Whitecaps remind themselves how to defend on the road with point at Salt Lake


Photo tedpercival/flickr

So we’ve learned that the Whitecaps can defend in a pinch.

The big worry ahead of next week’s playoff wild-card game in Los Angeles is a matter of confidence in the Whitecaps’ road performance. Can they fight on the road? Can they pull off a result? On a national stage, will the game be more like the testy 1-1 draw in Vancouver, or the shameful 3-0 drubbing from last July?

Going by Saturday’s 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake, we know the Whitecaps, at least, can hold on for a draw away, and even if they don’t score, a 0-0 draw in Los Angeles through 120 minutes will send them to penalties. But what we still don’t know is how they intend to score a goal if they ever fall behind.

The biggest surprise in the starting line-up Dane Richards and Darren Mattocks were swapped in on attack for Barry Robson and Kenny Miller. Whether it was a rest for the Scots or a concession to those worried that the new Designated Players aren’t clicking, it makes it clear that the real problem in the Whitecaps attack is distribution.

The ‘Caps have to find a way to get people the ball. Richards and Mattocks had an okay, but unspectacular day (though Mattocks came so close with his disallowed goal); Robson and Miller, who replaced the Jamaican duo, fared no better. So that’s the real question; can they figure it out against LA? If they concede, can they come back from that?

The good news is that the defensive game is working. The Whitecaps parked the bus, and of RSL’s 17 shots, only three hit the goal, and all were saved. Y.P. Lee continues to be good, but tired, and Jordan Harvey was not the strongest, but at the very least it worked.

And that at least solves a problem for the Whitecaps. If they play like this in California, they can keep it close, and that means there’s reason to hope, and that hope will only be stronger if they score a goal.

Stats after the jump.

Continue reading

What’s at stake in final Whitecaps game of the year? A reason to believe


Photo rosietulips/flickr

It could be one to clear the sour taste out of the mouths of Whitecaps fans.

Last weekend was weird, wasn’t it? A bloodless, awful loss in a game everyone agreed the Whitecaps needed to win, followed by good news: despite the fact that Vancouver’s listlessness meant the Cascadia Cup slipped out of Seattle’s hands, they did the Whitecaps the favour of knocking rivals Dallas out of the playoffs.

Playoffs. The Whitecaps had become the first Canadian team to make the playoffs, which is really the best fans can ask of a team that placed last the season before. But there wasn’t elation, there was frustration at how little the team seemed to want to earn it down the stretch.

It created a feedback loop of moods: You wanted to feel incredible pessimism. 1-6-2 in the last nine games. Seemingly no ability to get away results. Lost 3-0 to playoff opponents LA Galaxy last time they played there away. But still, playoffs! Games were won! Fun was had, and there will be games after the end of the season for the Whitecaps! Maybe they can even sneak a result and ensure a home playoff game! It was impossible to be purely pessimistic or optimistic.

The big complaint was the decline from the midpoint of the season, when players were moved and the team started a dip in form. The main worry of mine in that time was this: Martin Rennie seems, at times, to be calmly seated on a boat heading towards a waterfall.

As the team saw a guaranteed home game slip away, as they lost to Dallas (twice!) in situations that would have put space between the two of them, Rennie’s mantra seemed to continue: Dallas needed this game more than us. At least we’re in a playoff position. Everything is okay. Being underdogs (because we played so badly) could be a benefit in the playoffs. You had the picture of Rennie with his arms crossed, perched on a boat heading backwards but content that he hadn’t gone over the cliff already. Davidson stays benched. Miller stays on the pitch. Everything is fine.

Surely nobody is taking this lightly behind the scenes. But the team needs to at least be seen to paddle.

That’s where tonight’s game away to Real Salt Lake (6:00, Sportsnet One) comes in. The reason why last weekend was seen as a must-win was because nobody wanted to rely on getting a win from RSL on the road. There’s basically no trust right now that the Whitecaps can perform on the road when it counts, and the Whitecaps’ next “biggest game in franchise history” in LA depends on that.

It will be a tough challenge, but all they need to do is try. Show the desire. Whitecaps fans want to believe.

Give them a reason to.