SN: Coach Carl Robinson said he didn’t think the Whitecaps got what they deserved following last weekend’s 1-0 road loss to Minnesota United FC. Do you agree?
RICCIO: I disagree. Vancouver was up a man for 40 minutes, and lost 1-0. They were unlucky to have not scored themselves, but allowing a goal while playing 11 vs. 10 is inexcusable. Look back at that match winner, and you’ll see a Whitecaps team that switched off. Minnesota took advantage of that moment and the Whitecaps paid for it. Carl Robinson often talks about the fine lines in games, and that is exactly what it came down to in last week’s match.
In last week’s column, you said Anthony Blondell is the team’s X-factor, and that you were looking for him to provide more against Minnesota. Did he live up to your expectations of him?
The player that was most unlucky to not have scored last week for Vancouver? Anthony Blondell. He could have had two goals in the first 10 minutes of the match if not for Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who came up with some big saves. Blondell had seven shots in total, four on target, and came away with nothing to show for it. Those fortunes will turn if he continues to play like he did against Minnesota. The question will be, how much time does Blondell get on the pitch with Kei Kamara returning to full fitness?
The Whitecaps have travelled over 32,000 kilometres for their six road games this season. How much do you think this has contributed to their overall lacklustre form and record?
The Whitecaps are the most travelled MLS squad every season. They overcame the extra travel last year and had the best road record in the league. So, even though the extra travel puts Vancouver at a disadvantage, I have a hard time saying it is the reason for the four losses in five matches. It isn’t a coincidence that the results began to turn when Kei Kamara went down with an injury. We’ll see if Kei’s return brings back the positive results.
We are nine matches into the 2018 season and Robinson has started nine different combinations of players. Is this a positive or a negative? Does he know what his best starting 11 is?
I’d say it’s a negative, if only because they’ve suffered through a lot of injuries, and that has forced Carl Robinson into some lineup decisions that may not have been expected. I’d also say we’ve learned this squad relies heavily on Kei Kamara and Alphonso Davies to create offence. I don’t think Robbo has a best XI as of right now, and he may not all season. If we look back to last year, the Whitecaps’ lineup was unsteady all season long, and continued that way into the playoffs. I get the sense it isn’t something they are too worried about at the moment.
What intrigues you the most about Friday’s home game against the Houston Dynamo?
I’m interested to see how the Whitecaps take advantage of a bad road team. The Dynamo had a single road win last season, and are winless in their first three away from Houston this year. This will be the Whitecaps’ first chance to play back-to-back home games this season, and that has potentially factored into their inconsistent performances. I think this is an opportunity for the Whitecaps to settle into a rhythm, and Friday can potentially be the start of a good stretch.