Whitecaps hold off a quality DC United

March 25, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | 16 Comments

It seems odd to be praising the Whitecaps for their defensive efforts rather than their offensive ones when we were the home team, but there it is.

DC United proved to be the more potent team offensively in the 0-0 draw at BC Place, creating a number of chances more than the Whitecaps did, including three shots on the Whitecaps goal.  The Whitecaps did not manage one shot on goal the entire match.  While good efforts from Bonjour, Hassli and Watson missed the target, the efforts of United keeper Willis were limited to catching weak crosses and taking goal kicks.

One thing we learned from the 2011 season was that the Whitecaps had to sort out their defensive problems.  They seem to have done so, and teams playing the Whitecaps are finding a superb Joe Cannon to meet them on those rare occasions when they are able to breach the Whitecaps back line.

Keeper Cannon made a his second world-class save in consecutive matches when he dived backwards to scoop a close range header out of the goal in the second half.   He also stopped DC United’s Canadian Captain Dwayne De Rosario’s effort from the right of his goal.  Cannon looks very sharp indeed this year, and it just shows how players will play up to the level of their teammates.  Three clean sheets in three matches is a fine defensive record for the Whitecaps, and we may just set a record in that regard if we are able to keep our back line healthy.  Speaking of which, the Whitecaps took a blow when left back Alain Rochat was carried off in the latter stages of the match with an apparent knee injury.  Deputy Jordan Harvey did a fine job replacing him, however.

Y.P. Lee lets fly...

The Whitecaps play in the final attacking third was poor, and the team had real problems creating chances in front of United’s goal.  Our attacking force of Hassli, Le Toux, Camilo and Chiumiento misfired and has done for two matches in a row.  This combination only created one chance in the 18 yard box all match, that being Hassli’s header wide in the first half.

Wide players Camillo and Chiumiento are getting very few quality crosses into the box.  Both players prefer to cut towards the middle rather than getting crosses into the box from deep positions on the flanks.  Crosses from these positions are where goals come from, because they put pressure on the opponent’s defenders and goalkeepers.  Strikers are able to attack these kinds of crosses running at goal at full speed.  The Whitecaps seem to want to score goals by dribbling the ball straight down the middle, and Chiumiento and Camilo both want to be strikers, not wingers.  The Whitecaps were not able to get players open on the flanks, and consequently all DC had to do was pack the middle of the park with defenders to take the momentum out of the Whitecaps attack.

I think it would be unfair to say that Hassli had a bad match, but he is not being used properly.  As the lone man up front, he is constantly getting the ball in the middle of the park and then laying it off.  Hassli needs to get the ball in the final third of the park, not in the middle. Rennie is trying to use Hassli’s size to win high balls up front, but Hassli’s skills are in his feet, not his head.  While he looked good in the first match of the season against Montreal, in the past two matches he has looked very unhappy and frustrated in his role. Le Toux ran a lot as usual, but it cannot be said that he is being used to his potential either.  He did not even get one half-chance all match, which is terrible for a striker.  Again, it is not his fault for playing poorly, he is just not comfortable in the role he is playing.

I have no doubt that Camilo would rather be playing in the middle as a striker.  We have really missed his ability to run at players down the middle and to at least draw fouls for free kicks and penalties.

How Coach Martin Rennie will solve this problem has me scratching my head.  He could stick with it and hope that everybody gets comfortable with their role, or he could make changes.  None of our attacking players seems to be happy or well utilized in their role, and the last two matches have demonstrated we are not using any of these players to their full potential.  Perhaps it is time to play a four-four-two with both Camilo and Hassli up front and Le Toux and Chiumiento playing on the flanks.   At least in this case Camilo can draw penalty kicks that Hassli can score on! We need to get big Hassli a goal so he can get his confidence back.

In spite of the fact it was a 0-0 draw, I really enjoyed the match.  It was a  hard fought affair, with a few nasty fouls and shoving matches to keep it all intense.  Hassli was lucky to stay on the pitch after another of his nasty gouging tackles and a subsequent shoving match, but thankfully he stayed in the match.

DC United are a quality team that can really play the ball along the ground when they want to.  I predict they will buck their bad early season form and end up in the playoffs this year.  It was great to see the Whitecaps able to hang with such quality opposition.

I think the goals will come for the Whitecaps with time, but Martin Rennie will have to make a few adjustments in order to get his team scoring.  He needs to get better out of his attacking players, who are not functioning at full capacity.



