Why the Whitecaps are not winning more games

Been trying to find a video of the last minute of the Caps game against Montreal last week but none seem to show the bits I want to bring attention to. So the lack of pictures may lead to a thousand words.

The Whitecaps have been holding their own in most games and have even had a couple of clean sheets recently but the Nutralite Cup game against Montreal at Empire Field last Wednesday, particularly the last minute, showed that their defensive naivete is still a concern.

With the game already in extra time due to a relatively unnecessary penalty that was given away, the Caps scored in extra time thanks to central defender Mouloud Akloul’s quick reaction on a rebound off a wide free kick.

But fast forward to one minute left and you have the Caps with the ball deep in Montreal’s end and Jonathan Leathers squaring up to a Montreal defender. Instead of banging it off his legs and getting a deep throw in that helps kill off the remaining time, he tries a low percentage move and tries to meg him. It doesn’t work and within seconds the ball has been played forward into the centre circle for Ali Gerba.

With Leathers caught up field, you’d think a Whitecaps midfielder would have filled in, especially since it’s the last minute of the game but no, it’s a 3v3 and Gerba moves the ball nicely to a wide player. Nope.

But here’s the biggest blunder of the movement. Akloul has played Gerba well to this point. He keeps him facing his own goal and forces the ball wide. Once it goes wide though, it all goes wrong for him. Gerba peels off and makes a long run, angling towards the far post into the space where you’d normally expect to find a right back (ie. Leathers). Akloul turns and runs straight back. No lack of effort but he doesn’t have a look for Gerba the whole way back. Instead he bee-lines straight back and ends up outside his own near post not marking anyone and not close enough to help the left back should the Montreal player beat him and angle towards goal. He’s totally in no man’s land.

Greg Janicki, the other Caps centreback tracks back with his check and did his job as well as could be expected. But when the cross came in you have Gerba far more open than any striker should ever be, more open than a striker should be in U13 Silver, more open than he would have been had Montreal been playing Helen Keller FC. His header leaves Nolly for dead in goal but grazes the outside of the post and the Caps keep their 2-1 lead and win.

This is why the Caps keep giving up goals in the MLS. The lack of game smarts late in the game leads to a silly turnover which is exacerbated by poor positional play (lack of coverage for Leathers). Then an extreme case of ball watching by Akloul allows Gerba to find at least ten metres of space at the far post in the dying seconds of a game they are leading 2-1.

That’s total amateur hour defending and I’m shocked at the game reviews I’ve read that have not mentioned this.

The Caps have played some exciting games but the reality is they haven’t won since the opening day against Toronto and they’ve given up the second most goals (tied with Toronto) in the league. The commitment to attacking play is great and I’ve felt that the four games I’ve bought tickets for and attended have been well worth it but someone has to take responsibility for the school boy errors like the ones described above.

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4 Responses to Why the Whitecaps are not winning more games

  1. K says:

    Fan-chatter certainly has mentioned it! I was screaming at the laptop wondering what he was doing….Leathers! Then at Akloul! Ridiculous.

    That being said, the Chicago Fire game was a vast improvement defensively. Ie, that’s all they did until the last 10 minutes. TT must have had a proper go at them!

  2. cutleron says:

    Perhaps this is why Akloul has never really stuck with any decent club in a decent league. He’s 28 years old. If he were going to be a competent defender, he would have been so by now. His passing in the Houston game, when TT played him as a holding midfielder, was just about the worst I’ve ever seen. (Second worst, only to Mascherano’s passing in his West Ham stint). Why we’re playing him in the middle instead of keeping Rochat there, I have no clue. Keep Rochat in the middle and play Wagner at left back.

    But to be fair, it was on 120 minutes when legs and brain are mush. If FIFA weren’t the most conservative organization in the world, we’d have professional-level substitution rules like in every other sport, not the 19th century British macho 3-subs rule we have now.

  3. Canadian Spur says:

    Talk in the stands at the Montreal game was about the lack of defensive focus leading to Gerba being totally unmarked. Also we were mystified by the number of free headers that the Caps see to conceed from corners. DeMerit can’t come back too soon!

  4. Geoff Pegg says:

    If I look at the season as a whole, Leathers in particular has been outmatched every fixture, and has been fortunate not to have been exposed more for his lack of pace and generally poor positional play. Leather’s decision making in the Montreal ET mentioned by Gregor to not keep posession in the attacking half adds another dimension to his lack of game.

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