It’s been a rough start to 2016 for the Vancouver Whitecaps (2W-4L-1D), who face a difficult opponent when they host FC Dallas (5W-1L-2D) tonight. In their previous meeting last October in the Lone Star State the ‘Caps lost by a score of 2-0.
The win that night put FC Dallas in a tie for top spot in MLS with the New York Red Bulls while the Whitecaps limped towards an eventual playoff meeting with the Portland Timbers. Since that night the fortunes of both teams have remained more or less the same: Dallas is still fighting it out at the top of the MLS standings, while the misfiring Whitecaps are still struggling to score goals and win matches.
Venue: BC Place
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Where have all the goals gone?
The Whitecaps’ problems scoring goals this season have been well documented. The meagre six goals that the ‘Caps have managed to scrape together in the first seven matches of the year have all come from the penalty spot or set pieces. There have been plenty of scoring chances, but so far this season the Whitecaps have not scored a goal from open play in 630 minutes of soccer.
Aside from Pedro Morales’ four goals from the penalty spot, none of the other players in the attacking midfield or forwards corps have been able to put the ball in the back of the net. In fact, the last Whitecap to score from open play was the now retired Robert Earnshaw who scored in the 3-0 victory against the Houston Dynamo last October 25th.
That was a long time ago.
As much as the Whitecaps have been struggling to score goals this season, head coach Carl Robinson has also been hampered by untimely injuries, suspensions and international call-ups. These issues plagued the Caps’ bench boss at D.C. United two weeks ago. That night Robinson was missing almost half his starters from the previous week and the Whitecaps suffered a humiliating 4-0 defeat to United.
Regardless of who has seen action on the pitch this season, the Whitecaps can be at times an inconsistent team. Last week at Real Salt Lake the Whitecaps were the better of the two teams in the first half. They were, however, unable to convert their scoring chances into goals. The ‘Caps emerged from the locker room and were a totally different team in the second half.
Laba:"If we win on Saturday, it will change everything for us."
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 22, 2016
Star players have got to do star player things
Building on the theme of consistency as a team leads to consistency of each individual player. Striker Octavio Rivero has received more than his fair share of criticism from the fans, but not all of the team’s star players have played up to their potential thus far.
Goalkeeper David Ousted had his worst game as a Whitecap in the 3-2 loss to Montreal on opening day. Since then the big Dane has stepped his game up, but that cannot be said of all his teammates.
Kendall Waston, Matías Laba and Kekuta Manneh have looked shaky at times, as has winger Cristian Techera. Techera quickly won the support and hearts of the fans upon arriving in Vancouver in 2015. In an abbreviated season the man they call “The Bug” scored 7 goals and tallied 5 assists. We have yet to see Techera play up the same standards that made him an impact player for the ‘Caps last year.
It’s gut check time for the ‘Caps, and the star players need to step up. When the match kicks off Vancouver will have their hands full with Dallas’ skill players like Fabian Castillo, Michael Barrios and possibly the Toro’s big-time playmaker, Mauro Diaz.
Just realised that 4 of the next 5 Caps games are at home. Could well define the season
— Russell Berrisford (@squadplayer) April 18, 2016
Predicted Starting XI (4-4-2): Ousted; Aird, Waston, Parker, Harvey; Techera, Mezquida, Laba, Bolaños; Rivero, Pérez
I believe that this is the week that the Whitecaps will turn the tide and get back to winning ways and will defeat FC Dallas by a score of 2-1.
With three matches in a week, this could be the week that defines the Whitecaps’ season. If they can put together some results against FC Dallas, Sporting KC and New York City FC, then they’ll be back on track. If they continue to struggle, then I fear we really will have something to worry about.