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  1. I say we bench camilo and le toux and bring harris and tan into the lineup at least for one game. this way we could light a fire under them and get them in from. i would say put barbara in to but hes hurt. the whole point of having all these strikers was to bench players who are playing poorly.

    • Then bench Hassli. When was the last time he scored?..blaming poor service is getting pretty thin…he has misplayed too many balls at his feet dating back to the last 6-ish games last year, if I was camilo i wouldnt trust passing to him anymore..as DP he needs to step up and drop the charles gbeke theatrics

      • thats true but a lot of our playerswho we could put in are unavailable. barbara, tiebert, nanchoff, and mattocks are all unavailable. if enough of our players were available I would say bench our whole attacking four. As it is though long tan and harris(probably) are available and I think Hassli and Chuimiento were slightly better then le toux and camilo.

  2. We’re only three games in — a little early to start talking benching anyone if you ask me. Le Toux gets a complete pass, as his sum total of meaningful matches with new teammates is something in the order of 5 or 6 matches (including pre-season play with a rotating cast).

    Absolutely, Hassli’s play tailed off toward the end of last season, and he did ride the pine at least once in that final stretch as a result. It’s been 13 games since his last tally, and there’s no question he’s overdue. Part of the “problem” is Rennie’s 4-2-3-1 system, which isn’t a problem in and of itself. BUT…there is an issue with the personnel MR is trying to work within that system.

    Too often Hassli is being asked to hold the ball up — with cavalry support (particularly Chiumiento and Camilo) arriving much too late on the scene for him to do much other than get closed down looking for help. Le 2 has the speed/stamina to offer an avenue, but the other two, while technically skilled, don’t have the wheels to show for Hassli.

    Against Montreal, all four attackers had a very good outing. Match 2, vs Chivas was god awful for everyone except Cannon/Knighton and the back line. As one poster put it, the Caps couldn’t even pass gas in that match.

    A quick look at the stat sheet for the DC match makes it look worse than it was. Yes, ZERO shots on goal (which is worrying), but if Camilo doesn’t do an excellent Mattocks imitation, trying to come out on top of a 1 v 3 situation, and instead feeds a wide open Hassli running at pace, that ball’s in 98 times out of 100. Hassli also just missed on a pretty good header opportunity.

    Let’s see if Rennie goes to some bench strength a little earlier in the match if it’s close vs the Union, but I’d be very surprised to see him bench anyone.

    • I’m confused. You say it’s too early to bench someone but prior you say that the (cavalry support) are pretty much not cut out for the formation. Would it not be a good idea to try another attacking player (Harris, Tan) for a few matches and see if the system works with them? These 11 players have been training and playing together with this system since the end of Jan. You would think things would be getting a little better each week. From what has been going on it is going the other way. Why not try Tan in there with Le Toux. I beleive they had the best partenership up top of anyone during preseason.I would say to put Harris in there but I do not know how match fit he is at this time.

      • Sorry for the confusion. You’re right in that I believe MR is trying to force square pegs into round holes — at least at the moment.

        He has a number of options to tweak his offense. I may be proven wrong, which happens with alarming regularity :-), but I don’t think wholesale benching of the team’s top players (and let’s be honest, Tan is definitely not of the same calibre as Hassli, Le Toux, Chiumiento, or Camilo) is among MR’s top options.

        Rennie could, for example, modify the playing scheme within the 4-2-3-1, for example have the back line play a higher line, which in turn pushes everything else further up the field — getting support a little further up the field. Risky at the back end, mind you, but it is an option. He could elect to hybridize with the Sohen system — getting a (once recovered) Rochat or YP Lee to play more as WBs on occasion and to jump up in support.

        Due to Hassli missing the trip this weekend, look for some knock-on effect to happen. Le Toux will probably fill in for Hassli, with DC taking over in the withdrawn FWD position, and Thorrington filling in on the right. I could even see Harris splitting time with DC.

        Rennie might be a little quicker to sub in some of this 2nd line talent, depending on how things are going at halftime, but I’m fairly confident you’re not going to see Tan, Mattocks, and Harris all on the field to start anytime soon.

  3. I think it may be safe to say Hassli’s “ankle” injury is french for “eric you have pretty much produced rien since fall 2011…i think your ankle…yeah thats it your 900k per year ankle…needs a few games to think about the 900k ……ankle…..yeah thats what we will tell people”.

