Whitecaps hold off a quality DC UnitedMarch 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.
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.