Whitecaps outclassed by KC in battle of the bottom

June 27, 2011 at 12:36 am | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2011 | Leave a comment

A sobering 2-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night provided for rather grim viewing.  Sad to say, while we were playing with a team that was even in points going into the match, it is clear that KC were in a different class in football terms.  Facing players like Espinoza, Bravo, Julio Cesar and Stojcev in midfield, the Whitecaps clearly did not have anywhere near the quality in their squad to compete with a keen KC squad.

While I was  jealous concerning KC’s squad, their beautiful new ground with its huge grass pitch made me positively green. Livestrong Park is a top class venue which brags a football pitch which is larger than any English Premiership pitch.  It reminded me of how important it is for the Vancouver Whitecaps to eventually own its own soccer specific football ground with a proper grass pitch.  In football terms, we simply cannot achieve the club’s stated ambition to be a top football club while playing on the plastic stuff.

While the Whitecaps have responded positively to their new coach Tommy Soehn in recent matches, posting two ties, a loss and a long awaited win in the last four matches, the Whitecaps came out looking as dull as ditchwater on Saturday night.  Forced to defend deep for much of the evening, the close score belied the wide gulf between the two teams.

The fact this tie was played between two bottom dwellers became clear when KC’s pathetic defence let our beloved midget Camilo score an early marker from Davide Chiumiento’s free kick.  The tiny Camilo jumped for and headed home the curling cross virtually unopposed with a slow Julio Cesar watching him like one of the paying spectators.  Incredible though it was, the Whitecaps were up by a goal after 15 minutes.  It was clear that KC’s defence could easily be breached if we had the quality to put sustained pressure on them; we didn’t, however.  But for a Hassli chance, the Whitecaps rarely put KC under pressure at the back.  For most of the match the Whitecaps defended deep against the buzzing Sporting team, with the likes of Espinoza and Bravo running riot.

One thing that KC has that the Whitecaps don’t have is speedy Central and South American midfielders who can turn on a dime.  The Mexican designated player Bravo did exactly that in our penalty area and was  lassoed like a rodeo calf by DeMerit’s trailing leg after a clumsy missed tackle.  Bravo easily dispatched the penalty: it was 1-1.

Bravo again figured in the second goal heading a deep curling cross from a corner from beyond the far post back across the goal for Julio Cesar to fire in from close range.  The Whitecaps proved themselves to be vulnerable to blind side runs in the first half on their left side as Rochat was exposed on a number of occasions.  Only heroic goalkeeping from Joe Cannon, who showed exceptional bravery in standing up to two point blank shots, stopped us from getting blown out in the first half.

Jay Demerit continues to be haunted by injury problems and came off at half-time.  This is a sad development, because we were looking like we were finally going to settle on a back four; lets hope DeMerit’s injury is just a tweak rather than a full on muscle injury. The Whitecaps had to change the back line, bringing on Duckett for DeMerit, and forcing Rochat to move to the middle, with Leathers moving to left back.

In spite of the fact the Whitecaps were looking the poorer team, they nearly tied the match early in the second half when Hassli brilliantly brought down a high cross from Rochat with his chest, making himself free at the top of the KC penalty area. Inexplicably he took a clumsy second touch and made an easy opportunity into a hard one which was saved by KC’s keeper Nielsen.

On the night the Whitecaps looked sluggish and tired, and almost totally devoid of any inspiration.   The problem is clear: our squad lacks depth and technical skill.  Soehn is trying to play a more possession passing style but does not have the technical skill in the squad to make it happen.  If we want to play this style we need to get a centre back who can play with the ball at his feet: none of our centre backs can pass the ball creatively out of the back.  Those of you who remember the old days of the 86ers and the USL-1 Whitecaps will remember two guys called Rick Titus and Chris Franks, two sweepers who could defend well, but could also play with the ball at their feet and make key passes to start attacks.  Our central defenders are all hoofers who can only kick the ball to safety; it is killing us.

In midfield we are lacking in technical skill and creativity.  If we could have just one of KC’s midfielders, our team would be immeasurably improved.   The more MLS football we get to watch it is clear one thing a successful MLS team needs is a technically gifted and creative Central or South American midfielder; we have none (David Fereirra, please come to Vancouver!).  Davide Chiumiento is gifted, but would I trade him for Bravo?  In an instant!

Even if we lack technical skill, the spirit of the squad seemed a bit down as well.  Chasing the game all night makes a team both tired and dispirited.  The Whitecaps looked both in KC.

Its on to Toronto for two back-to-back matches.  The games represent  our chance to get out of the MLS basement on Wednesday; and our chance to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League on Saturday.

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