The Whitecaps (7-4-12) shall continue their California road trip this weekend when they visit the StubHub center to battle the LA Galaxy (10-5-7). Last week the Whitecaps were lackluster against Chivas USA and were forced to settle for a 0-0 draw.
The game against Chivas was another example of Vancouver’s offense lacking that knockout punch. The positive is that Vancouver’s defence stood strong and lengthened their shutout streak to 321 minutes. The good news is the Whitecaps are riding a 6 game undefeated run. The bad news is that they have only 1 win during that period. The really bad news is that the Whitecaps have only defeated the Galaxy once since joining MLS.
If the Whitecaps are going to continue their shutout and undefeated streaks they will have to do it without their starting defensive midfielders Matias Laba and Gershon Koffie. Laba will be absent due to yellow card accumulation and Koffie has been struggling with an ankle injury this week and is unlikely to start. Koffie and Laba have been arguably the best defensive midfielder combo in the league this season. They are a brick wall in front of Vancouver’s defence as they force the opposing team to attack on the wings. Their absence is a massive blow to the Whitecaps.
Luckily, head coach Carl Robinson has depth at this position. Young Canadian Russell Teibert and Mehdi Ballouchy are the strongest candidates to replace Laba and Koffie. I expect Teibert to have a strong performance versus the Galaxy but the jury is still out on Ballouchy who has seen limited minutes this season after recovering from an ACL tear. The absence of Laba and Koffie is not good news, especially against the Galaxy who have scored 39 goals in 22 matches this season.
The Whitecaps have a fairly solid defence. Over the past few games the central pairing of Johnny Leveron and Andy O’Brien have gone about their work methodically. Fullbacks Steven Beitashour and Jordan Harvey have also stood firm. Behind them goalkeeper David Ousted has quietly had a dominate season while earning 7 shutouts. This surely makes Robinson smile.
At the other end of the pitch the Whitecaps have been less impressive. After demolishing the Red Bulls in the first game of the season the Whitecaps had their fans salivating.
Unfortunately, as the season has progressed we have come crashing back to Earth. The prowess of creative midfielder Pedro Morales is well known around the league but the problem is he doesn’t have a clinical striker to connect with. This problem is not lost on Robinson who has been looking for a striker for some time. The summer transfer window came and left and Robbo was unable to sign a striker. Not surprising considering how close the ‘Caps are to the salary cap ceiling.
If a star striker is first on Robbo’s wish list then an experienced winger is clearly second on the list. On Thursday afternoon word spread on Twitter that out of favour midfielder Nigel Reo-Coker did not report to practice. It has been speculated for months that the Whitecaps have been looking to trade Reo-Coker but it has been a difficult task due to his massive salary. Rumors of Nigel’s destination were varying before the Whitecaps announced they had traded Nigel to Chivas USA in exchange for Mauro Rosales.
I’m still in shock that Vancouver was able to dump Reo-Coker and not only get value in return but also to fill a hole in their roster. Some Vancouver fans have questioned this trade but the only way this could have gone any better for Vancouver is if they were able to pick up Erick Torres and that wasn’t going to happen. Rosales isn’t the clinical striker Vancouver need but he will be a massive help going forward. He will likely play on the wing where he can send deadly crosses into the box while his creativity will give opposing teams fits as they are forced to decide to check him or Morales. His set-pieces will also be a help as this is the one area that Morales has failed to deliver.
In one fell swoop Vancouver have unloaded one of their highest paid players who wasn’t able to consistently make the game day roster and they have brought in a player who can instantly fit into their starting lineup. So here’s to you Mr. Robinson.
(image courtesy of futbolmls.com)