Carl Robinson’s “Year of Great Experimentation” continued in the Canadian Championship on Wednesday evening as the Whitecaps beat the Montreal Impact 2-1 in the first leg of the tie.
This time around Robinson went with three at the back (de Jong, de Wit and Seiler)and then “something else” for the rest of the positions.
Jake Nerwinski was playing right wing back, Alphonso Davies was a midfielder with defensive responsibilities on the left, Teibert and McKendry were sitting in the middle and Rosales and Mezquida were constantly switching positions behind Brek Shea.
For the sake of simplicity let’s call it a 3-1.25-1.25-1-1.25-0.5-1.75-1 formation.
Whatever it was though it certainly worked well in the first half as the Whitecaps cruised to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Davies and Mezquida.
Nerwinski was a constant danger on the right, Teibert and McKendry were busy and neat (In that order) in the centre and the front three/four always looked capable of unlocking the Montreal backline.
Things changed for the worst in the second half however and that was down to one of three, two of three or three of three things.
Maybe the Impact worked out how to get behind that back three by playing diagonal balls out wide, maybe Mezquida, Rosales, Shea and Davies all tired quite suddenly or maybe the youngsters at the heart of the defensive effort suddenly found themselves lacking a little big game experience?
By the final whistle Spencer Richey (Who often looked a little reticent when coming out to meet the ball) had saved a penalty and made a last-ditch last-minute save with his feet to keep the lead alive.
Retrospect may tell Robinson that having one or two experienced players on the bench may have been a better move than completely filling it with youngsters and hopefully retrospect will also mention that Brek Shea definitely isn’t a lone target man.
The American was often caught offside when there was no need to be and just doesn’t possess the physicality or skill set to play that role.
In the end though it’s another win at BC Place in a largely entertaining game and though the second leg still hangs precariously in the balance the weight of that balance is just about tipped to the side of the good guys.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Richey-6.5, Nerwisnki-7*, de Wit-6, Seiler-6, de Jong-6.5, Teibert-6, McKendry-6, Rosales-6.5, Davies-7, Mezquida-6, Shea-5.5