MLS

Caps Corner: Whitecaps know it takes two to tango

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Peter Schaad
8/11/2014 10:06:31 PM
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It's no secret within the locker room that several members of the Vancouver Whitecaps love to dance. You'll have seen some quality evidence during the wildly successful campaign that surrounded their 40-year, 70's themed anniversary match in May. 

There have also been some impromptu dance parties involving the Latin-based players grooving to their preferred music sometimes in makeshift dance-halls, like a hotel business centre.   

So perhaps it's appropriate that the Whitecaps as a team prefer a willing, and similarly skilled, dance partner when they pair up on weekends. 

The proof comes in the form of victories over New York, Houston, Portland, Columbus, Seattle and most recently, Kansas City. The common thread amongst those teams; their own desire to get forward and play.

Conversely, teams like Chivas, Chicago and Montreal, ones that didn't appear in the mood to tango, obviously tripped up the Whitecaps rhythm.  

You could argue that those teams are equally devoid of a midfield maestro; the guy who can dictate tempo. 

It's an issue that could rear its head this Saturday in Los Angeles when Carl Robinson's young team visits the "Goats."

One would think that teams without a dominant middle third would be over-run by the likes of Pedro Morales, Gershon Koffie and Mattias Laba. But that's not the way the story has unfolded for much of 2014.

Midfield was where the Whitecaps ultimately won their seventh game against the likes of KC's talented Benny Feilhaber and Honduran World Cup participant Jorge Claros. It was Morales who dropped deep to accept the ball before launching what turned into the 17th minute own goal. Then 23 minutes later, Laba's foresight led to the perfectly executed counter that finished with Darren Mattocks slotting home from 18 yards. 

But when Robinson's group is in the mood to hustle while the opponent wants to waltz, it puts a lot of pressure on the leader to freestyle. Morales would benefit greatly from the occasional bounce (as he did on Sunday) or the odd goal from a corner or free kick. 

They lost their dead ball specialist and proven poacher in the off-season, but in new centreback signing Kendall Waston, the Caps may have found a partial solution.  

The towering Tico has, by Costa Rican League standards, a simply outstanding goal scoring record. He is difficult to defend on dead ball opportunities, and will potentially remedy an area the Whitecaps have been deficient in since joining MLS. (Vancouver has just three goals from its centre backs in its 3+ year history). 

He will also aid in preventing those same types of goals from occuring in his own penalty area, where the Whitecaps have also been vulnerable. (Remember the late stages of the Amway Canadian Championship second leg vs Montreal, or the early second half of this year's Chivas home game?) Look back since 2011 and it's shocking how many points have been erased from those types of goals.

Having someone who's willing to take the lead in either box like Waston might help the Whitecaps finally convert even a fraction of the dead ball chances they've been creating. In doing so, opponents will be forced to drop their attacking inhibitions more often and join the dance party. 

Which is precisely when the Whitecaps seem to put their best foot forward.

Gershon Koffie and Matias Laba  (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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