Player spotlight: Tchani the 'connector' key to recent 'Caps success

Tchani celebration - AJ

COMMERCE CITY, CO – In one of his first interviews following the acquisition of Tony Tchani earlier this year, Carl Robinson called the Cameroon midfielder a “connector.”

We’re starting to see just exactly what he meant.

Tchani has been crucial to Vancouver’s success over the last five matches, a period during which they posted a 3W-1L-1D record thanks to impressive victories over New York City FC, Los Angeles Galaxy, and FC Dallas and – most recently – an entertaining 2-2 draw with Colorado Rapids on Saturday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

For starters, there’s his offensive production.

He recorded two goals during that stretch, including a classy first-time finish on Saturday in Colorado, and an assist. Not bad for a centre mid. But that’s only part of the story.

Placement over power.

1-0 @WhitecapsFC early on. #COLvVAN

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 6, 2017

The bigger story? His ability to connect Vancouver’s midfield to their attack.

A lot of what Tchani does doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, but if you dig a bit deeper into the statistics, you start to get a better picture of his value to the team. As you can see below, four of Tchani’s top five passing performances of the season have come during this five-game stretch. And the other came in a 3-1 win over Atlanta.


<strong>PASSING %</strong>
<p align="center">1</p>
<p align="center">90.24</p>
<p align="center">1-0 win at LA (July 19)</p>
<p align="center">2</p>
<p align="center">88.46</p>
<p align="center">3-1 win over Atlanta (June 3)</p>
<p align="center">3</p>
<p align="center">86.96</p>
<p align="center">2-2 draw with Colorado (Aug 5)</p>
<p align="center">4</p>
<p align="center">86.36</p>
<p align="center">4-0 win over FC Dallas (July 29)</p>
<p align="center">5</p>
<p align="center">84.44</p>
<p align="center">3-2 win over NYCFC (July 5)</p>

What does that tell us?

That Tchani is “getting better each game,” as Robinson said following Saturday’s match. It also tells us that when Tchani is “on,” so too are the ‘Caps.

And they’ve both been “on” more often than not in recent weeks.

In the last five games, for example, Tchani has had more successful passes and passes into the final third than any other player on the team. He’s also had the best passing accuracy (if you exclude Bernie Ibini, who has only played 140 minutes during that stretch).

Let’s take a closer look at some of his work from Saturday.

I particularly want to draw your attention to the play below, in which Tchani makes himself available to Tim Parker, eludes a pair of Rapids, before splitting two more with a pass to Yordy Reyna.

Nothing came of it in the end, but it gives you a glimpse of how Tchani is pushing play forward through his passing.

Here are a few more examples.

In these instances, Tchani plays the ball out wide to Vancouver’s wingers, leading to a pair of scoring chances. In the first play, Ibini plays a throughball to Reyna, who fired a shot over the goal. And in the second one, Cristian Techera whips in a cross to Fredy Montero, who hits the near post.

The common theme in each of these plays?

Tchani is putting Vancouver’s attacking players in positions where they can … attack. And as Robinson said from day one, that’s exactly what he’s here to do.