Sunday, March 20, 2011

Whitecaps FC Positional Review

There were very few negatives for the Vancouver Whitecaps in their first game as a MLS franchise versus national rivals TFC.  The midfield and forward positions played an almost flawless game offensively creating and finishing their opportunities.  The backline had a couple of breakdowns which Toronto FC took full advantage of by converting them into goals.  Here is a quick rundown individually and by position of how the Whitecaps rated in their first match.


The team could not have asked for a better debut for their first ever Designated Player signing after all the questions were raised about the quality of the player.  Eric Hassli (A) not only scored the opening goal in franchise history but added a second to clinch the victory.  He was also effective making it difficult for TFC to move the ball forward with his above average tackling ability, especially for a striker.  He performed well as a pair with converted striker Atiba Harris (B) as they both gave TFC defenders a tough time.  Harris, himself, scored a goal off one of the many corners the Whitecaps earned as the ball bounced off a couple of players before coming to rest at Harris feet.  The fact that Harris could have had a hat trick in this game is the only thing that brought the grade down.  After the impressive debut Hassli came off the pitch to a standing ovation in the 82nd minute for substitute Camillo (INC).  The Brazilian came on to provide fresh legs but was unable to create any serious scoring chances in his limited opportunity.  GRADE: A-


The central midfield was covered and shut down by youngster Gershon Koffie (B) and local Vancouverite Terry Dunfield (A-).  Both players were all over the field, especially Dunfield who snuck into the box between two defenders, took a pass from Chiumiento and converted the Caps second goal of the game.  Before that Dunfield sent in Chiumiento with a perfect pass which led to the cross that set up the 1st goal.  He of course drew a yellow card right after as he lost it for a second and dove into the crowd with his family and friends.  Dunfield also made a key block off a TFC player in the box to keep from the opponents from gaining momentum.  Koffie could be labeled as the unsung hero of the game as he shut down the midfield which limited TFC’s scoring chances.  It seems like it will be hard for John Thorrington to take Koffie out of the lineup when he returns to full health.

The MVP of the first half was definitely the Swiss born Davide Chiumiento (A) who, due to injuries, played out of his normal preseason position as a withdrawn striker.  It made no difference against TFC as Chiumiento was able to make solid runs down the right side against the 4-3-3 formation (although at times it looked like it was a 3-4-3).  He not setup Dunfield’s goal but was responsible for the cross that setup the first goal of the game by Hassli, even though the assist went to Harris who had a minor touch.  He was taken out at the half when he felt tightness in his hamstring and was replaced by Nizar Khalfan (B-).  While he did not continue the level of creativity that Chiumiento had, Khalfan brought some speed and energy and was able to keep TFC on their heels.

On the left side, teenager Russell Teibert (B+) carried over his strong preseason play as he did not look out of place in his first MLS match.  Like Chiumiento he provided some solid runs down the left side, including some quality service into the box for the strikers.  He also came close to setting up some quality chances off free kick and corners but his teammates were unable to connect.  In the second half Teibert came up lame and was replaced by defender Wes Knight (B+) who is capable of playing the midfield.  Knight made a great run, staying onside, and was able to set Hassli up for his second by drawing out Stephane Frei and making an easy pass for the 4th goal.  GRADE:  B+


The shakiest part of the team allowed TFC a couple of goals and allowed their opposition to remain in the match.  Jay DeMerit (B+), however, played his game as he tackled hard and was not responsible for the breakdowns in their third.  The captain was also able to contribute a couple of headers off set pieces in the offensive zone as he came close to scoring once.  Because of the injury to Greg Janicki late in the week, rookie Micheal Boxall (C) got the start at centre back and he struggled in his first game.  He allowed De Rosario to get behind him which led to the first goal.  On the second TFC goal Boxall was unable to close in on Santos in order to prevent the shot from long distance.  It was a decent debut for the 1st pick in the supplemental draft.

After a minor mistake in the first half, which was cleaned up by DeMerit, left back Alain Rochat (B) settled in and a solid game at left back.  While he did not make many impressive runs into the the final third, Rochat supported the left midfielders (Teibert, Khalfan).  Early in the 1st half Jonathan Leathers (B-) had a difficult time with new TFC left winger Martins but as the half wore on Leathers was able to get the better of the battle.  He almost setup a goal early in the 2nd half when he crossed the ball into the box to Hassli who scored a goal that was called back because of a foul.  GRADE:  B-


Jay Nolly’s first MLS start in four years saw the Whitecap goalkeeper put in an adequate performance in the victory.  There was very little chance for Nolly on either DeRosario goal or the Santos rocket from outside the box in the second half.  He did make a great play off the line in order to deny Jacob Peterson on a break that helped the Caps maintain their two goal lead.  At this point it is up in the air whether Nolly has secured a starting role when Joe Cannon returns to full match fitness.  GRADE: B-


The organization could not have asked for a better start for the MLS version of the Whitecaps with an enthusiastic crowd, a win over Canadian rivals and an offensive outburst that no one saw coming.  At this very early stage it seems like the management team are making the correct decision.  What does have to be taken into account is the fact that TFC is basically a rebuilt team with a new system and several new players brought in by a coach who had very little time.  The Whitecaps will face their next test on the road when they face the sophmore Philadelphia Union on March 26th.  GRADE: B+

No comments:

Post a Comment