can put the players out that give the club the best chance to win.
The early season rotation has led to 22 players having at least one start and 17 players having played at least 200 minutes. In fact, every player that has at least one minute of MLS play this season has at least one start! Despite this rotation, there is some consistency to be had. Eight players have started at least seven of the Whitecaps first nine games, with the defensive group of Marinovic, Nerwinski, Waston, Aja, and de Jong comprising five of those eight. In addition to the back five, Davies, Felipe, and Juarez have also started seven matches.
Based on minutes played, it would appear that Carl Robinson’s Best XI is
Defensive Four of: Nerwinski, Waston, Aja, and de Jong
Defensive Midfielders: Teibert and Juarez
Midfielders: Felipe, Davies, and Shea/Techera
The heavy rotation of players has coincided with several different formations. We have seen 3-5-2, 4-3-2-1, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-4-1, and probably a bunch of other formations that I don’t feel like listing. Of course, Carl Robinson has relied extensively on his go-to of 4-2-3-1, but it is nice to see some variation. The variation in formation has not always been successful (see 3-5-2) and players have looked lost at times. However, I am willing to chalk that up (slightly) to a team still learning to gel in different positions. Remember, of the Whitecaps top ten players in minutes played this season, four (Felipe, Aja, Juarez, and Kamara) were not with the club last season, Teibert (#9), de Jong (#8), Davies (#4), and Marinovic (#1) were not every-day starters last season. In fact, the only consistency in the top minutes players from last season are Waston and Nerwinski. Therefore, it is no surprise that a) the club lacks cohesion and b) it is unclear what the Best XI is for the Caps.
Of course, the four red cards (three served) the Whitecaps have received this season has certainly played a role in the Starting XI, as has injuries to Kamara, Reyna, Blondell, Mutch, Ghazal, etc.
In addition, we have seen four Canadians (Davies, de Jong, Levis and Teibert) play a total of 1,692 minutes this season. For comparison, the Canadian four-some of Davies, de Jong, McKendry and Teibert combined for 2,653 minutes ALL season.
Throwing injuries out of the equation, I am curious what your Best XI looks like currently? I will go first.
- I think this is an obvious choice
Defensive Four: Nerwinski, Waston, Aja, de Jong
- I would be willing to put Levis in place of de Jong possibly in a few weeks. But, let’s see how he does over several matches first. In addition, I contemplated Juarez at the back, but he looked worse there than he has in midfield
Defensive Midfield Two: Ghazal & Mutch
- I love that Teibert has looked good and I know a few people will say he deserves to start. However, as I noted in another article, Teibert is steady with no flare. I would like to see a potential game-changer in the lineup first. I chose Ghazal because he is steady but also smart in his tackling. He can be a game changer on the defensive end, snuffing out a potential goal scoring opportunity; he did it several times already last season.
- I put a healthy Mutch in there because he can be that box-to-box guy, who can be defensive but also is great with the long pass. I think he is suited well to this position and would require defensive units to sit back in fear that he might lob one over them to a streaking Reyna or Davies
Attacking Midfielders: Reyna, Felipe, Davies
- Does this make sense? Maybe not. However, I think I can make an argument for it. Leave Davies on the left and put Reyna on the right. Let Felipe work in the middle to set them up. The MAJOR problem I see with this idea is I think it leaves Nerwinski high and dry and could be majorly exploited. I think that Reyna is actually defensively sound (for an attacking player), but I feel he would drift too often into the middle and leave the right side completely vacant. Maybe Mutch and Ghazal (mostly Mutch) can fill that void when Reyna overloads the middle?
- I think this is an obvious one isn’t it? However, it seems that Reyna and Blondell (and maybe Shea?) have great chemistry. If Robbo was going to rotate things a bit, I would be interested in seeing a pairing of Blondell and Reyna.
Regularly Rotated Players: Shea, Blondell, Techera, Juarez, and Teibert
Less Rotated Players: Mezquida, Levis, Maund, Ibini, Franklin, Hurtado
What are your thoughts? Feel free to note a home/away Starting XI and a first sub or anything else that you think is relevant. Such as biggest hole. We will see how much consistency we get.