Know Your Enemy: Vancouver Whitecaps FC
OTF’s Stephen Mangat conjures Asia, then takes you to Vancouver for his signature opponent and tactical preview…
“Do you remember when we used to dance?
And incidence arose from circumstance.
One thing lead to another we were young,
and we would scream together songs unsung…
It was the HEAT OF THE MOMENT,
telling me what your heart meant!”
While any time is a good time to rock out to Asia, the Chicago Fire’s game this weekend at Vancouver is more fitting than usual.
The moment will be filled with lots of heat, as the Whitecaps are on fire (4-0-1 in their past five), Magic Mike Magee and Camilo are scoring goals for fun, and, of course, Chicago is nicknamed the Fire. Plus, this game comes in light of Magee’s comments about the Fire needing more desire, so we’ll see if the other Men in Red have enough heart to get the job done at BC Place.
So pop in your favorite mixtape, crank your boom-boxes, and put on your stonewashed jeans as we look at the Fire’s opponent for Saturday…
PLAY OUR MUSIC!!!
Vancouver coach Martin Rennie will probably have his team run out in a narrow 4-3-3 that looks something like this:
Rennie’s story is an interesting one (from corporate world to random coaching around Scotland to low-level US coaching to MLS) and it’s worth checking out his Wikipedia page for a quick read.
One of the most interesting lines from the page notes that “Rennie attributes much of his coaching success to the leadership and psychological lessons he learned during a hugely successful career in the corporate world as well as the invaluable support he has had from assistant coaches Brian Irvine and Paul Ritchie, both former Scotland national football team players.”
Brad Knighton is playing the best soccer of his career and pulled off a handful of fantastic saves last weekend, earning the MLS Player of the Week award. He’s not physically imposing, but did get an assist on the Whitecaps’ second goal last weekend, so Chicago must be aware of his long kicks. At the same time, Vancouver has brought in Dane David Ousted (ex-Randers), so how will Knighton deal with the heat?
Center back Jay DeMerit is hurt, though that’s usually to be assumed. More newsworthy is when he’s healthy.
South Korean Lee Young-Pyo (ex-PSV, Spurs) will be on the right with Jordan Harvey on the left. Both have good speed, stamina and defensive ability. They’ll support the attack well, and with Gonzalo Segares out Lee could certainly cause the Fire problems on their left. New Fire man Shaun Francis will have his hands full.
Brad Rusin is tall (6’4″), new (had been in Denmark), and is a Rennie favorite from their days with the Carolina RailHawks. Rusin will partner with skillful Honduran Johnny Leveron in middle. It’s a nice partnership and the unit does a good job given how forward-leaning the rest of the team is.
It’s a tough guy trio in midfield: Gershon Koffie, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Jun Marques Davidson are all athletic, defensive midfielders who will break up play and play simple balls to the attackers. This group won’t provide vision, but they’re tough and play to their strengths.
Oddly enough, this trio of defensive midfielders doesn’t provide great cover for the defense. Vancouver’s given up 25 goals this season (5th highest in the league), but it’s not that the midfield’s incompetent, it’s that they press hard and are over-aggressive at times, which leaves plenty of space between the midfield and back four.
The front three will be Camilo, Kenny Miller, and someone else. Camilo has scored in five of Vancouver’s last six games and is third in the league with ten goals. He’s good from set pieces and will get some chances at them since he’s a bit of a diver. He’s also a bit of a ball hog, so if you’re watching this game with a Whitecaps fan, you’ll both be yelling at Camilo throughout the game. Miller is the same player he’s been throughout his nomadic career: not particularly gifted physically nor super skillful, but a goalscorer nonetheless.
Joining these two will be one of Daigo Kobayashi, Darron Mattocks, or Corey Hertzog. Mattocks can be electrifying at his best. He’d be an automatic choice with most teams, so beware when he steps on the field. Kobayashi is a skillful creator, but more importantly, he does something in the future so great that a ship from a famous Starfleet exam bears his name. Hertzog is nothing special, so Chicago fans should hope he’s the one who plays.
How can Chicago win?
Go outside, young men
Miller and Camilo will make smart runs while Lee and Harvey will get forward, so the Fire’s outside midfielders and backs will need to be aware defensively. And even though Segares will be out and the Whitecaps will be in a 4-3-3, Chicago can find joy on the outside. The Whitecaps’ midfield will be narrow and don’t expect a ton of high pressure from the forwards, both of which will provide the Fire’s outside midfielders with some time to get at it.
Runs from Larentowicz
With the Vancouver midfield’s aggressive pressing and Chicago’s forwards being a threat to get behind the defense, there should be room between the Whitecaps’ midfield and defense. Yet if Frank Klopas positions someone in that space, Vancouver will put someone there as well. The space should be filled with driving runs by Jeff Lawrentowicz.
While beating someone off (heh) the dribble and going on a 30-yard run with the ball is unlikely, it’s quite easy to see the ball going from Berry to Anibaba up to Duka who plays a slightly diagonal ball inside to an on-running Larentowicz.
Feed the Magic Man
Mike Magee has been playing as well as anyone in MLS the past couple of months, so Klopas would be well-advised to tell his men to get Magic Mike the damn ball. Simple stuff, but it’s what works.
Best of luck, Fire fans. The Union have Chivas tonight, so hopefully I’ll be celebrating a slaughter.
OTF’s Stephen Mangat jukes for a living. Follow him @smangat12