SN: What did you make on Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw against Toronto FC in the first leg of the Canadian Championship final?
RICCIO: It’s easy to complain about the circumstances of the match for Vancouver. Felipe’s red card was questionable at best, and Doneil Henry’s own-goal will be front and centre in Caroline Szwed’s “Misplays of the Month” on Sportsnet. But you make your own luck in this game. Vancouver has allowed at least two goals in 16 games this season across all competitions.
What happened on Wednesday night isn’t a one off, it is exactly what has plagued this Vancouver side all year. As I’ve said in the past, if you fix this defence, then you have the makings of a strong team. But until then? This team will remain on the outside of the playoff picture. The Whitecaps were at their counterattacking best on Wednesday night and they still have a mountain to climb if they are going to lift the Voyageurs Cup next week in Toronto. They are running out of time to sort these issues out.
How much will Vancouver miss the suspended Felipe for next week’s second leg in Toronto?
Felipe may not seem like a big loss to many, but he’s an integral part of everything Vancouver does on the field. He is the main distributor on a team that doesn’t have many in midfield. He completes nearly 50 passes per match in MLS. For comparison, Efrain Juarez sits at 33 as the next closest Vancouver midfielder.
Felipe also plays that role of agitator very well, and the Whitecaps are going to miss that dearly in a road match where they will need to frustrate TFC in front of their home crowd. The loss of Felipe sees the Whitecaps lose their best passer and also a big part of their spirit.
The Whitecaps and midfielder Bernie Ibini mutually agree to part ways this week. What did you make of Ibini during his time in Vancouver??
Ibini played just over 1000 minutes in the time he spent with the Whitecaps. He didn’t get a huge opportunity to prove his worth, but he also didn’t make the best of the time he was given by the club. There are elements to his game that tantalize, but he never really put it all together.
He collected one goal and two assists since joining the Whitecaps last May, and that simply isn’t enough to warrant a regular spot in the starting 11. He did provide some depth on what has been one of the better Whitecaps squads in the MLS era. That adds value to the squad, but isn’t the most ringing endorsement of a player, either.
Were you surprised that the Whitecaps didn’t make any deals ahead of Wednesday’s MLS transfer deadline? Should they have made a move?
I’m not surprised at all. We talked to Carl Robinson recently on Sportsnet 650 and he told us straight up that there was not much in the works for Vancouver. I would have liked to have seen the Whitecaps add something significant to help their run at a playoff spot while Alphonso Davies is still with the squad.
It seems like the team could be wasting this game-breaking talent who has developed much quicker than anyone thought – the team isn’t quite ready to keep up with Davies much like the many defenders in MLS trying to guard him. This is a squad that is begging for a little more quality, and to add nothing to this squad will certainly upset an already disgruntled fan base.
What will you be looking for in Saturday’s road game against the Portland Timbers?
I’m looking forward to a rivalry match, and a spirited performance from the Whitecaps. They weren’t good a couple of weeks ago against Seattle, and this match in Portland sets up as a chance at redemption. Not to mention, it’s a very important game in the standings as well. The Timbers are unbeaten since April 8 in MLS, and can put the Whitecaps out of reach with a win on Saturday evening. Vancouver can’t afford to lose this one.