SN: What stood out to you about Vancouver’s road win over the Columbus Crew last week?
RICCIO: What stuck out to me the most was the play of Felipe. His assist on Kei Kamara’s winning goal was the payoff to what was an outstanding match from the Brazilian midfielder. He had more touches than any other Whitecaps player, he completed more passes, and he made key defensive plays to keep the potent Columbus offence from breaking out.
The Whitecaps signed goalkeeper Sean Melvin to an MLS Homegrown contract this past week. Should Whitecaps fans expect more signings of young prospects this season?
It’s always nice to see the local talent getting that homegrown contract. However, I think the frustration from Canadian soccer fans is that a lot of these homegrown players get few opportunities to succeed in MLS. The Whitecaps no longer have a USL squad, so we’ve seen young players such as Marco Bustos get loaned out to gain more experience, or David Norman Jr. not have a chance to get minutes in MLS. The loss of the USL squad also has me wondering how invested the Whitecaps are to developing their young talent.
The Whitecaps rank as one of the worst teams in MLS this season in terms of possession percentage. Is that a cause for concern?
The possession question is a running theme here in Vancouver, but Carl Robinson’s squad continues to get results in spite of having such a small share of the ball. Fact is, the Whitecaps have been one of the best teams in the Western Conference over the last 12 months. They have done that without a possession-based style. However, the Whitecaps average the least amount of shots per game in the league by a decent margin, and that is inherently tied to possession. If that continues, the goals will dry up and the results will, too.
Vancouver led MLS in goals off of set pieces with 18 last season, but this year it has yet to score off a free kick or corner. Why is that?
A big part of that is because Kendall Waston has missed two matches. The captain is this squad’s main threat in the box on set pieces, and will start to find his way as more opportunities come. Speaking of opportunities, Vancouver is in the middle of the pack when it comes to fouls won, and they have only earned 15 corner kicks through five matches. Fewer opportunities means fewer set piece goals.
What are you looking for in Saturday’s road game against Real Salt Lake?
RSL was an early season sleeper pick in the West by many, but have so far disappointed. Young DP Albert Rusnak is one of the better playmakers in MLS, so I’ll be looking to see how the Whitecaps plan to contain him. With two big losses in their last three matches, RSL may be too anxious in their pursuit of a result and that may play into the Whitecaps’ counter attacking style. It’s the type of match that could have big implications as the year goes along as I expect both of these teams to be fighting for playoff spots at season’s end.