RSL “B” deal massive blow to Vancouver Whitecaps’ playoff hopesSeptember 29, 2013 at 6:45 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | 3 Comments
Tags: David Ousted, Kenny Miller, Martin Rennie, Nigel Reo-Coker, Real Salt Lake, Vancouver Whitecaps
The Vancouver Whitecaps had a distinct advantage going into yesterday’s match with Real Salt Lake. This coming Tuesday RSL plays in the final of the US Open Cup, the American version of England’s FA Cup, against DC United. Earlier in the day, DC United had fielded a “B” team against Toronto FC, and lost the match 1-4; it was expected that RSL would do the same, and that they would be easy pickings for the Whitecaps. In particular, star keeper Nick Rimando, and star midfielders Javier Morales and Kyle Beckerman were nowhere to be seen. With the exception of the fact that Kenny Miller would play no part because of injury, the Whitecaps had arguably their strongest team on the pitch. Tom Heinemann took his place up front with Russell Teibert and Camilo Sanvezzo, While Koffie, Reo Coker and Davidson played central midfield. Harvey, DeMerit, Mitchell and PY Lee defended with Ousted in goal.
Martin Rennie’s plan was to put heavy pressure on RSL in a bid to get an early goal to start the expected rout. Within five minutes of the match, it was clear this was not going to work. The Whitecaps were doing a lot of running around while RSL loved the ball and kept it. Tommy Heinemann and Russell Teibert ran about like wild Terriers to no real effect; RSL coolly stroked the ball from player to player, keeping possession of the ball. The Whitecaps were working as individuals rather than pressurizing as a team. It was a bit like one of those martial arts films where the hero fends off attack after attack while not really breaking into a sweat.
The Whitecaps’ enthusiasm for an early goal left them vulnerable at the back, and they were down a goal early. After eight minutes RSL found huge unoccupied territory in the Whitecaps’ end as Jordan Harvey found himself alone against three RSL attackers on his side of the pitch. Harvey stood his ground rather than going after the ball, and the consequence was that RSL’s Lovel Palmer had all of the time and space he wanted to curl a beautiful cross into the Whitecaps’ box. Whitecaps keeper David Ousted was caught in two minds about coming for the cross; he eventually decided against coming out, and Devon Sandoval nodded the ball home unopposed after making a blind side run past an out of position and ball-watching Jay DeMerit. Ousted tried Peter Schmeichel’s patented “star-jump” to no avail; what he really should have done is come out and punch the ball away (A La Brad Knighton). The Whitecaps were down 0-1 at home and the stage was set for a long and frustrating afternoon.
Camilo skipped away from several RSL defenders on a lightning counter attack five minutes after RSL’s goal. Charging down on goal he spotted Nigel Reo-Coker to his right and hit him with a curling pass which found Reo-Coker alone just outside of RSL’s penalty area. Reo-Coker was bit off balance and his first touch let him down; he hit the ball too far ahead and RSL keeper Jeff Attinella took the ball from his feet. It has to be said that I have not seen Reo-Coker look so frustrated as he did in this match, which was his poorest home match for the Whitecaps. He only seldom had any of his surging runs up the pitch with the ball. He played as if he had a bad cold and was not himself, which was very bad timing indeed at this juncture of the season. With Miller out, a lot of our leadership needed to come from Reo-Coker, but he just had a bad match.
Russell Teibert shot a fantastic volley from close range in the first half but unfortunately he struck it straight at Attinella who palmed the shot over the crossbar. Teibert again was held back in this match by the fact he has no right foot. In spite of this fact, Rennie insists on playing him on the right side of midfield. On many occasions he had the chance to go deep and cross with his right foot but he tracked back to use his left instead, making his crosses easier to defend.
In the second half Rennie made dramatic changes to the line up, taking Koffie and Heinemann off after 54 minutes for strikers Mattocks and Manneh. Why Rennie took Koffie off and left Davidson on the pitch is a mystery to me; Koffie can be an asset going forward and in defense, while Davidson is strictly a defensive midfielder. Both Mattocks and Manneh had chances, but Manneh struck his shot wide and Mattocks blindly shot his point-blank effort at a defender. Later in the match Davidson did come off for Daigo Kobayashi in the 71st minute. Kobayashi helped matters somewhat by distributing the ball around the pitch with some nice touches.
Sadly for the Vancouver Whitecaps and its fans, none of the changes Rennie made changed the fact that the Whitecaps simply did not have the skill to breach a well organized RSL “B” team. When the Whitecaps needed to shine in order to win the match and boost our playoff hopes, they were dull and fizzled out. It was sad and frustrating to watch. While the Whitecaps still have four games to turn things around, they are not looking like the kind of team that is up for the challenge.
This match was won on smart strategy and squad depth. In spite of having his “B” team on the pitch, RSL coach Jason Kreis had all of his troops working in the same direction with a distinct game plan. RSL have a distinct style of play which all of their squad appear to understand. This means he has capable players to plug into his system when necessary. Rather than just defend and kick the ball out of their own end, RSL kept possession of the ball while the Whitecaps breathlessly tried to get it back.
As for Martin Rennie, his players did not look like they knew what to do, and any strategy the team had fell apart within ten minutes of kickoff. If this was a cartoon match, the Whitecaps players would all have question marks over their heads. Rennie paid the price for naively putting too many men forward at the beginning of the match and then could never find his way back into it after RSL’s early goal. The statistics made for grim reading. RSL “B” had five shots on goal, while the Whitecaps were credited with one shot on goal, (they actually had two). The statistics read as though RSL “B” were playing at home instead of the Whitecaps.
RSL as an organization have a lot to teach the Vancouver Whitecaps management. It is clear that RSL is well coached, well managed and well organized. They clearly have built a great deal of depth into their squad. They have been consistently good in recent years; always competitive and challenging for trophies. They were able to beat our starters with their “B” team, which is an embarrassment for the Whitecaps. If the Whitecaps are ever going to succeed in Major League Soccer they had better get down to figuring out how RSL has conducted themselves in recent years.
Today’s news gave the Whitecaps faint hope as LA was beaten 1-0 by Portland, meaning the Whitecaps still sit within striking distance (four points) of LA and Colorado with four games left.