MLS Counterattack: Whitecaps need to ‘change it up’

Vancouver Whitecaps' Cristian Techera, right. (Darryl Dyck/CP)

Welcome to Counterattack, Sportsnet’s Monday column that recaps the weekend and previews the week ahead in Major League Soccer for the Montreal Impact, Toronto FC and Vancouver Whitecaps.

Following a bye, all three Canadian clubs return to action this week, with both the Impact and Whitecaps looking to earn their first wins of the season, and TFC attempting to extend their unbeaten run with a positive result in their home opener.

What happened this past weekend?

• Nothing. All three teams were off due to the international break.

Records

Montreal Impact: 0-1-2, 2 points (9th in Eastern Conference)
Toronto FC: 1-0-2, 5 points (5th in Eastern Conference)
Vancouver Whitecaps: 0-2-1, 1 point (10th in Western Conference)

Upcoming schedule

Kansas City vs. Toronto (Friday, 7:30 pm ET)
Montreal vs. Chicago (Saturday, 3:00 pm ET)
LA vs. Vancouver (Saturday, 10:00 pm ET)

Stories to follow this week

Irwin or Bono in net for Toronto?
It was a smart move by TFC coach Greg Vanney to give Clint Irwin the day off and start backup Alex Bono in the Reds’ last game before the break, a 2-0 win away to Vancouver. Vanney previously stressed the importance of managing his starters’ minutes over the course of the year, so it made sense to work Bono into the starting 11 in order to give him some reps this early in the campaign—especially with a busy April and May schedule coming up. But now what? Does he stick with Bono, who had a solid outing against the Whitecaps, for Friday’s home opener on against Sporting Kansas City? Or does he go back to Irwin? Both are quality goalkeepers. Both are capable starters. Goalkeeping controversy? No. It’s just nice to have options.

Can someone else provide goals for Montreal?
The combo of forward Matteo Mancosu, speedster Dominic Oduro and playmaker Ignacio Piatti form one of the most effective trios in MLS. Thus far, they’ve accounted for all of the Impact’s goal this season. With his pace, Oduro keeps opposing teams honest with how they defend, while Piatti has a knack for picking out Mancosu with passes that puts the Italian in scoring positions. But someone else needs to step and provide goals too, and a good time to start would be Saturday’s road game against the Chicago Fire. Montreal needs to develop a more balanced attack, and give opponents something more to worry about besides Mancosu, Oduro and Piatti.

Can the Whitecaps ‘change it up’?
“Everything at this moment is against us. We have to see what we can do to change it up,” noted Whitecaps defender Kendall Waston after the 2-0 loss at home to TFC. Vancouver has looked pretty suspect through the first three games of the season—five goals against, and genuine difficulties moving the ball through the midfield. Discipline has also been an issue. Midfielder Brek Shea and goalkeeper David Ousted picked up red cards, which compounded the team’s woes even further—the Whitecaps have not allowed a goal in MLS this season when playing at full strength. How can the ‘Caps change it up at home against LA on Saturday? Keeping 11 players on the pitch would be a good start. They also have to find a way to get Cristian Techera, one of their most dangerous attacking players, more involved.

Sportsnet's Soccer Central podcast (featuring James Sharman, Thomas Dobby, Brendan Dunlop, and John Molinaro) takes an in-depth look at the beautiful game and offers timely and thoughtful analysis on the sport's biggest issues.