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Wileman: Caps' biggest concern remains lack of settled defence

Luke Wileman
6/20/2013 9:34:06 PM
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Once again, the Vancouver Whitecaps did it the hard way. For the second time in five days, Martin Rennie's team started slowly at home and had to dig deep to overturn an early deficit, but they finished the night by jumping into the Western Conference playoff places.

This time it wasn't as big a mountain to climb. A few days earlier they were down 2-0 inside the opening 20 minutes against New England but on Wednesday there was just a one goal deficit.

It was a worrying start for the Whitecaps against a Chivas USA side that arrived at BC Place winless in its last eight matches and sitting on the foot of the Western Conference. Tristan Bowen's early strike gave Chivas the lead and in the opening quarter of the match, the visitors looked comfortable in possession and were dominating in midfield. The Whitecaps were unable to play through the middle of the pitch and took some time to put a "Plan B" into action.

When Vancouver started to use the full width of the pitch and get the full backs to push further forward, they started to have much more success. The leadership of veterans Kenny Miller and Nigel Reo Coker was key to the transformation.

At one stoppage in play when the 'Caps were trailing, both senior players took on the responsibility of making sure the message got through to their teammates about how they needed to change their approach. It is those leadership qualities and the drive and determination of two players who have played at the top level in Europe that helped lift the whole eleven.

The goals didn't come immediately, but as the half progressed the Whitecaps grew into the game. Starting slow is something that must be addressed if this team is to make the playoffs this year. They have now conceded then first goal four games in a row. The good thing is, they are confident going forward right now, but it's unlikely the goals will continue to flow at this pace.

When the Whitecaps are playing well, getting the fullbacks forward is a key part of their success. It happened on Saturday with Jordan Harvey starting and finishing a move, and Harvey was again on hand to score the game-tying goal against Chivas in first half stoppage time.

It's been quite a run for the left back of late. After scoring just two goals in his previous 133 career MLS appearances, he has now found the net three times in the last four games. A big impact for a player who couldn't get into the starting lineup during the first nine games of the season.

It's also no coincidence that the Whitecaps' recent run of goal-scoring has come at a time when Camilo has found his form. At the moment, he's likely playing as well as he ever has during his time in Vancouver. He now has eight league goals and 11 in all competitions this season.

The three pronged attack with Camilo flanked by Miller and Russell Teibert continues to combine well and Teibert is revelling in his role, with two more assists against Chivas taking his total to six for the season. It will change the dynamic of the 'Caps attacking play when the 20-year-old from Niagara Falls is called up to Canada's Gold Cup squad, but the chance to represent his country is a much deserved reward for a player whose form has made him an integral part of the Whitecaps team.

Vancouver's biggest concern remains the lack of a settled defence. There has been no MLS clean sheet since the opening day win over Toronto FC, but they are starting to get healthy at the back once again. Brad Rusin hopes to be available by the time the 'Caps return to action on Washington DC, and Andy O'Brien also hopes to be able to play a part in at least two of the three games the Whitecaps have that week - Kansas City away and Seattle at home follow the trip to the US capital.

Over the last few days, Vancouver needed to make home advantage count and they did. Back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening day of the season leaves them in a much more positive position in a crowded Western Conference playoff race.

The seven goals scored in two home matches has provided plenty of entertainment for the home fans, and it's certainly rarely dull watching the Whitecaps of late. Now the big question is whether they can be defensively sound on a consistent basis. That is likely to be the key in ensuring the Whitecaps stay firmly in the playoff race as the summer progresses.

Luke Wileman

Luke Wileman


Luke Wileman is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca.

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