For most fans the big question preceding the game against the LA Galaxy was which of the teams attack minded players would be left on the bench but, in the end, the answer turned out to be “none of them”.
Coach Tom Soehn played Davide Chiumiento behind a front two of Hassli and Jarju with Salinas and Camilo out wide. Leaving Gershon Koffie as the the sole defensive player in the middle of the park.
The logic of the move became clear in the early stages of the game with Chiumiento finding space thanks to LA’s propensity to sit back in the early stages of road games. That Vancouver didn’t take advantage of the opportunities that they carved open is symptomatic of the season as a whole but an even more telling statistic is that, despite how well they played in the first half, they managed no shots on target compared to the six that the Galaxy had in the same period.
Clearly LA coach Bruce Arena felt that the Whitecaps were there for the taking in the second half and he moved Landon Donovan from his wide position to a more central attacking role alongside the anonymous Juan Pablo Angel and for a short while it looked as though this move might work out well for the home side as they continued to press, and even hit the inside of the post from a Shea Salinas effort.
The Donovan move though paid rich dividends on the hour mark when Michael Boxall slipped allowing the USA forward to calmly finish passed Joe Cannon. Soehn then reverted to a three man back-line in an effort to chase the game, but a careless Jordan Harvey handball in the area conceded a penalty and the Whitecaps were suddenly a spent force.
So, despite the result, is the formation that started the game the way forward for the Whitecaps?
On the positive side it immediately puts the team on the front foot; they have been too eager to drop back at times this season but with this set-up that becomes a far less likely scenario. If Chiumiento is given space then he is always capable of inflicting damage and although Hassli and Jarju didn’t quite click on Saturday there were signs that they could at least develop some kind of understanding and give opposition defenders a combination of power and pace to worry about.
The downside is that it leaves the defence awfully exposed. Koffie has the potential to be a genuinely top class player but in this system he is being asked to bear the brunt of protecting the midfield; not an impossible task by any means but one that requires more experience than he has accumulated so far.
Another issue is that it seemed to blunt Camilo as an attacking threat. So far this season he has been able to play higher up the pitch when playing wide and that brings him much closer to the danger zone than he ever did against Los Angeles.
It was somewhat perplexing perhaps that on this occasion Soehn resisted the temptation to switch Salinas and Camilo to opposing wings (especially given the success that this brought in San Jose) but maybe that was down to keeping players as comfortable as possible in yet another new system.
The Galaxy demonstrated that there is no substitute for a team that can pass quickly and with purpose, so maybe the best thing that the Whitecaps can do now is decide is stick with this formation for the rest of the season come hell or high-water.
It may not be pretty at times, and it could lead some people to think that the team is in an irrevocable tailspin, but as preparation for next year it could prove invaluable by turning a collection of individuals into a team.
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Tags: World soccer