Lack of finish may come back to haunt Whitecaps FC, but goals don't always tell the whole story

Dec 20 2017, 12:16 am

Octavio Rivero hasn’t scored a goal from open-play in nine games when he shrugged off Philadelphia Union defender Ethan White and powered the ball low and hard into the goal during a 3-0 Vancouver Whitecaps’ win.

In fact, Rivero has only managed to score two goals in his last 14 games. That is certainly not the goal-scoring pace you would expect from a Designated Player who was signed to provide exactly that.

However, Whitecaps manager Carl Robinson doesn’t necessarily see that as a major concern yet because his side are creating chances. It’s the finish or lack thereof from the squad as a whole that may come back to haunt his team.

“If we weren’t generating any chances I’d be be worried, but we are generating,” Robinson said at the conclusion of Tuesday’s Open Practice at Swangard Stadium.

“Now we’ve got to take that next step and show a little bit more composure and guile in the final-third and take them chances because if we get the first goal Sunday, it’s a different game.

“[Rivero] does a lot of good work for the team and I’ve said he’s not just a goal-scorer. He will be judged by certain quarters on how many goals he scores.

“We’ll continue to try and get him back on that track because it is about scoring goals, but if he doesn’t score it’s important someone else steps up and scores.”

Someone needs to finish the chances. It’s been the same story for a while now – the team create a lot, but don’t finish as much as they should even when they are winning.

Rivero currently sits tied in ninth position with the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, all with seven league goals to their name, one more than Los Angeles Galaxy striker Robbie Keane. Columbus Crew forward Kei Kamara sits atop the leader board with 12 goals on the season.

As a team, the Caps, who are tied for first-place in the Western Conference with rivals Seattle Sounders, have managed to find the back of the net 23 times this season, after having played in 20 league games, with three being the most goals they’ve scored in a single league match.

Vancouver’s total goals-for tally ranks second-worst among Western Conference playoff teams. Only the Portland Timbers, sitting in fourth-place, have scored less goals with their total of 22.

Scoring goals is obviously an important aspect within a game that traditionally considers a ‘goal’ to be a rare event. It’s a pretty simple equation, if you don’t score you won’t win games.

Yet, it’s not necessarily about how many goals you score. What is more important is taking your chances when they are given and capitalizing on your opportunities.

The Los Angeles Galaxy have scored more goals (31) this season than any MLS team currently occupying a playoff spot. They find themselves in fifth-place in the Western Conference, a point behind the three leaders at the top, Seattle Sounders (25 goals), Vancouver Whitecaps (23 goals) and FC Dallas (26) and tied with the fourth-placed Portland Timbers (22 goals).

The Galaxy also possess a better goal-difference than the four teams above them in the Western Conference. They’ve managed to outscore every team in the league, only just to keep pace in the standings.

In 2012, the Whitecaps scored a total of 35 goals on the season and qualified for the MLS Playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The next year they set their current MLS franchise high for goals in a season with 53 and missed the playoffs. Last season they tallied 42 goals and qualified for the playoffs.

You obviously want to score as many goals as you possibly can each and every game, but a little bit of magic in and around goal is what Vancouver has been missing over the last couple weeks to compliment their strong defensive showings. Timeliness of goals is key.

The games that Vancouver have lost this year have for the majority been due to a lack of finish rather than a lack of chances.

They have not been getting blown away by any means this year, maybe except for that game against Seattle back in May where they lost 2-0 at home and was their worst performance of the season, but they haven’t fully taken advantage of their opportunities over the years in games that they probably should be winning either.

How many goals you score may not be everything, but a continued lack of finish may spell disaster within a tight Western Conference.

DH Vancouver StaffDH Vancouver Staff

+ News