Despite sitting joint 1st in the Support Shield standings, the Vancouver Whitecaps have much to improve upon if they hope to challenge for the MLS Cup. An opening day defeat was quickly forgotten due to a winning streak that was the result of luck and grit. Mostly luck.
MVP so far = David Ousted
The Great Dane has been truly incredible. I have honestly lost track of the stunning saves this guy has made. Saying that he has cat-like reflexes doesn’t even come close to describing his speed. The Whitecaps sit joint 1st thanks to him.
Biggest disappointment = Steven Beitashour
A slow start to his season has unfortunately continued all the way to summer. Slow, sloppy and failing to close down dangerous crosses into the box, he has only kept his starting role thanks to the fact that his manager doesn’t have an adequate replacement. Kah has been equally at fault, it not slightly more so than Steven. The final swing vote for Steven was the fact that everyone expected Kah to be a weak link.
Pleasant surprise=Kianz Froese
The young Canadian has endless competition on this roster but he has turned many heads with his stalwart play as a substitute. He will be hard pressed to earn a starting MLS role this season but he is well on his way to making a name for himself in 2016 and beyond. (I wrote this seconds before he scored his first MLS goal).
After earning the Newcomer of the Year award in 2014, Pedro Morales, the Chilean maestro has taken a steep drop off a cliff this season. Shockingly, he is still head and shoulders better than most opposition. He still has the odd stunning cross-field pass, but he is an empty shell of his former self. His manager says it is because the league has become familiar with him. I beg to differ. After 34 matches in 2014, teams still didn’t have an answer for him. They don’t suddenly know how to stop him in the 35th and subsequent matches.
Laba continues to be a brick wall. The choice of who will partner him in the DM is hotly contested between Teibert and Koffie. Both players have had poor and great games. Teibert will spend a significant portion of the summer away with CanMNT so it is time for Koffie to step up his game. Rivero needs confidence but he mostly needs a strike partner. He is often all alone as two defenders watch him like a hawk because they aren’t concerned of a second forward making unmarked runs. With the poor play of Morales, now could be a good time to see what 4-4-2 diamond results in.
Even when they are winning the Whitecaps look like they are on the verge of imploding at any second. A defense that needs Pa-Modou Kah as a starter is not a reliable defense. As we saw tonight against the Red Bulls, Ousted repeatedly bailed out his defenders.
Team Grade: B
The Whitecaps have learned how to win on the road in 2015, and it could be difference maker for them come October. Poor home results have been their Achilles Heel. At the begging of the season I predicted they would finish the season either between 4th and 6th, if they found their chemistry and the forwards scored then they could reach 3rd in the Western Conference. Half way into the season I stand by prediction.