If the Vancouver Whitecaps learned anything about themselves following their 2-1 loss against the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium, it’s that they’ll enjoy more victories away from B.C. Place this season.
In 2012, the Whitecaps improved significantly, managing a fifth place finish in the Western Conference, but there was still a lingering problem from 2011: their away form. They only scored 1.06 goals on average, but their attack suffered the most on the road. They only bagged 10 in 17 matches away from home, averaging around 8.94 shots, but only two to three of those found the target. However, in Houston, the Caps mustered 10 on Tally Hall’s net and five of them forced a save out of them (one resulted in Darren Mattocks’ marker).
A player the Whitecaps missed in the second half of last season was Davide Chiumiento. He was someone who was capable of changing the tempo of a match. His technique opened up defences and his playmaking ability was breathtaking. It’s no wonder that when he left for Switzerland, the Caps’ offence dried up in both goals and shots. Now that Daigo Kobayashi has filled that role, the team looks much more like the one that started the 2012 campaign. They’re fast, entertaining, and create chances whilst maintaining defensively responsible.
Speaking of the back line, one thing that head coach Martin Rennie wanted out of his team was resilience in defence. They achieved that last season and have continued that into Rennie’s sophomore year as Whitecaps boss, but the game in Houston showed some worrying signs. Jay DeMerit is missing and Johnny Leveron is trying to gain fitness as he’s been off for a few weeks due to work visa complications, but Brad Rusin showed moments of weakness. Whenever the ball was played along the ground, he looked uncoordinated and troubled. Since both he and Andy O’Brien are bigger defenders and are commanding in the air, Rennie will be itching for Leveron to be match ready.
One talking point coming out of Texas is the controversial comment made by Nigel Reo-Coker towards Darren Mattocks. The Jamaican striker opted to shoot rather than pass to an open Erik Hurtado, who could’ve scored easily as Hall was out of position in his area.
“With the level we’re at now, those are the small margins that we can’t let pass us by.We take our second chance, the game’s 2-0. It would have been very difficult for them to come back being 2-0 down at home with the [32-game home unbeaten streak] they had,” said Reo-Coker
“That’s the difference between being playing a higher level of football and a lower level of football. You take your chances. You might only get one chance away from home and you must learn to take that one chance that you may get.”
Reo-Coker was named as the stand-in captain with DeMerit out injured. The former England U-21 international captained that side and has taken leadership roles at his former clubs West Ham and Aston Villa. Many fans are worried that his “criticism” of Mattocks’ decision will spark Barry Robson 2.0, but it shouldn’t escalate into a dressing room conflict.
Mattocks is 23 years old and is playing his second season in MLS, he’s still learning and that was one moment that’ll force him to think twice when he’s in that situation again. Reo-Coker is only trying to help the youngster because he wants Vancouver to be the best and if he feels that a player needs to be given advice, he’ll be more than happy to provide it. The words are a bit strong, but Reo-Coker is a passionate individual and surely his experiences in Europe will garner him respect from teammates and coaches. If there’s anyone who wouldn’t let that get into his head, it’s Reo-Coker. As for Mattocks, there have been no reports of any bust up, so obviously he understands and isn’t going to make a big deal about it.