Tuesday Lunch: Recap of Vancouver vs. Sporting KC

Posted: April 5, 2011 in mls
Tags: , , , , , ,

By Kyle Mohr

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Vancouver’s second ever MLS home game picked up right where the Whitecaps left off with an entertaining game, complete with an improbable comeback deep in stoppage time that proved to be enough for Vancouver to salvage a tie. The second MLS game at Empire Field featured six goals again so be sure to see if the streak continues tomorrow (April 6) when the Whitecaps take on the Revs. And now, a few notes on how the Vancouver – Kansas City game played out:

For Vancouver:

_48011912_88509012-1The Whitecaps missed Jay DeMerit: Besides the obvious skills that Jay DeMerit brings to the back line, it was perhaps his command and organization of the rest of the defense that was most missed by Vancouver. Not to take anything away from Teal Bunbury, but the positioning of the center backs on the Sporting goals was not the best, especially on Kamara’s goal. Once DeMerit returns and Vancouver can tighten up their defense, they will be able to collect more points.

Camilo Sanvezzo:  What a game the young Brazilian had. He looked dangerous the entire 90 minutes and was a constant threat to the Sporting defense. Not only did Camilo display his technique on the ball but showed his speed time and time again, repeatedly making threatening runs in behind the defense. I thought that he did an excellent job linking up with Wes Knight and later Davide Chiumiento and gave Sporting’s left back Roger Espinoza trouble all day, constantly finding space behind on the Honduran defender. To cap off a fantastic performance, Camilo scored both of Vancouver’s stoppage time goals, in the 92nd and 93rd minutes to secure a point for the Whitecaps. Camilo showcased his passing abilities extremely well too and proved how dangerous he is both at creating chances for himself and other players.

Sub warfare: The turning point in this game was the subs by Teitur Thordarson. Although each team was looking for different things tactically from their substitutes, Vancouver won the bench battle. Once Vancouver made their subs the game changed in their favor and KC was unable to respond to the changes off the bench. Chiumiento and Nizar Khalfan proved to be invaluable to the Whitecaps. On the other hand, Sporting’s substitutes failed to make much of an impact. Shavar Thomas looked a bit confused in the back and Stephane Auvray played decently. Craig Rocastle came in mainly to take time off the clock, but was unable to help KC hold onto their lead.

Davide Chiumiento: Once Chiumiento came into the game in the 69th minute, Vancouver improved drastically, scoring their first goal only several minutes later. Chiumiento provided the assist on the second Vancouver to leave his mark on the game. I think that the duo of Chiumiento and Camilo bring a lot of creativity to the Whitecaps offensively and when not scoring themselves should be able to set up Atiba Harris and Eric Hassli (who was out serving a suspension) for plenty of goals. The Vancouver attack is much better than I originally expected and it will be interesting to see if they need to rely on that to win games or if the defense can strength itself to relieve a bit of pressure from the attackers.

Nizar Khalfan:The offensive minded substitution of Khalfan for Greg Janicki proved to be a deciding factor in the game. Khalfan impressively improved the Vancouver attack and was lethal running down the wings and distributing the ball. He assisted on the first and third Whitecap goals, with both assists coming from the left. Along with the assists, Khalfan provided great link up play and helped to relieve pressure when Vancouver won the ball in their own half. Much like Camilo, Khalfan’s speed often proved to be too much for Sporting and he should as much on the first Vancouver goal, sprinting from within his own half to the far touchline while playing a great give and go with Camilo before sending his cross across the face of goal for Atiba Harris to tap in.

Down the wings:Vancouver seemed to attack mainly down either wing instead of trying to go straight down the middle. In particular, it seemed that Vancouver wanted to attack down their right wing where Sporting was playing rookie C.J. Sapong in the midfield in front of left back Espinoza, who struggled to defend his area, especially when Vancouver overloaded that side with players from the midfield. Repeatedly, Whitecaps were able to find space behind him, whether it was runs from Camilo, or overlaps from right back Jonathan Leathers. Vancouver were pretty successful at exploiting KC’s outside backs with their speed down the wings. Once they got in behind, they would send the balls into the box and it was using this strategy that Vancouver scored all of their goals. The first two Vancouver goals show how easy it was for them to get behind the Vancouver defenders and then center the ball back into the box. For the third goal, Vancouver went after Espinoza again who was positioned on the wrong side of Camilo, allowing the Brazilian to head home the equalizer.

