As has become habit, the Vancouver Whitecaps had another momentum swing this weekend, earning a big home win after two disappointing losses. Taking on the Seattle Sounders, who before the game were top of the table, looked like a tall task for a team that had allowed five goals between two games earlier that week. Somehow though, the stars aligned at BC place and the Whitecaps were able to get a comfortable win against their heated rival.
Going into this match, a lot of the Whitecaps players were underperforming, but there were some sparks that looked to have potential across those stretches. The best example of this was with Pedro Vite. Looking lively in the previous games, everything went well for the Ecuadorian against Seattle, and he was able to play in the position he felt the most comfortable in, a free role. As a marauding attacking midfielder, Vite was able to use his play creating abilities to bolster the attack in subtle ways.
Equally, Ryan Gauld, who has been underwhelming at points this season, unlocked the potential his price-tag demands of him. Becoming an active part in attacking threats, he was on paper the Whitecaps best creator in this match. Whether it was a mental block or something else, Gauld was in his element against Seattle, and was able to create chances for Vite to pounce on, and was comfortable looking for his own shot as well. Of course, this resulted in the second goal that Vancouver scored (Albeit bouncing off of Frei, but the scoreline is what matters in the end.). With the midfield buzzing, an ever more powerful microscope is being placed on the Whitecaps striker position, but when the attacking midfielders can step up in the way they have, it can patch up those issues on a given night.
While Vanni Sartini has made a lot of questionable lineup choices this season, he made some very good ones on Saturday.The foremost of these were the tweaks in midfield. Sebastian Berhalter is basically Cubas lite, and with Cubas looking like he needed support the past few games, it was good to get the young American working in tandem with the Paraguayan. They have solid defending and great distribution, stopping attacks and creating plays out of possession recoveries. Rather than Berhalter coming in as a sub for Cubas, the duo of defensive midfielders have made a case for why they should be playing together. On top of that, Ali Ahmed has impressed whenever he’s been on the field and is constantly involved in attacking play. Adding him to cover for the attacking deficiencies of Cubas and Berhalter was a wrinkle many fans were hoping to see earlier, and if this game is any indication, it should be one to look for in the future.
In the defense, Laborda is clearly head and shoulders above how he’s been played so far. Finally taking him away from the right back position allowed the midfielders in front of him to effectively do what they are good at, and the same can be said of Laborda. There’s not much to be said about this overall when it comes to the back line, considering this was something that was clear when looking at recent performances.
The Whitecaps have a solid team this season. It’s just a matter of whether they are utilized in the most effective way possible. Sartini has his limitations, and while wins such as these are reassuring, there is often something left to be desired in his set-up which leads to less than three points. There is a feeling this team can fight for playoffs, but if they wish to reach for something higher then maybe a coach who is experienced in seeing the true strengths of each player could be the push to a title-contending team.