    • RR – I didn’t say anything about a wholesale change up top. I do think someone needs to go. From watching the last few games Eric has had some bad form. Le Toux is not on his game either. Camilo out wide is Ok if you like for him to pull in the middle whenever. Another thing about Camilo is he is too selfish, needs to learn to play on a team. Davide is playing some good ball right now but the system will wear him down quicker than last year. With the situation as it is now I would put the only player that is 100% playing up top with Le Toux. As I said before Le Toux and Tan had the best performence together during preseason. Tan also gave Eric a run for his money at the end of last year.

      rhm – You could be correct. I didn’t see him limp off the field the other night and he didn’t practice all week. So when did he hurt his ankle?

      • Bill – My comments re wholesale benching were actually in response to i.p.’s “bench our whole attacking four” — and I should have simply added a comment instead of selecting “reply” to your post. My mistake there.

        Hassli’s bad form: agreed. BTW, he DID get injured, and went down in the DC match when a defender came down on his ankle/foot after a contested header. He was wincing at that time, and I have no doubt that he is in fact injured. There’s no way that Rennie doesn’t take him to Philly, even as a sub, if he’s fit to play.

        Le Toux: Not on his game, but it does take some time to develop chemistry.

        Camilo: agreed

        Chiumiento: absolutely agreed.

        Tan: we’ll have to agree to disagree. I have nothing against him, I just don’t think he has the same degree of experience or the skill set to justify a starting role. Used as a 2nd half sub, yes. A starter? No. Of course this begs the question as to how Tan is to get experience while sitting on the bench.

        E.H. may just be in an extended slump, but I think it’s far more likely that Rennie’s system needs some tweaking to get the most out of him and the other three forwards.

        Back to Chiumiento for a moment — your comment about the sytem wearing him down is right on the money. There’s been the suggestion that it would make sense to swap DC and Le Toux — DC, as probably our best playmaker is better suited in the middle, and Le Toux has the endurance and speed to be more effective on the wing.

        We’ll see what happens in Philly, and who draws in. I’ve seen Hassli play before he came to the MLS, and he can be a real weapon. Things need to improve for sure, but I’m not convinced it’s all down to him alone.

  4. Davide – Yes I have read this about him moving to HIS prefered position. I think with the system now with everything down the middle he will have less success there than last year. He will have less room to work in. I believe last year when he finally got moved to the middle after crying to the press he was less successfull. Im pretty sure most all of his assists were when he was out on the right wing. And again if he is requested to play the same as Le Toux he will be running a lot more than he is now.
    Tan – There you go we have to agree to disagree. I think now with Eric out it is the perfict time for Tan to start up top with Le Toux. Two reasons, 1-as you said he needs more experence and 5 minutes as a sub will not suffice. 2-as I said before he and Le Toux played very well together in preseason like they had natural chemistry. One more thing, I would think what Tan did in PDL, reserves and at the end of last season in MLS he would warrant a longer look and some starts. I’m not saying he should start every game but given the situation I think it would be a good time to give him a chance. With Eric out, the other attacking players either not available or injured and the ones that are available I would think they are not game fit yet (Harris has not played a meaningfull game in a year).
    I have also read you think that Thorington might start on the right moving Davide to the middle. I think that would be 2 mistakes. He is not a winger.

    • We’ll see how they line up in Philadelphia.

      To me, it makes most sense to have your best playmaker (DC) in the middle of the park, where he’ll have more options instead of being isolated on a wing, where he’ll be more limited. You’ll notice this theory put into practice very often — a team’s best playmaker more often than not occupies the CM spot (or variation of it in the WCFC’s case).

      I highly doubt (but who knows?) that Rennie will ask Chiumiento to run around like Le Toux can and does — not unless Rennie plans to sub him out at halftime.

      Just glanced at this morning’s Province, and their predicted starting XI is the same — Thorington wide right, with DC moving into the withdrawn CF spot behind Le Toux.

      Whatever happens, tomorrow is just one match, and MR is unlikely to make any long-term changes as a result.

  5. Changing Tan – gents…

    The one thing we’ve been overlooking in the discussion above is the fact that Harvey is in for the injured Rochat (if anyone noticed it). Defending against and Torres will difficult tests for him, the result of which might negate any potential improvement on the offensive side.

    • oops… meant “…defending against Adu and Torres…”

      • Not necessarly. If the Whitecaps offence can score more goals than Philly it’s still a win whether it’s 1-0 or 20-19. But I see where you are coming from. I’m not a big Harvey fan either.

    • Lets face it last year Harvey was awful at left back. That was with an injured DeMerit or Rochat playing centre (out of position) so maybe it will be ok but if Im philly id be liading up that side.

  6. Hey! We all agreed on something! 🙂

    Enjoy the match!

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