In a post match interview following the Sporting Kansas City game Whitecaps manager Tom Soehn was pretty clear about what had gone wrong;
“I thought our forwards and our wide guys didn’t do a good enough job. If you don’t have pressure on the ball, you have to drop deeper and deeper and they forced us to make a lot of fouls in bad areas.”
Putting pressure on the opposition whenever they have the ball, and in particular higher up the field, is currently the most fashionable tactic in world soccer and the benefits are threefold;
1) It prevents opponents building methodical attacks from the back.
2) It draws the opposition midfield and forward line further away from your own goal as they go in search of the ball.
3) It increases the likelihood of regaining posession higher up the field thus creating more goal scoring opportunities.
The current masters of this style of play are Barcelona who are not only peerless when they have the ball but will fight tenaciously on the few occassions that they do lose it, and similarly in the recent Gold Cup Final the Mexican forwards were tireless in ensuring that the USA back line never had a moment of peace when in possession.
So why can’t everybody (and in particular the Whitecaps) do the same thing? Mainly because it is just too physically demanding. Barcelona can get away with that level of work rate because they not only have the best fitness regime in world football but because they know that when they do get the ball back they have the ability to keep it again for just about as long as they want to.
The current Vancouver side however is still in the early stages of learning the art of holding on to the ball for the shortest period of time, and there is nothing more soul destroying for a player than running himself into the ground to regain posession only to watch helplessly as his team mate immediately surrenders it again by punting the ball aimlessly forward.
Neither are the forward players being asked to do the job for the Whitecaps the ideal candidates. Hassli is a traditional target man and not a chaser of lost causes, Chiumiento is far happier on the ball than trying to win it back, and wide men Camilo and Salinas can be dangerous when playing with attacking intent but seem to lack the defensive mindset that such a system requires.
With the MLS transfer window looming it seems certain that the club will be eyeing players that will fit more easily into the desired system, with a hard working forward and a central midfielder who is happier pushing higher up the pitch probably the two primary targets.
Finding the right blend will be no easy task however, and Soehn must know that he will still be faced with solving the same problem that 99% of soccer coaches have to wrestle with; does he compromise the style of play that he favours to fit the players that he has, or does he try to to get the players that he has to adapt to the style of play that he prefers?
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Tags: World soccer