SN: Vancouver is mired in a three-game winless run, and battled to draws in its last two outings. What things stood out for you about the Whitecaps’ performances over that time?
RICCIO: There are two major issues for the Whitecaps right now. First, they aren’t finishing enough of their scoring opportunities. Vancouver has created more chances on a per game average than any other MLS team this month. But even with scoring a pair of goals in each of their last two games, I can’t help but feel they should have had more to show for their efforts.
A combination of poor finishing and exceptional goalkeeping in key moments has kept the Whitecaps from scoring more often. Yordy Reyna rounding into form gives a positive feeling that this can be sustainable. However, the increase in offence has left the Whitecaps vulnerable at the back. They aren’t defending well in transition and it seems opponents are making the most of whatever opportunities they can get. The amount of goals being conceded has to be at the top of Carl Robinson’s worry list.
How do you think backup goalkeeper Brian Rowe did in the past two games deputizing for Stefan Marinovic?
Unfortunately for Brian, he hasn’t done anything extraordinary in his two starts. I wouldn’t say there is too much he could’ve done on the goals that beat him, but at the end of the day he has allowed two goals in each of his two starts. Marinovic has potentially left the door open for Rowe to make this a competition, but Brian hasn’t done enough to make it more of a debate as to who should start, in my view.
The Whitecaps have played more games than most other teams in MLS. Still, they boast the second-worst defensive record in the league. How do you account for this?
I’d say this team is still feeling the loss of Tim Parker – it was a late off-season trade that shook up one of the more stable backlines in MLS. Kendall Waston and Parker took time to develop into a strong centre-back pairing, and that chemistry has yet to be duplicated by Waston and either of Jose Aja or Aaron Maund to this point.
When Doneil Henry returns from a month-long loan with the Ottawa Fury in the second-tier USL, it will be interesting to see how Carl Robinson integrates the Canadian international into the team. The Fury have not conceded a goal in the three matches Henry has played since arriving in Ottawa, so Henry could be the cure to an ailing Whitecaps defence.
The Whitecaps have taken nine out of a possible 18 points from home this season. Is that good enough?
No, it is not good enough at all. Making the playoffs in MLS always seems like a simple strategy: collect as many points as possible on home turf and whatever happens on the road is gravy. The Whitecaps had the sixth-best home record in the Western conference last season, but they were also the top team on the road.
Vancouver has played the most home dates in the West so far this season, and they have the seventh-best home record in the conference. You can’t rely on winning a bunch of away games in this league; it would be foolish to do so. They’ll need to start getting some victories at home if another playoff berth is in the cards.
Is there any one-on-one matchup in Saturday’s road game against FC Dallas that intrigues you?
Dallas is a scary team. They can cause mismatches for opponents all over the pitch, but there is one player who continuously catches my eye, and that is Mauro Diaz. The Argentine is healthy and in-form, as Dallas has climbed the table in recent weeks. Diaz had three assists in Dallas’ victory over the Galaxy last weekend, showing once again that he can be one of the league’s most dynamic players. Whomever Carl Robinson tasks with marking Diaz on Saturday is in for a difficult 90 minutes.