Kansas City remains the setting of nightmares for the Vancouver Whitecaps and their supporters.
The Blue and White lost a comfortable 3-1 lead last summer, a loss that still wakes fans up in the middle of the night with cold sweats. Yet another chapter to this horror saga was added last night after the Whitecaps fell by a score of 2-1 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.
After dropping their season opener at home against the Montreal Impact at BC Place, Carl Robinson made three changes to his starting XI in an effort to strengthen his defence and provide more balance to his squad.
Kekuta Manneh slotted in for suspended winger Christian Bolaños, Fraser Aird made way for Jordan Smith at right back and Honduran defensive midfielder Deybi Flores took the place of Kianz Froese. The Flores and Smith change could be justified as they are, on paper, more accomplished defensively than their counterparts.
The moves quickly backfired for the Welsh tactician as Flores misplayed an easy ball in midfield that was picked up by Dom Dwyer, carried forward and rifled in the top corner for the opening goal. All within the first five minutes of the match.
At this moment, Smith and Flores are simply not good enough to play at this level.
— Mark Rogers (@marktedrogers) March 13, 2016
The Whitecaps showed some signs of life though. At the 20th minute Kekuta Manneh had a breakaway after a lovely, over the top pass from Octavio Rivero but the native of Gambia placed his shot straight at a sprawling SKC goalkeeper.
Jordan Smith showed the same lack of tactical positioning and awareness that afflicted him in 2015 and was consistently beaten by Graham Zusi and Roger Espinoza. This was particularly evident at the 41st minute when Dwyer doubled his scoring tally after finding himself completely open in the Whitecaps box.
Adding insult to injury, Smith was shown a straight red card right before half time due to a reckless sliding tackle from behind that took Zusi out. If a comeback was difficult, going down a man made it practically impossible. It could be argued that the Whitecaps played their worst 45 minutes under Robinson’s tutelage in the first half of yesterday’s game.
Two substitutions were made at half time taking Cristian Techera and Deybi Flores out to bring back Fraser Aird and Kianz Froese. In fairness, the Whitecaps looked considerably better in the second half but the damage was done. Designated Players Octavio Rivero and Pedro Morales combined by earning and scoring a penalty kick respectively making the game a more respectable 2-1 score line.
The Whitecaps continue to demonstrate the same ailments that afflicted them in 2015, Octavio Rivero is too isolated up front, Kekuta Manneh continues to be an ineffective starter, and the team is too slow in attacking transition.
To make matters worse, the early iteration of the 2016 Whitecaps are suffering from problems that they have not experienced in the past. Mistakes in the defensive end are costing goals, some of their best players like Matías Laba and Cristian Techera look like shallow versions of their former selves, and the lack of an experienced and accomplished right back has been made evident through the first two games of the season.
Is it just me or has Matias Laba been pretty tame through Whitecaps’ first two games? #VWFC
— John Molinaro (@JohnMolinaro) March 13, 2016
The Whitecaps have a week to considerably improve their performance as they are scheduled to visit their archenemies and Cascadia rivals, Seattle Sounders next Saturday at Century Link Field.
Coincidentally, both the Whitecaps and Sounders are the only teams in the Western Conference who have lost both of their season opening games and are both sitting at the bottom of the table. As if either team needed extra motivation to win this match.