It’s not often a game in which neither team really look like scoring ends in a 3-2 result but that’s what happened at BC Place on Saturday evening.
Fortunately for the Vancouver Whitecaps the 3 goals were for them and the 2 were for Real Salt Lake and one of those “this would be a great game to win” games that has constantly tripped this team up over the past few seasons was in the bag.
With other results also going their way on Saturday the Whitecaps are now third in the Western Conference standings, still with games in hand.
There’s will no doubt be a few twists and turns along the way but, unless the team completely implode, it’s more of a case of where they finish in the top six than if they finish in the top six right now.
So what can we say about the slightly strange game against Real Salt Lake?
Well, we can string a few random observations together in the desperate hope they coalesce into a coherent whole (same as always then I guess).
Steady debut for Aly Ghazal- It was something of a surprise to see the Egyptian starting but he slotted into the Laba role fairly comfortably. He’s nowhere near as frenetic as Laba, but he broke up a few plays and exuded an overall air of calmness.
His distribution was pretty poor however and neither him nor Tony Tchani offered anything of note going forward so the “Why are we playing two defensive midfielders at home?’ debate hasn’t run out of steam just yet.
Is Fredy Montero underrated?- Even the people who rate Montero may be giving him a little less than his due.
Against Salt Lake he never once came close to even a sniff of a taste of goal but still led the line in the way that Carl Robinson likes; holding up the ball and gaining those extra few seconds to allow his teammates to either get forward to join him or to rearrange themselves defensively.
Given the depth in other positions Montero is the key player for this team right now.
Not even a debate at right back- Has any player ever taken an opportunity as well as Jake Nerwinski?
Almost certainly they have, but the youngster has moved on from challenging for the role to completely owning it.
On Saturday he was defensively solid at the back and directly involved in two of the Whitecaps three goals going forward and in a team that mostly struggles to create chances having a right back who is an offensive threat is a huge plus.
Reyna barely involved-But he did score the winning goal which, in the end, is kind of the important thing.
But it was indicative of how little opportunities Vancouver were creating that Reyna was dropping deeper and deeper to get the ball as the game progressed.
Of course, the deeper he drops the more isolated Montero becomes and the more isolated Montero becomes the fewer opportunities are created and so the more Reyna feels he has to drop deep to get the ball and so on and so on and so on forever and ever and ever.
The Peruvian needs to be running at defenders in the final third rather than picking up two yard passes from Kendall Waston near the centre circle.
Alphonso Davies has an uncanny ability- We all know this of course but, unfortunately, he currently has an uncanny ability to make exactly the wrong decision at the crucial moment going forward.
Shoot when he should pass, pass when he should shoot, blast it when he can place it, place it when power is required.
He probably just needs the ball to ricochet off a defender and go in to settle him down (and it probably doesn’t help his thinking process that the crowd get so amped whenever he gets the ball) but he’s currently more effective in road games where he has the luxury of more space and comfort of less pressure to produce every time he touches the ball.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Ousted-6, Nerwinski-7*, Waston-6., Parker-6, Harvey-6, Ghazal-5.5, Tchani-5.5, Techera-6, Reyna-5.5, Ibini-5.5, Montero-6.5 (Davies-5, Shea-5)