The Vancouver Whitecaps managed a hard fought 2-1 triumph against the Portland Timbers. let’s have a look at how everyone got on.
Stefan Marinovic: 10/10
There’s no getting past it, Marinovic robbed Portland of 3 points. He made eight saves many of which were quite difficult. His close range save on Alvas Powell and his free kick save on Diego Valeri stand out in particular. Marinovic also did a good job of keeping things calm while the Whitecaps were under immense pressure. There have been a few Whitecaps goalkeepers over the years who I could see crumbling under the pressure but Marinovic looked solid throughout.
Sean Franklin: 6/10
I thought he looked a bit shaky at times. He gave away the second penalty rather foolishly and looked a bit slow out there. That being said though, six clearances and two interceptions is hard to ignore
Kendall Waston: 7/10
Like Franklin, Waston gave away a penalty and also made an obscene number of clearances. Waston managed a huge eleven clearances and added two interceptions. I thought overall he looked a bit less shaky than Franklin and the penalty he gave away was a little more understandable so i’ve marked him slightly higher.
Aaron Maund: 8/10
Maund made an obscene number of clearances (9) and also managed to not give away a penalty. It was an impressive outing from the often maligned centre back.
Brett Levis: 8/10
Levis put in an impressive shift with 4 tackles, 4 interceptions and 4 clearances. His passing was a bit wayward but then so was everyone’s (Aly Ghazal was the only player on the night to break 80% passing accuracy). He was subbed off after 65 minutes so fitness is still a bit of a concern for him but it was a good 65 minutes.
Aly Ghazal: 9/10
The only player on the night to have over 80% passing accuracy and he coupled this with an enormous nine tackles. Ghazal was a huge part of the Whitecaps holding on to the win as he helped calm things down a bit in the centre of the park. To top it all off he also made one of his biannual key passes.
On the one hand Felipe had a pretty monstrous performance defensively speaking. He had 5 tackles, 5 interceptions, 3 clearances and a blocked shot. On the other hand though his passing wasn’t particularly good as he managed to complete only 60.7% of his passes. Now he also completed the most passes of any Whitecap and managed a key pass but ideally you’d like your deep lying playmaker to help the team retain the ball a little better.
Brek Shea: 8/10
Put in a brilliant, and also hilarious, cross for Techera’s goal. Like every Whitecap, except Ghazal, Shea’s passing accuracy was abysmal, and he did a few silly things on the defensive side of the ball, but he made two key passes and set up a goal which is the kind of production one would hope for from a DP.
Nicolas Mezquida: 7/10...I guess
Rating Mezquida is difficult in games like this. On the one hand he went out there and did what i’m sure was exactly what the manager asked of him. he ran around a lot, pressured the Portland backline, and kept it simple. But on the other hand I’d much rather the Whitecaps play someone in the #10 role who could keep possession better and create more. Of course by the standards of the evening Mezquida faired better than most in these categories as he had a 72% passing accuracy (terrible under normal circumstances but still second best on the team) and one key pass. So 7/10. Why not?
Cristian Techera: 7/10
He scored a header as a 5’2 man so we’ll ignore the fact that he only completed eight passes.
Kei Kamara: 8/10
He scored a goal as a striker playing for the Vancouver Whitecaps which is always going to lead to high marks. He also played two key passes which is always a nice contribution
Jake Nerwinski: 8/10
Had five clearances and a tackle in only 37 minutes of action. Pretty impressive with the team under such intense pressure.
Marcel De Jong: 8/10
three clearances, a tackle, and two interceptions in even less time than Nerwinski.
Erik Hurtado: 5/10
Didn’t manage to continue his 100% shooting accuracy, though he did have a half chance. This rating isn’t really his fault as he hardly touched the ball but it is what it is.
A word on coaching and tactics:
I won’t give Robbo a grade for this game because that feels a bit to definitive. That being said though I would like to discuss the 60th minute switch to five at the back. There’s an image that crops up on internet forums from time to time that shows a high school math test with a comment from a teacher that says “I don’t know how, but you used the wrong formula and got the correct answer.” I feel that a similar comment could be made about the decision to switch to five at the back with thirty minutes left and the ensuing win. To illustrate my point I would like to quote from Sir Alex Ferguson’s book Leading:
“...Frequently...The opposition played right into our hands by trying to defend their lead. They would substitute on a defensive player for an attacker and it would change the entire balance of the game. Suddenly we could surge around their box without worrying as much about their ability to counter-attack. Our opponents probably thought they were eliminating a risk by falling back into a defensive posture, but it gave us an advantage without us having to, in the grand scheme of things, unduly increase the amount of risk we took.”
If we look back on the game with this quote in mind you can see how Carl Robinson fell into the same trap as the many managers Ferguson faced. As soon as they took off Techera and brought on Nerwinski Portland immediately upped their pressure and won a penalty shortly thereafter. Without a stellar performance from Marinovic there was every chance the Whitecaps would have conceded two or even three goals. Now I understand that the Whitecaps were rotating players for a higher priority match and would be happy with any kind of result from this game but switching to an ultra defensive and unfamiliar formation (that has caused nothing but trouble in the past) was not the right way to deal with the situation. There were numerous other options for the Whitecaps to be more defensively solid without changing the shape of the team. They could have subbed on David Norman for Mezquida and moved Felipe to the #10 role. This would have added some grit but they still would have posed a threat on the counter and kept the same basic shape. Or they could have subbed both of Mezquida and Kamara for Blondell and Hurtado. This would have given them some size and speed up front and forced Portland to keep some players back. The strategy of just throwing on defenders happened to work this time but it’s wildly unsustainable and highly unlikely to work again. I seriously doubt, however, that this is the lesson the Whitecaps have come away from the game with. Hard work and fight are nice but i’d like some effective strategy to compliment the hard work.