SN: Aside from Cristian Techera’s hat trick, what stood out for you the most in Vancouver’s 3-3 draw against the New England Revolution last week?
RICCIO: I’ve had this thought more than once over the past couple of weeks, but what continues to stand out for me is how much the Whitecaps miss Tim Parker. Vancouver is just not the same defensively without him around. Coach Carl Robinson has not been able to find a partnership that works in the middle of defence, and they continue to get exposed. This team has kept one clean sheet all season, and that came against an LA Galaxy squad that was missing most of its top-end players.
We are 14 matches into the campaign and the Whitecaps have already conceded 27 goals – they allowed 49 throughout 2017. You can get excited about how the Whitecaps are scoring goals, but they won’t see results come their way until they prove they can keep the ball out of their net. Doneil Henry has returned from his loan with the Ottawa Fury, and will have pressure on him to steady a defence that is the worst in the Western Conference at this point of the season.
The New England match was also Kendall Waston’s last game before heading off to join Costa Rica for the World Cup. He will miss at least three MLS matches while away. How much will Vancouver miss him?
I’d say the Whitecaps will greatly miss Kendall Waston over this stretch, however, they have given up nine goals in their past four matches, so maybe a shakeup is just what the doctor ordered. My question is, who plays back there for Vancouver over these next three matches? Aly Ghazal was a disaster at centre back last Saturday, so I’m not sure Carl Robinson will go back down that road.
That leaves Jose Aja, Aaron Maund and Doneil Henry. Aja and Maund have had good and bad moments this season, while Henry is just returning from a loan with Ottawa. The signs are encouraging for Henry, as the Fury did not concede a goal in the 270 minutes he played with them. The biggest question will be if they can create some sort of chemistry in such a short space of time.
The Whitecaps are winless in their last five games, with four consecutive draws. What’s the mood in Vancouver? Are fans concerned or optimistic about the team’s prospects going forward?
My barber is a Whitecaps season ticket holder, and when I saw him earlier this week he wasn’t all that pleased with the direction of the squad. He isn’t alone, and wasn’t afraid to share his frustration. There is a feeling that the Whitecaps’ ceiling with this particular squad isn’t very high.
What is the goal? Just squeak into the playoffs and hope for the best? Where is the investment in the roster? Why are expansion squads such as Atlanta and Los Angeles FC having so much success while the Whitecaps continue to underwhelm?
These are the questions my barber and many Whitecaps fans have right now. The frustration has grown quite a bit amongst the fan base since the start of the season. The feeling is that there isn’t enough investment in the squad to compete at the highest level of MLS, and the Whitecaps’ recent play confirms that notion. Until this team restores belief amongst the fan base, that will continue.
Who’s been the biggest under-achiever on the team this season? And who’s been the biggest over-achiever?
Without a doubt the biggest under-achiever has been Efrain Juarez. For a team that has depth at the defensive midfield position, he has not done enough to keep a place in the starting 11. As one of the club’s big off-season acquisitions, that simply isn’t good enough.
Kei Kamara would be my choice for over-achiever. Sure, he had a pair of glaring misses last week, but where would this squad be without him? Four goals and three assists is a very nice haul for a player who hasn’t played a full slate of matches. The expectations were not all that high coming into the season, as most wondered what the 33-year-old had left in the tank. He has shown to have plenty left in the tank, and is essential to the success of this squad.
What intrigues you the most about Friday’s road game versus the Colorado Rapids?
I am really curious to see how Carl Robinson works with his squad this week. It was a good idea to give Aly Ghazal a shot at centre back last week, but the result left a lot to be desired. Ghazal has played the position before and Robinson was looking for a spark, but it just didn’t work on the day. The big question is what this defence looks like without Kendall Waston, and with Colorado being one of the lowest scoring teams in the league, this is a perfect time to experiment.