Whitecaps 2 Impact 0: the Rennie era begins wellMarch 11, 2012 at 12:07 am | Posted in Vancouver Whitecaps, Whitecaps Season 2012 | 2 Comments
The Vancouver Whitecaps and the Montreal Impact renewed hostilities today after a year of playing in a different league. The Major League Soccer newcomers gave a good account of themselves in their inaugural MLS match, but in many ways the Impact looked like a typically disorganized expansion team.
The Whitecaps began with Cannon in goal and the expected back line of Rochat, Bonjour, DeMerit and Lee. Rennie started with a five man midfield, with Chiumiento and Camillo playing on the outside, Davidson and Koffie in the middle with Le Toux playing behind Hassli up front.
It looked like it would be a bit of a blowout when the Whitecaps scored early through Seba Le Toux. It took only three minutes for the French Connection to connect, as Eric Hassli flicked on Alain Rochat’s pass into the path of new boy Le Toux, who slotted home in the calm and cool manner of a pure striker. True, he had all of the time in the world, but this was down to his perfectly timed run and Hassli’s perfectly executed header. The blow out which looked likely never actually came about, but it was a positive start to the 2012 season for the Whitecaps.
Early play saw the Whitecaps back line playing the ball very well indeed with new boys Bonjour and Lee looking calm and comfortable in possession. It has to be said that Montreal were pleased to sit back and let the Whitecaps back line have the ball without any serious chasing, but our defenders looked well composed when under pressure. It was nice to watch.
The Whitecaps bogged down a bit after they scored a goal and had trouble going forward for the rest of the first half. Camilo looked lonely out on the right wing and seldom was a factor in the first half. He tended to drift into the middle rather than staying wide. Chiumiento got much more of the ball out on the left wing, looking lively and full of tricks.
The Whitecaps doubled their advantage ten minutes after half time with a superbly executed goal. Seba Letoux, Hassli, Chiumiento and Camilo conspired with some short passes and trickery to confound Montreal’s defence. Camilo must have been watching Lionel Messi highlights from mid-week as he ran past two defenders when he received the ball and then dribbled past them again on the way to scoring. It must have felt great for the little Brazilian, who was looking like he was starving for the ball in the first half.
The good news is that both Hassli and Chiumiento have lost weight and both look like they are going to try harder this year, after having spent the second half of last season looking very mediocre. It was great to see them both playing so well, though they both looked a little rusty at times. Hassli was even spotted tracking back and defending deep in the Whitecaps own end in the first half.
Alain Rochat had another great match at left back, and was robbed when Impact keeper Donovan Rickets got the tips of his fingers on to his cross shot, steering the ball onto the post late in the match. On the other side of the pitch right back YP Lee looked just as good, saving our bacon when he was perfectly situated to head a ball off of the line when keeper Cannon got lost in the wilderness off of a Montreal corner kick.
In spite of their expansion team nerves and lack of cohesion, Montreal did not look half bad in this match. Had it not been for YP Lee’s header off of the line, and had Nyassi not missed a sitter in front of the net, it could have been a draw. It has to be said that Nyassi looked like the fittest and fastest man on the pitch. Montreal have done well to get him on board. It has to be said that Justin Mapp also looked very good indeed.
We got the first look at a couple of new guys when substitutes Watson and Mattocks joined in the fun. Mattocks came on too late to make any impact and rarely touched the ball, but it has to be said that Englishman Matt Watson looked remarkably good for his ten or so minutes.
Jordan Harvey subbed on for Chiumiento on sixty minutes and was solid at left midfield, where he finished off last season. He was solid if unspectacular.
What is it that marks Martin Rennie’s version of the Vancouver Whitecaps? Rennie has made it clear that every man on the pitch has got to work hard in defending when the Caps don’t have the ball. Front men Hassli and Le Toux were witnessed defending deep in the Whitecaps own territory, and the very fit Le Toux was just as keen to run after the ball when it was in Montreal’s Possession as when the Whitecaps had it. Midfield man Jun Marques Davidson also made a great contribution defending deep in his own end to stop a Montreal chance late in the second half. It was a refreshing change to see the Whitecaps looking so motivated and happy to work hard. Once Teitur Thordarson was fired last year and Tommy Soehn took over, the team just did not work as hard. Rennie has the team working hard and cohesively.
The only complaint I have is the lack of creativity in our defensive midfield pairing of Koffie and Davidson. While both played admirably in getting back possession of the ball, and in helping keep possession, neither made any noticeable contribution to the attacking side of our game. Koffie had one shot that nearly went out for a throw-in!
We have an offensive gap in our central midfield that needs to be filled. I don’t see this being remedied until the arrival of the Scot Barry Robson in July, at which point either Koffie or Davidson had better be ready to ride the pines.
All complaints aside, it was great to be back at the park supporting our much improved football team. In footballing terms we can expect to enjoy this season much more than last.