SN: What has stood out for you the most about the Whitecaps’ modest two-game losing skid?
RICCIO: Vancouver’s lack of creativity has stood out like a sore thumb during this mini losing streak. The Whitecaps have done a fine job of hitting opponents on the counter attack, but they have struggled when they have to get on the front foot and push for a goal.
There are a few things that are leading to this, and the biggest problem is in midfield. The Whitecaps haven’t shown an ability to threaten the opposition through the middle of the field, and have focused their attacking efforts down the wings. It hasn’t worked.
Another issue has been the lack of scoring depth. Kei Kamara and Brek Shea have combined to score six of the team’s eight goals. It’s great to see those players on form, but the Whitecaps need goals from other payers to get back into the win column.
How big of a blow is losing Kei Kamara for several weeks due to injury?
He’s only made five appearances, but Kei Kamara has been the most important player for the Vancouver Whitecaps. The squad has developed a reliance on Kamara already, and it was most noticeable in last Friday’s loss at home to LAFC. He just brings so much to the team as a target man. You have to look beyond the goals and assists – his hold up play has been essential.
The way he is able to knock the ball down and link up with midfield has created multiple goals this season. He also wins more fouls than any other player in the squad. Kamara has been a perfect fit for Carl Robinson’s side, but no one on the roster has shown the ability to replace all that he does for the team.
With Kamara out, who needs to step up for Vancouver?
First and foremost, Yordy Reyna has to be better. He has yet to look anywhere close to the difference maker he showed to be toward the end of last season. If the Whitecaps are going to contend for one of the top spots in the Western Conference, Reyna will have to be their best player at certain points.
The other option is Anthony Blondell, who is back in training after suffering a concussion. The 23-year-old Venezuelan was expected to be a bit of a project in his first MLS season, but the raw talent is there. He had three goals in pre-season, and led the Venezuelan league in scoring prior to this move to Vancouver. He will get a chance to prove his worth with Kamara out.
What’s been your thoughts on coach Carl Robinson experimenting with Alphonso Davies at left fullback?
I haven’t liked it. I consider Davies to be one of the “goal dangerous” players on this Whitecaps squad, and when he moves to left back, that element of his game is lost. When Vancouver needed a goal last Friday against LAFC, Brek Shea came in for Marcel De Jong, and Davies moved to left back with Shea staying forward. It seems an odd move when in search of an equalizer, mostly because Davies creates as much or more in attack than any other player in the team. Personally, I believe the Whitecaps should have all three of those players on the field when they need a goal.
The Whitecaps visit Sporting Kansas City on Friday night. How do these teams match up against one another?
Well, unlike the Whitecaps, KC have had no trouble creating opportunities. They score about as much as any other team in the league, so I expect to see the Whitecaps to be doing a lot of defensive work Friday night. However, Sporting does give up a fair bit of chances, too. The Whitecaps were incredible with set pieces last season, and this might be the match where they get that part of their game going. Kansas City have allowed a league high three set piece goals already this season, so I imagine that will be a big part of Vancouver’s game plan.