For a second week in a row the Whitecaps managed to comeback and earn a point from their opponents.
The ‘Caps were a step behind Real Salt Lake for the entire first half of Saturdays game. Just 2 minutes in and a turnover by Russell Teibert and a mistake by Johnny Leveron lead directly to a Joao Plata goal as he slotted the ball across David Ousted’s goal and into the far corner. Salt Lake kept pressing and were rewarded again in the 8th minute as Jordan Harvey gave Alvaro Saborio acres of space to curl a beautiful shot past Ousted and give the home team a 2-0 lead. Vancouver’s defense was all sixes and sevens for the first half as Salt Lake continued to press.
The second half saw Hurtado, Mezquida, and Fernandez enter the game and an immediate impact was felt. Mezquida gave Vancouver some hope as he scored his first of the season in the 86th minute. Deep into injury time, after withstanding continued pressure from the Whitecaps, Saborio nearly broke away in alone on goal but a well-timed sliding tackle by Beitashour knocked the ball to Fernandez. Fernandez ran a few yards, looked up, and smashed a stunning shot from all of 35 yards out past Nick Rimando.
Now for some harsh reality about the Whitecaps roster. I have defended Jordan Harvey for a long time but those days are over. His offensive output in clutch situations is no longer worth his continued inability do the basic requirements a defender is signed to perform. Harvey failed to close down repeated attacks down his flank and gave Saborio way too much time to shot at Ousted. Turn over after turn over all game long. It’s time for Harvey to warm the bench and young Canadian Sam Adekugbe to start at left-back.
So far this season, Russell Teibert has been a shadow of his 2013 self. He is just as guilty as Harvey for his repeated cheap turn overs to RSL and I couldn’t have been happier to see him replaced by Fernandez in the second half. Teibert has played his best this season as a defensive midfielder and it’s where I believe he should play if he is to remain in the starting lineup.
On a positive note, Erik Hurtado is finally showing why he was picked 5th overall in the 2013 SuperDraft. While he is yet to register his first career MLS goal he is getting into good positions and making smart runs into the attacking half. While he still needs to improve his tracking back to help defend, he is clearly becoming a solid substitute for the Whitecaps.
Captain Jay DeMerit was left in Vancouver to rest along with Pedro Morales who is fighting a chronic back problem. The jury is still out on the central defensive combination of O’Brien and Leveron but given a few games could be a more stable pairing than DeMerit and O’Brien.
Kenny Miller started in the middle of the attacking midfield for Vancouver but he was largely invisible and wasn’t able to put his stamp on Vancouver’s attack. Earlier last week, Miller told a local Vancouver radio station that he doesn’t believe he will be resigned when his contract with the Whitecaps comes to an end this June. There have been whispers that Carl Robinson has a big transfer target or two for the summer window and so Miller’s time with the ‘Caps could be coming to a close. Reo-Coker’s future in Vancouver is also being questioned. He was reportedly sick this week but he has failed to regain his starting position since his return from the concussion incident. The likelihood of Reo-Coker returning to the lineup is becoming less and less likely and the ‘Caps could be looking to offload him this summer. If Nigel was transferred I doubt this would have a negative impact on the team since the defensive midfield is one of the deepest positions on the Whitecaps roster.
The Whitecaps need to stop digging themselves a hole. They have managed to dig their way out against the Galaxy and Salt Lake but their luck won’t last forever. Carl Robinson now has a week to work with his squad before they take on the San Jose Earthquakes in the ‘Caps 40th anniversary game on May 3rd.
(image courtesy of Kristin Murphy/Deseret News/AP)