As briefly discussed in Episode #118 of From The Backline, the three co-hosts of FTBL have differing views on who head coach Carl Robinson will send out to face the Montreal Impact this Sunday. Will Sam Adekugbe get the nod over veteran Jordan Harvey? Has Fraser Aird won the starting job at right-back? Will Jorge finally get that call-up to the game-day roster based on his showing in the media invitational? (Keep dreaming, buddy…)
While we only touched on the subject during the episode, we had plenty more to say once the recording was over. Thus, we are proud to present the first of many FTBL roundtable discussions in which we further flesh out our views on pressing Vancouver Whitecaps topics.
Today’s roundtable: who starts against Montreal on March 6th?
Rituro: Comparing our lineups, the first thing that jumps out is Harvey starting at left-back instead of Adekugbe. What was your rationale behind that pick?
Mark: I think it’s still Harvey’s position to lose. I’m hoping to see Adekugbe where he left off pre-Voyageurs Cup semifinal, before he was injured. I’m looking to that first few months of the year where Adekugbe was pushing Harvey out. That said, I think Harvey still gets the start based on his body of work from last year and this pre-season. His leash will be pretty short this season and if he has a poor run of play, Adekugbe will be in there.
Jorge: I have two rationales. Number one: the moment that [Carl] Robinson sacrifices that second defensive midfielder, that puts more pressure on the defensive line. Overall, Harvey is a better defender than Adekugbe and he’s shown that over the pre-season. Building on that, who’s going to play next to Adekugbe? Tim Parker. Looking at the line, you’re going to have Harvey helping Parker in terms of a supporting veteran presence and [Kendall] Waston on the other side helping Aird. You’ll get that combination of veteran and young player spread out across the line.
Mark: Yeah. For example, take Jordan Smith. My biggest question about him is defensive positioning. That was his biggest liability last season.
Jorge: He’s looked considerably better in pre-season.
Mark: I mean, I’m willing to give the guy a lot of slack based on his small sample of games from last year. Still, it’s probably Aird who gets the start. I was very surprised at how good a crosser of the ball Aird is.
Rituro: See, that’s why I want Adekugbe starting. I want to see the ‘Caps continue that hard-hitting, counter-attacking style. We know Adekugbe can do that. We know he can bomb in crosses from the left. I can remember standing pitchside at the ‘Caps-Vikes friendly at UVic and Robbo was shouting, “That’s your ball, Sammy!” Robbo made it very clear he wanted Adekugbe to be bombing down the left and sending in crosses.
Jorge: But so can Harvey. And Harvey’s the one who won the penalty on Saturday against Minnesota.
Rituro: True. The way I see it, though, is that Harvey is the guy you bring on for that defensive presence. I want Vancouver to go down Montreal’s throat by attacking the flanks. Montreal doesn’t have Nigel Reo-Coker back there anymore, so it’s not a gimme that you’re going to crack open their right side, but if you have Aird and Adekugbe bombing up from the flanks while you also have [Christian] Bolanos and [Cristian] Techera there, you’re going to overload Montreal with high-energy talent. That’s how I want Vancouver to crack open the Montreal defence.
Mark: The other concern I have with putting Adekugbe in at this point is, if you look at that back line even without [Gershon] Koffie, [Russell] Teibert or [Matias] Laba, they had one of the best defences in Major League Soccer last year. They only allowed 35 or 36 goals which was the lowest in the league to go with 13 clean sheets. Their work as a group was very good last year and I’m afraid of making too many changes. It’s probably too much to expect [Pa Modou] Kah will play as many minutes as last year, though Marius [Rovde] said last year when we had him up here that Kah could’ve been the best player they signed last year without playing a single minute on the pitch. He bring so many other things but he’ll probably take a back seat this year.
Rituro: Let’s look at the other big difference. Jorge, you used, what, a 4-1-4-1?
Jorge: A 4-4-1-1 with [Pedro] Morales deep.
Rituro: And you think that’s going to be the formation that works against Montreal?
Jorge: I think that’s the formation that works long-term because it allows the best players to be on the pitch at the same time.
Rituro: I’m amazed you put [Blas] Perez in the conversation for “best players” when you consider — look at who else you’ve got on that team!
Jorge: No, no, as of right now. The moment that [Masato] Kudo gets up to speed, then I’ll swap Perez for Kudo.
Rituro: Alright, I’ll go with you that far.
Jorge: We’re talking about Sunday, right?
Rituro: Yes, we are.
Jorge: Right now, Kudo is not up to speed.
Rituro: Of course.
Jorge: So as of right now, that’s how you get the best players on the pitch at the same time.