Expansion blues hit Whitecaps hard in Columbus

May 3, 2011 at 4:09 am | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2011 | Leave a comment

The Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 loss in Columbus on Saturday had all of the hallmarks of an expansion team effort.  We played very poor scrappy football for 45 minutes, made two dreadful rookie errors, played well for 20 minutes or so, and then faded out of the match at the end.

Our problem is the inconsistency in the squad.  In Columbus we experimented with a new central defensive pair of Janicki and Akloul, and it was a failure.  Columbus striker Renteria was allowed to run rampant in the penalty area unopposed on two occasions and scored two goals as a result.

For those of us who followed the Whitecaps a few seasons earlier in 2009 we had a virtual revolving door of central defenders come and go through the team.  This is not the part of the team to fool around with in a defensive game like football.  You need two players who are as solid as a rock back there. In a league like the MLS, opposing teams will take adavantage of any weakness there.

On the second goal that killed us, Columbus had far too much time on the ball at the top of the box as the Whitecaps engaged in ball-watching.  By the time the Whitecaps realized they should do something about it, they (especially Janicki) were caught in no man’s land and Akloul allowed Renteria loads of time to make a run across our area and bang in a goal virtually unopposed.  If we give up goals that cheap, we will not win a game for the rest of the season.

DeMerit’s groin injury is absolutely killing us, and it is clear to me that he and Boxall are our best central defensive pairing. The benefits of playing Rochat as an overlapping full back were clear as his overlapping run was key in the goal, and he crossed the ball in for Khalfan’s effort from one yard out which was blocked only by an incredible defensive play by Columbus.

Columbus’ first goal was a combination of a comedy of errors and slack defending.  Knight was easily beaten by Columbus full back Gardner, who was limply chased by Dunfield, his through ball caromed off of Leather’s foot unbeknownst to Leathers, Janicki was wrong footed and fell over, and Nolly was too aggressive in his dive after leaving his line too late.  Nolly looked poor on the first goal, and you could spot what was going to happen long before it did.  While Jay has been doing some things extraordinarily well, such as cutting out crosses, his judgment and timing in coming off of his line for through balls has been questionable.  He could have pulled out of that tackle and let Rentaria through, because it was clear Rentaria was going to attempt to draw penalty from the start of the play, and was not going to score if he got through in any event.  The first goal was caused by a string of errors by no less than five Whitecaps!  Someone should teach Knight the benefits of fouling in midfield. had he fouled Gardner early, the goal was prevented, even if a yellow resulted.  Players should never be allowed to simply dance their way around you like that.

The problem for the Whitecaps Manager Thordarson is having to learn about his squad’s capabilities on the run in an experimental fashion.  The injury to DeMerit has taken our bedrock player out of the equation, and fixture congestion caused by the Canadian Championship has put the squad under huge stress.  I feel for poor Thordarson, who must be having sleepless nights trying to figure out how to best to both preserve and use his squad.

There is good news, however.  While we struggled to find form in Columbus, there was a good 15-20 minutes in the second half when we were clearly the better team, and if not for a defensive wonder play we would have had a draw.   The moment Dunfield was taken off of the pitch and Brovsky came on, our bubble burst a bit.  Though Brovsky nearly saved our bacon with a shot just wide, you could feel the team deflate as soon as Dunfield came off.  I think we should have left him on and rested him against Montreal at mid-week.  He could have saved the game for us.  Perhaps two games in four days caught up with him.

The other good news is Omar Salgado scored his first goal. He struggled for most of the game but when he was finally given some good service, he finished naturally and clinically. This kid is going to be great, and he has earned the right to start.The happy fact remains we have four strikers who have each proven they can score.

Shea Salinas played brilliantly when he came on and it is clear once he is fully fit Wes Knight will be relegated to the substitutes bench, though no player has shown greater work rate and dedication than Knight so far this season.

The other good news story is we are not being blown out as expansion teams often are. Though we are giving up too many goals, we are not suffering one-sided defeats.  Our worst defeat was a 3-1 loss to Houston. We have been competitive in every match, and once the team begins to take shape and Teitur learns how to use his squad, I believe we will be more competitive and we will see some wins coming our way.

This may sound odd, but it is time to say a prayer for Jay DeMerit’s groin!

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