For the Vancouver Whitecaps the first four games of the 2015 season have been far from pretty. Arguably the first half of their season opener versus Toronto FC was the most pleasing to the eye, a game they would eventually lose due to missed opportunities. The 7 halves succeeding that first half have been pretty underwhelming. Yet somehow the Vancouver Whitecaps sit all alone in second place in the Western Conference. They have achieved this standing thanks to some superb individual performances and moments of brilliance.
After opening his account against Toronto FC, Octavio Rivero went on to score the game winning goal in the 86th minute against Chicago and then followed up with another game winner a week later in Orlando, this time scored in the 96th minute. Last Saturday the Whitecaps returned home to Vancouver when they hosted Cascadia rivals, the Portland Timbers. A beautiful freekick goal scored by Mezquida was eventually cancelled out by a much deserved Portland goal. Vancouver goalkeeper, David Ousted, stood on his head and made several game changing saves in quick succession to keep his team in the game. Enter ex-Welsh international striker Robert Earnshaw. Having previously been a member of Toronto FC and Chicago Fire, Earnshaw signed with the Whitecaps only a few days before he took to the field against Portland. In the 91st minute Morales sent in a nifty defence splitting pass which managed to confuse Liam Ridgewell and Matt Borchers. The pass fell right to the feet of Earnshaw who easily beat Kwarasey to give Vancouver all 3 points.
Vancouver (3-0-1) have not played well this season and yet the standings suggest otherwise. While I certainly don’t believe they will remain this high in the rankings, they have shown an increased ability to ground out results. This weekend the LA Galaxy roll into town. Season after season, Bruce Arena manages to keep the baulk of his roster intact while making a few quality additions. The Galaxy (1-2-1) were forced to settle for a disappointing 1-0 loss against DC United last week when they concede a goal with just seconds remaining in the match. They will surely want to earn some road points after a dropped point last week.
If the Whitecaps are to collect their 4th win in a row they will need to make some drastic improvements. The Whitecaps defense continues to stand strong in the face of the enemies strike force but Steven Beitashour was yet again at fault for a goal scored by the opposition. In the match against Portland he didn’t match the run of Nagbe who sent in a cross which Adi easily put past Ousted. Beitashour could soon find himself on the bench, watching Jordan Harvey play in his place. Harvey seems to have lost his starting role to Sam Adekugbe who has started the last 3 games over Harvey and has done a fantastic job. So much so he will not likely lose his starting position anytime soon.
The brilliance of David Ousted will have to continue as he will surely be called into action against the likes of Zardes and Keane. Young Canadian midfielder, Russell Teibert could return to the starting xi to help the ‘Caps improve their possession percentage which has been dismal the last few weeks. Now might be the time for Carl Robinson to switch up his formation to a 4-4-2 diamond to help the Whitecaps to generate a different aspect of buildup play instead of relying so heavily on their counterattack. Regardless of the game plan Carl Robinson chooses to deploy versus the Galaxy, now is the time to make a much need tactical change to inject new life into this talented team. If they fail to adapt they could find themselves on the wrong end of a lopsided result.
(image courtesy of Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC)