Yohei Takaoka launching a counterattack against the Rapids on Saturday (Image via www.whitecapsfc.com)
Yohei Takaoka adds another highlight to his MLS career with a decisive penalty save on Saturday. This saw the Whitecaps take a point from their clash with the Colorado Rapids. The Japanese goalkeeper now has 4 consecutive clean sheets in MLS and continues to justify his transfer to British Columbia this winter.
Aiding and abetting in the performance of the Whitecaps goalkeeper was the centerback duo of Ranko and Blackmon, who managed to shut down threats throughout the match and support the midfield in the build-up phase.
While the 'Caps were unable to score, it wasn't due to a lack of chances. The Whitecaps poured on the pressure, mustering 21 shots, 13 corners and 62% posession. Unfortunately, the Rapids goalkeeper William Yarbrough put on a defensive masterclass of his own, ushering away five shots during the match and shutting out the boys in white and blue.
Vancouver's goal drought is now becoming increasingly worrying as they have scored just 1 goal in the last 5 matches played. How long will Yohei Takaoka and the defence be able to keep the 'Caps competitive without a consistent goal scoring threat?
Eventually questions will be asked about Head Coach Vanni Sartini's personnel choices. Brian White, a favourite of Vanni, has been largely ineffective this season, yet has played the majority of the available offensive minutes. One may look to the young Simon Becher, who has made a noticable impact when on the pitch, but constantly seems like he is on a short leash from the coaching staff. The 23 year old gets inconsistant minutes despite often bringing results.
So far this season Brian White has 4 goals, and 0 assists in 901 minutes of play between CCL and MLS fixtures. In contrast, Becher has 4 goals and 1 assits in only 307 minutes. With Sergio Cordova set to return from his 7 match absence in the near future, I wonder if we will get to see a potential Becher and Cordova partnership up top to finish off the plethora of chances created by the midfield duo of Gauld and Gressel.
In defence a similar personnel situation is unfolding, where Javain Brown is consistently being favoured over a player who is significantly more tactically astute in Mathias Laborda. Brown has often times, including conceding a penalty this week, been a defensive liability for the 'Caps. On many occasions, his inability to mark his man has led to easy goals being given up by Vancouver. While neither Brown nor Laborda look entirely comfortable in attack, having Laborda to cover for defensive errors up the pitch seems like an obvious choice to try in the coming matches; especially if Javain Brown is unable to make meaningful contributions in the attacking third.
Overall, the Whitecaps have had a dissapointing start to the season, but their underlying statistics rank them among the best of Major League Soccer in many facets. They are one strong finisher away from being a team that many fear, and they may have the right strikeforce in house already. Whitecaps fans will look forward to this Saturday's fixture at home against Minnesota and hope for a change of luck.