Vancouver Whitecaps defensive line: Who should stay and who should go?November 19, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | 3 Comments
The Vancouver Whitecaps have plenty of quality in their defensive ranks. In fact, our defensive line is where much of our talent lies. Three of the four starters (Lee, DeMerit, and O’Brien) have had extensive playing time with the national teams of their home countries. Our fourth starter, left back Alain Rochat, is also a class player with real football skills. Too bad Coach Martin Rennie doesn’t let him play in his best position!
YP Lee: This year’s Most Valuable Player is one of the finest players ever to suit up for the blue and white (and regrettably, Brown) in the history of the Vancouver Whitecaps. He ranks up there with former Whitecaps Rudi Krol and Alan Ball as a player who has represented his country many times internationally, including World Cup play. Lee’s skill on the ball and his unflappable coolness under pressure make him a joy to watch. He is capable of getting forward and putting in deadly crosses with both feet. A goal off of a free kick against Columbus and four assists on the season demonstrate the quality of the player. Call him the Whitecaps’ “silent leader”, who leads by example. Unfortunately Lee is contemplating retirement. Rennie, Lenarduzzi et al had better make talking him out of it job number one for the team during the off season. We really have no credible right back in the squad to step up and replace him. To lose a player of Lee’s quality would be a huge blow for our team.
Jay DeMerit: Our indomitable Captain is the true leader of our team. He has all of the strength and determination of a heavyweight boxer, and commands the middle of the park with his uncompromising tackles. While Jay would be the first to admit he does not have the best footballing skills, he is no slouch either, and works well within his limited capabilities as a passer of the ball. Jay is getting older, and the big fear is the recurring groin problem, which appeared to cause him to leave the playoff game against LA. Arguably, this injury lost us the match because a cold Martin Bonjour came in and got burned by some gamesmanship at the hands of the cheating Landon Donovan. Jay played consistently well after an inconsistent 2011 season, in which he was nursing a groin injury the whole time. Now it is all down to Randy Celebrini, team physio, to put Jay’s groin right. Can he work his magic with Jay? Lets hope so because we really need Jay to be fit to lead our team into 2013.
Martin Bonjour: Poor Martin Bonjour played fabulously well in the first half of the season and then found himself increasingly displaced in the second half of the season when Andy O’Brien was signed from Leeds in August. When it came time to play in the biggest match of the season in LA, O’Brien’s experience was preferred over Bonjour’s youth. I hope we hold on to Bonjour because he showed himself to be a quick and fearless central defender who attacked the ball (and his opponents) fiercely. He scored a beautiful goal against New York in june, and generally demonstrated a nice touch on the ball which is typical of Argentinian footballers. I’m sure he was not pleased to be sitting on the bench for the last month of the season and then still there when the playoff game against LA began. He got caught out of position when subbed in that game when Landon Donovan purposefully ran into him, thereby drawing the penalty that lost us the game. It would not be fair to call Bonjour the goat in that incident, but it must have hit him hard. The club should hold on to this guy because our two starters, O’Brien and DeMerit, are getting older and we need cover for injuries. He is close enough in capability to compete with both guys and is at peak playing age at 27. Will he want to risk sticking around with no serious reserve football to play in while his skills wither and die? His agent will be trying to move him where he can get regular playing time. Even though we should really keep him, I fear we might lose him.
Andy O’Brien: Martin Bonjour’s loss has been Andy O’Brien’s gain, and there is no denying the quality of the ex-Leeds man. An Irish international and a veteran of many English Premiership games with the likes of Bolton and Newcastle, there is nothing that MLS can serve up that O’Brien can’t handle. He is big and strong, and cool and collected on the ball. He distributes the ball well and with his heading ability and more games, we can expect to see a goal or two from this big man. Lets hold on to this guy!
Alain Rochat: I call this guy the Mercedes Benz of our squad. He does not move very fast, but his footballing skills are so fine and smooth that he is a pleasure to watch. Alain is also highly effective when played at left back, although Coach Martin Rennie has played him at midfield and at centre back. He does not excel at either position. Rennie should stop fooling about and just let Rochat play where he plays best. With Rochat running down the wing from the left and Lee on the right, we had a one-two punch from our fullbacks which is the best in the league.
Jordan Harvey: Jordan Harvey cannot be faulted for his effort, which is tremendous, but his basic football skills are not the best. Over two seasons he has generated offence which is not to be sniffed at, however, with six assists and one goal. He should be given credit for what he has done for the team but the fact is that Rochat should be preferred to Harvey at left back, and if we get some decent midfielders we should be able to achieve this. I feel Harvey is valuable to provide cover at left back and at left sided midfield, where he played some matches quite well in 2011, but if we had a quality football squad, Harvey would not be starting on the team.
Carlyle Mitchell: Carlyle Mitchell came into the team in late 2011 and played a number of games at the end of that season in partnership with Jay DeMerit. He only got two games this year, one of which was the disastrous 4-1 loss to New England. In that game the lion’s share of goals were his fault. Mitchell’s problems in that match reflected the poor reserve league in MLS. Players who are on the bench simply do not get enough competitive match experience to keep them sharp once a real game comes along. When Mitchell was playing games in 2011 he looked good, but when he came in to cover for injuries and suspensions against New England in 2012, he looked like a guy who had not played real football in a long time. Mitchell must be looking for another club to get some game time, because he is currently 5th choice for the two starting centre back positions.
Greg Klazura: Klazura got no game time at all in MLS action, but appeared in the Canadian Championship. His performances showed why poor YP Lee played in every match for the MLS season. If YP Lee is to stay with the club he will need a more competent deputy than Klazura, because Lee will need to be rested in some matches if he does decide to stay on and not retire.
Next: Should we keep our keepers?