VANCOUVER, BC – The first month of the 2014 Major League Soccer season is officially in the books.
And though there are still seven months to go, the first five matches have given us an early indication of what to expect from a revamped Vancouver Whitecaps FC side.
The ‘Caps have posted a 2W-1L-2D record thus far, which is good enough for third in the Western Conference. From Kenny Miller’s team-high three goals (also tied for second in the league) to David Ousted’s 14 saves, including an MLS Save of the Week, Carl Robinson’s side have received contributions from several different players over the course of this young season.
Here’s a glimpse at some of the numbers behind Vancouver’s first five matches.
When Whitecaps FC acquired Designated Player Pedro Morales prior to the season, Robinson said “he’ll make all the players around him better.” And that’s exactly what he’s done.
The Chilean attacking midfielder leads all of MLS with 12 chances created from open play and three big chances created – a big chance is defined as a “situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range.”
Also of note, Morales is tied for first in the league with seven shots on target and second to only Real Salt Lake and U.S. national team midfielder Kyle Beckerman with 57 passes into the final third.
Considering these statistics, not to mention his goal and two assists, it’s safe to say that Morales has lived up to the hype in his first five MLS matches.
Speaking of living up to the hype, Matias Laba has quietly done the same. His 25 tackles are tied for second best in the league – only one behind leader Diego Chara.
As a holding midfielder, Laba plays an important role in supporting the back line and moving the ball up to Vancouver’s attacking players. The Argentine won’t get many points, but as Robinson put it, “he does a lot of the unseen work” that allows Vancouver to play the way they do.
“Obviously, everyone sees the passes and the goals,” Robinson told reporters after Saturday’s match, “but Laba is a very crucial player for us.”
The 22-year-old Young Designated Player is also second among all midfielders with 15 interceptions and seventh in the league with 235 successful passes, which makes him the team-leader in both categories.
At this point, it’s no secret that Robinson wants his team to play an attacking, possession-based style. In fact, the Welshman made that clear before the season even started.
And so far, his stamp on the team has been evident.
The ‘Caps are third in the league in three different offensive categories: shots on target (26), goals (eight), and assists (six). And for the most part, the way they’ve generated these numbers is through their build-up play from the midfield – an encouraging sign as the team continues to gel.
After missing most of the preseason with a back injury, the ‘Caps have brought second-year striker/winger Kekuta Manneh along slowly in the first five matches of the season.
Though he has yet to start, the 19-year-old Gambian has appeared in each of Vancouver’s matches as a second-half substitute. And he’s shown some glimpses of what he’s capable of – particularly, his ability to take on opposing defenders in one-on-one situations.
Manneh has completed six dribbles (defined as a “successful attempt by a player to beat a defender while retaining possession”) in 90 minutes of action. No player in the league (who has played at least 90 minutes) is averaging more completed dribbles per game.
FC Dallas youngsters Fabian Castillo and Mauro Diaz are second and third on the list with an average of 3.6 completed dribbles per 90 minutes.
Statistics courtesy of Opta Sports.
It’s not too late to participate in the best sporting experience in Vancouver. Whitecaps FC offer a flexible range of ticket products, including half-season tickets ($244), 5-packs ($149), student season tickets ($199), and a youth soccer half-season ticket ($100). Single-match tickets start at $22, subject to applicable fees. For more information on all Whitecaps FC ticket options, call 604.669.9283 ext. 2 or visit whitecapsfc.com/tickets.