Defensive errors sink Whitecaps in PortlandAugust 21, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2011 | 7 Comments
The story of the Whitecaps last 5 games or so has been one of poor defensive effort. The Whitecaps have given up 14 goals in the last five games. Football is a defensive game. You cannot win in football with poor defense because it is a game in which it is harder to score than to defend. If your team gives up more than one goal a game, it makes it very hard to win matches. Say what you will about Teitur Thordarson, but our defensive performance has gotten much worse, not better, under Tommy Soehn. It is becoming abundantly clear that the Paul Barber and Bob Lenarduzzi fired the wrong guy.
Last night in Portland Whitecaps manager Soehn put out a defensive formation with two defensive central midfielders Koffie and Vagenas. Koffie was responsible for giving up the ball easily in midfield in the first minute and Portland came charging down the middle of the park going through Vagenas, DeMerit and Boxall as though they were practice pylons on their way to a goal. It was a shameful effort which put us behind the eight ball right away in this match.
Gershon Koffie has been one of the great revelations of this season, and he has a bright future (hopefully with the Whitecaps), but he looked like a foolish rookie last night. Another giveaway later in the match should have cost us a goal but he was saved by the goal post. Koffie is usually tenacious and smart in midfield but he had his poorest match and it was a large part of the reason why we lost this game. He was not helped by Vagenas, who, being small and not a great athlete, is the wrong guy to have in the centre of midfield. It is still a mystery to me why he is in the line-up at all. His passing range is strictly limited to short 10-yard passes and I rarely see him in the tackle. It is hard to believe the opponent’s players are going to be intimidated seeing him bearing down on them (if he can even catch them; he is not particularly quick either). Only Soehn knows why he is starting out there; it is a complete mystery to the rest of us.
Once again, the Whitecaps lack of size, strength and athleticism was on display. Thorrington, Vagenas, Camilo , Chiumiento are all too small. If you are small in football you had better be either very quick or very good on the ball. Camilo has both qualities, Chiumiento has one of them but so far Thorrington and Vagenas have neither. Portland seems to have adopted the big tough guy model, and it showed as we lost the physical battles time and time again.
Even our big guys let us down as Captain DeMerit must take responsibility for a large part of both goals. In the first goal he retreated too far and left Portland’s striker Perlaza too much room to pass the ball to his partner Chara, who scored; in the second he lost his footing and his mark, leaving a gaping hole precisely where he should have been in the middle of our 18 yard box. Our striker Hassli was left the task of making the crucial tackle and failed. It was 2-0 Portland. With our captain making these fundamental errors it is no wonder we are shipping goals.
Camilo gave us hope late in the match with a brilliant pivot which created the space to curl the ball home to make it 2-1. All of those people who said they were content to have him go off to Kuwait had better give their heads a shake. This guy is superb, and we must hold on to him.
Last night’s match proved again what we have known all season: we need a midfielder who can play big out there, who can both pass and tackle. There is a huge hole in our team in that spot and we need to fill it with the right guy. I dream of a player who combines the qualties of Roy Keane and David Fereirra.
Too much to ask, you say? Perhaps, but it is time for the Whitecaps front office to fill that gap with a designated player or we will be in the football wilderness for a long time to come.