As I’ve mentioned before the best thing that Martin Rennie has done for this team is enable them to compete in tight games and not drop points due to senseless defending that leads to goals being conceded. So often last season, games that were tied late on turned into losses and one goal leads dissolved into draws. Many points were lost. Many defenders were released at the end of the season.
This year’s back four that sees the addition of Martin Bonjour (excellent) in the middle and Lee Young-Pyo (close to excellent) at right back. Massive upgrades. Allowing Rochat to play his natural position at left back even though he got ventilated several times last night, primarily by Dane Richards, is another plus while DeMerit is solid in the tackle and in the air but struggles overtly with distribution.
So it’s way better and the Caps sit in third place heading into last night’s game despite only scoring just over a goal a game. That’s a sign that you’ve got the goals against under control and moments of daydreaming and lack of laziness are a thing of the past.
Cue last night’s game against the RedBulls. Despite the absence of Thierry Henry, scalpers were still trying to get $100/ticket for good seats 10 minutes before kickoff. There was a buzz. It was a big crowd and expectations, given the Caps recent run of good results, were high. While I’ve read, this morning, some game reviews indicating they thought it was a dull game, I actually felt it was one of the more entertaining games I’ve seen this year. Loads of action from New York getting in behind outside backs and whipping crosses in while the Caps movement up front opened up several strikes at goal that were unfortunately all very poorly struck. Very competitive in the middle of the field with a healthy dose of malevolence on display.
When the Caps went up 1-0 with about 15 minutes to go it seemed the three points were theirs. After all they’re tied for fewest goals against in the Western Conference. But then the RedBulls get a corner in the 87th minute and all that defensive poise went right out the window.
As the video shows, the problems start when the Caps don’t pick up that New York’s playing a short corner. This leads to the Caps scrambling to deal with it and the ball watching commences. At 5:34 of the video you see two Caps leave the near post space and go to support another who is now pressuring the ball. So we’re marking with three against the two RedBulls involved in the short corner, have one sitting zonally inside the six and the remaining six outfield players are trying to mark the seven RedBulls remaining in the box who are waiting for the ball in.
Two to three seconds later you see six RedBulls in the six yard box or very close to it and an honour guard of Whitecaps watching them from the periphery. They’re overcommitted at the near post so when the ball gets delivered over their heads, three Caps are caught out. DeMerit’s at the near post too but that’s because he’s at least glued to his check who made a near post run. Only Bonjour besides him could be said to be marking well.
LeToux will get slated for waving bye bye to his check and allowing him free passage to the ball and subsequently the leveller but if you freeze the video at 5:37 you see Hassli and
Chiumiento (Thorrington) striking the same pose: standing facing their own goal watching their mark challenge for the ball while they abdicate responsibility. They’re just lucky it wasn’t their guy that got his head on the ball.
It’s a massive defensive implosion from a team that has generally been on its best defensive behaviour all season. They gave away two points because of school boy errors that we drill into kids at an early age:
- Awareness. Get an early read on corner kicks if the team is going to play short and know how your role adjusts if they do.
- Don’t ball watch. It leads to players overcommitting into spaces they shouldn’t be in and allows marks to drift off you.
- TRACK RUNNERS. All of them. All the time. Impede runs. Impede jumps. Busquets got roundly criticized for fouling a Croatian late in their game a few days ago. Should have been a penalty. But you know what? It wasn’t called even though Busquets was halfway inside the guys jersey. Net result: No goal scored, Spain win 1-0, win their group and advance to the quarter finals. Croatia go home. Don’t care if you’re a striker, if you’re required to come back into your box and mark players on a corner, track their run and don’t let them beat you to the ball.