What we learned vs. Columbus Crew

"If he's not the best defensive midfielder in MLS, he's not far off"

Laba TWO ONE

Photo Credit: 
USA Today Sports Images

Our Vancouver Whitecaps FC created a lot of good chances in the game and were rewarded with a 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew – their first road win of the season.

So, what did we learn?

Just reward

Watch Erik Hurtado's goal in slow motion

Erik Hurtado scored his first Major League Soccer goal on Saturday, and what a beauty it was. Hurtado has put in some good all-around performances this year coming off the bench.

His hold-up play has been good and his speed to get in behind the defence has created a lot of chances and caused a lot of problems for opposing teams. The only thing that had been missing was goals.

Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson’s belief in Hurtado has given him the platform to play to his true potential, and it was a credit to him that he was the only player that started on Wednesday and Saturday. And he didn’t disappoint, as he led the line and led the Crew defence to a merry dance all game.

He’s had much easier chances to score than this one, which will surely be up for MLS Goal of the Week. He controlled the ball with his chest from a David Ousted long ball, took one touch across the box before hitting an unstoppable shot with his weaker foot into the top corner and getting his just reward for another fine performance.

Maturing team

Highlights: Columbus Crew 0-1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Robinson has been preaching for his team to play the same way on the road as they do at BC Place and on Saturday they did just that. They showed a lot of composure in possession, kept their shape defensively, and were devastating on the break.

This was by far the best our ‘Caps have looked in their travels, as this team keeps getting better each time they enter the field. We looked like the home team and Columbus did not have any answers to our play on the night – it could have been 3-0 or 4-0 if we were a little more clinical with our finishing.

The Crew found it hard trying to break through our team defence, and when they threw more players forward, they found themselves being exposed on the break time and time again. On Saturday, the ‘Caps set the standard for how to play away from home and that should instill a lot of confidence in them the next time they hit the road.

Destroyer

Laba deflects a late Wil Trapp shot wide of the goal

Matias Laba made a career-high 11 tackles on the night and that did not nearly tell the tale of another incredible performance. He was everywhere on the field making tackles, intercepting the ball and starting off many a ‘Caps attack.

As good players do, they make the teammates around them better and it’s not a coincidence that his partner in midfield Gershon Koffie is having one of the best spells of his career. They are both young, but Laba plays with a maturity of an old pro and it seems that Koffie is picking up a lot from his partner’s game.

Crew midfielder Federico Higuain is a premier player in MLS and he didn’t get a sniff all night. Laba managed to deny him the ball most of the game and if he did find himself in possession, he had Laba breathing down his neck. The thing that impresses me the most about Laba is how well he reads the game for a player so young and how well he times his tackles when he does commit to win the ball.

It was a good all-around performance defensively from the ‘Caps to get their first road win of the season, and I’m sure a lot of Laba’s teammates are appreciative of how he makes their job a little easier when he’s on the field.

If he’s not the best defensive midfielder in MLS, then he’s not far off.

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