You know those “five things we learned” articles that tend to appear after every major game?
Well I’m not convinced they have much value at the best of times but I’m even less convinced they have a value when being applied to Major League Soccer games which are, more often than not, a series of random incidents masquerading as a football match.
Okay I’m exaggerating for dramatic effect but the Whitecaps 3-2 victory over the Philadelphia Union was about as disjointed a game as you could wish to see even though it was brightened by a couple of well taken goals for the Whitecaps.
So instead of five things I learned let’s just go with five things I noticed. That seems more reasonable.
Octavio Rivero wasn’t missed- With rumours swirling about a move to Chilean side Colo Colo Rivero wasn’t even in the eighteen for this game and his deputy Erik Hurtado did a very good job as the target man.
Hurtado isn’t everybody’s cup of tea (he isn’t even most people’s idea of a target man) but against Philadelphia he kept things simple, used his strength and his speed to good effect and even helped set up the third goal for Bolaños.
He may not be the long term solution as first choice striker but he’s getting more and more convincing as a very useful member of the squad.
Manneh showed why he always has to start- He may not have been all that involved in the game but essentially won it near the end of the first half when he picked up a ball near the halfway line and ran with it to the edge of the Union penalty area before firing home.
He’s the only player on the Whitecaps who can do that and it’s an invaluable asset for any coach to have.
A new central defensive partnership- It’s almost certain that Kendal Waston will be back in the team when he returns from suspension but Jacobson and Parker are starting to look like the better option.
Two goals conceded isn’t great but neither was down to those two and they have a solidity and calmness that Waston has been lacking all season.
The big Costa Rican hasn’t earned the right to start but the weight of his salary may prove to be too much for Carl Robinson to ignore.
Morales and Bolaños are casual but smart- It was a Morales giveaway which ultimately led to the opening goal for Philadelphia and Bolaños always seems to have at least one moment per game where he tries a no look pass that ends up at the feet of an opponent in a dangerous attacking position but it was Morales who played the ball that set Manneh free (Manneh still had tons to do but at least the ball was played in front of him rather than to his feet) and Bolaños kept his cool near the end to effectively seal the game with some chest control and a smart finish.
Both have flaws but the Whitecaps are always a better team when both are on the field together.
So who next? Assuming Rivero does leave it’s in inconceivable (or incomprehensible at least) if there isn’t another striker in line to replace him.;
Who that player is will tell us a lot about how Carl Robinson sees the team developing for the rest of the season.
Do we see another young gun with something to prove? A proven MLS goal scorer? Or maybe even a “name” player from Europe?
Whoever it is will probably define the remainder of the season.
Time then for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Ousted-6, Smith-5, Harvey-6, Parker-6, Jacobson-6, Laba-5, Morales-5, Manneh-6, Mezquida-5, Bolaños-6, Hurtado-6*