Men in the middle
VANCOUVER, BC - A new-look central midfield proved the difference for Vancouver Whitecaps FC in a 2-0 win over San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.
Lining up with Gershon Koffie in the holding role behind the central pairing of Nigel Reo-Coker and Daigo Kobayashi, Vancouver ran the show in the middle of the park with the trio's combination of brain, brawn and guile.
Reo-Coker, often the heartbeat of the Whitecaps' midfield, earned the Budweiser Man of the Match award for his lung-busting surges from midfield on the night, and his play on Camilo's game-winning goal in particular was an excellent display of athleticism, as he kicked into another gear and rushed past a couple of Earthquakes defenders before setting up the Brazilian for his 14th goal of the MLS campaign.
“I think he has an impact on the game offensively, but doesn't necessarily always get the assist or the goal but I think that he does have an impact,” Whitecaps FC manager Martin Rennie said after the game. “He drives us forward and I thought he did that really well again today, and in the second half in particular that was a major factor in the game.”
For Koffie, who has rarely played the holding role, it was a new but pleasant experience. Rennie opted to play the Ghanaian in the holding spot rather than regular shut-down man Jun Marques Davidson, who didn't see the field despite being eligible for selection after serving his suspension for headbutting Keon Daniel in Vancouver's 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union two weeks ago.
While Koffie has the strength and natural athleticism required of a holding midfielder, he also offered more on the ball than Davidson and his presence created a more dynamic, fluid central midfield unit going forward.
“We're lucky we've got the options we have,” Reo-Coker said. “We've got so many great players we can play and interchange and the difference with Gershon, Daigo, myself, is we have the ability to interchange.
“It's not one designated player doing that deep role," he continued. "All three of us have the ability to do that and that's a slight different advantage we've had in playing that three as as [opposed to] playing with different other players.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.