Overall: Thordarson must be pleased with his team for coming back but they definitely struggled defensively. The offense and midfield looked good and I think Terry Dunfield has the potential to be a great creator from the midfield, he just needs to work on some of his decision making a bit. I was constantly impressed with the Whitecaps in this game and am looking forward to see if they can continue to play an entertaining and effective style against New England.

For Sporting KC:

Sporting came out strong, controlling the game for the first twenty minutes or so but unable to get anything to show for it. They didn’t create as many chances as Vancouver and I think they were outplayed a bit in the midfield. The suspension of Omar Bravo meant that Vancouver had an easier time of trying to shut down Bunbury (not that they did a good job of it) and I think the game would have opened up for KC much more had Bravo been on the field.

They be like Teal: What more can you say about Bunbury? He scored two wonderfully taken goals for Sporting and proved how dangerous is. Although he seemed to fade at times, he used that to his advantage to find space unnoticed by Vancouver and whip in his shots. He was harassed all game by the Vancouver crowd but responded with a brace and did not celebrate out of respect. Without Bravo to share the goal scoring responsibility with, Bunbury took the pressure upon himself and stepped up when his team needed him too. The opening goal was a great display of individual skill. Vancouver allowed Teal too much space but it was quickly shut down and the shot was perfectly placed. Bunbury’s second goal came from a great run into the box and then a quick move that left Janicki turning in circles. Teal then curled his shot to the near post and let the chorus of boos begin. Bunbury made great runs throughout the game and seems to be trying to send a message to Bob Bradley for this summer’s Gold Cup.

Birahim Diop: Along with Teal, I think Diop had one of the best games for KC. He did a good job in the midfield, and Vancouver’s attacks came most from the sides (whether that was by strategy or because of Diop is debatable) but he played well regardless. In general, the KC midfield often looked stretched but they did provide some good passes forward that led to scoring opportunities.

Jimmy Nielson: MLSTQ050520106553Nielson made several spectacular saves during this game and because of him, Sporting was able to keep the lead for as long as they did. The defense in front of him was not particularly effective and Nielson was required to make up for that. I won’t say it was Tim Howard vs. Argentina status, but it was a similar situation. Without Neilson in the net, Sporting probably would have given up several more goals, due to defensive lapses not poor keeping. The quote of the match was also inspired by Nielson. After giving up two goals in a matter of seconds in stoppage time, Khalfan raced towards the Sporting goal and unleashed a shot just wide, which could have been the winner for the Whitecaps. Nielson was furious with his defenders (rightly so) and began screaming in frustration. As the blood rushed to his face, the commentator promptly announced, “Jimmy Nielson has lost his nuts.” Given the amount of frustration Nielson was venting, that assessment probably wasn’t too far from the truth.

KC’s Defensive Problems:Like Vancouver, KC struggled in the back. One of their biggest problems was getting enough men back to mark up everyone that Vancouver was throwing forward. On the last goal, when Espinoza was positioned on the wrong side of Camilo, it was because he was trying to cover both Camilo and Chiumiento was would have been wide open, had Khalfan’s cross been sent to him instead of Camilo. On the second Vancouver goal as well, Espinoza was pushed up the pitch, without Sapong covering for him, which allowed Dunfield to find a huge amount of space for Chiumiento. Once Chiumiento was in on goal, KC’s two center backs found themselves on the wrong side of a three on two in the box. Before the pass to a wide-open Camilo, Thomas was marking him on the back post and Matt Besler was covering Atiba Harris at the near post. Once Chiumiento got in however, Besler was forced to shift over to try and defend him, leaving Thomas to cover two players. Harris delayed his run while Camilo ran diagonally to the near post leaving Thomas in no-man’s land and unable to cover either player. Like the third goal, KC lacked the numbers in the back to adequately defend all of the threats Vancouver had and this inability let Vancouver make a comeback.

Overall: I think KC was outplayed by Vancouver and relied on two players – Nielson and Bunbury – too much for that result. That being said, when Bravo returns KC should be much more dynamic and I think they are still a good enough team to challenge for a playoff spot, assuming this road trip doesn’t take too much out of them, which it may already be doing.

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