Tchani celebration - Reyna, Parker, Davies, Ibini
Bob Frid/Vancouver Whitecaps FC

10 things: On Vancouver's identity, playoff outlook, and more

I have a lot of thoughts. Some make sense. Others don’t. OK, most of them don’t.

Either way, I’m going to start sharing them.

Here’s my first installment of 10 things, in which you’ll find me rambling about all things Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Have a question you’d like addressed? Feel free to drop a comment at the bottom of this page or send me a tweet and I’ll discuss in the next article.

Here we go.

1. Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s 2-2 draw with Columbus Crew SC on Saturday, coupled with Seattle’s scoreless draw with FC Dallas and Portland’s 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake, has the ‘Caps atop the Western Conference heading into Week 29. It’s not the latest they’ve been in first – that would be September 26, 2015 heading into their Week 30 home loss to New York City FC – but it would be with a win this weekend vs. Colorado Rapids (7 p.m. PT at BC Place – tickets still available).

2. This is around the time of year I start talking about magic numbers, which help us quantify how close teams are to – in this instance – mathematically qualifying for the playoffs. As of now, Vancouver’s magic number is 10. That means any combination of points gained by Whitecaps FC and dropped by San Jose Earthquakes (the Western Conference team with the seventh highest maximum points) would see Vancouver secure their playoff berth. The earliest it could happen is next week.

3. What is Vancouver’s identity? That’s a question Carl Robinson was asked last week on ExtraTime Radio and his answer was quite telling. “I think if you ask any coach or any supporter, they want to play like Barcelona. Unfortunately, there’s not many teams that do play like Barcelona … It’s dictated by your players. And you’ve got to try and find a successful formation and a successful way of playing. But you’ve got to know who you are … we’re not going to be top of the possession stakes and we’re okay with that because we know how to defend, we know how to be organized, and what we’ve brought in this year is young, dynamic, exciting attacking players that are able to create transitions at certain moments and be able to score goals, which I think is something I think we lacked last year. What’s our identity? We’re hard to play against, we’re able to mix play up. Football, at any level, you’ve got to be able to mix play up, whether you pass short or long, whether you press or you don’t press. We are a very good transitional team. You look at Leicester who won the Premier League by being a transitional team. You’ve got to have transitional players. I think we went away from that last year and we got back to it this year.” They sure have. The ‘Caps are only averaging 42 per cent possession per match, which is the lowest in MLS, but they’re still averaging the third most goals per game in the West, including 13 goals during this six-match unbeaten run.   

4. There were no shortage of storylines in Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Columbus – the big one of course being Kekuta Manneh and Tony Tchani both scoring against their old clubs after getting traded for each other earlier this year. Of course that would happen. Following the match, Manneh told reporters that he’s keeping his options open for next year, but he wants to play in Europe. This is the final year of his contract, which was a major factor in the trade. The ‘Caps didn’t want to lose him for nothing. Instead, they got Tchani and $300,000 in allocation money.

5. Speaking of Tchani, this was an interesting interaction with Crew SC head coach Greg Berhalter after the match.

In an interview posted to Columbus’ website, Berhalter said he was just having some fun: “I was joking, they’re in first place, we’re still trying to catch that, he should have missed that. But I’m happy for Tony as well.”

6. In previous years, one of the criticisms of the ‘Caps was their inability to come from behind and earn a result. That certainly doesn’t appear to be an issue in 2017. Sixteen of Vancouver’s points this year have come from matches in which they were trailing. Saturday was the latest example. “I’m never worried about our team quitting if we go behind,” said defender Jordan Harvey. “We’re a team that pushes on and really gets better if we’re down, knowing that we need to push. And guys coming on always make a difference.”

7. What a difference Yordy Reyna has made over the last few months. The Peruvian has started seven matches after recovering from a broken foot suffered in the preseason. The ‘Caps are unbeaten (4W-0L-3D) in those games, scoring a whopping 17 goals. Coincidence? I think not. Also of note, all four of Reyna's goals have been game-winners. That's one game-winner off the MLS lead, and Reyna has played at least 12 fewer games played than each of the four players in front of him. 

8. Another player who's been on fire is Fredy Montero. Not only does the Colombian striker have a team-high 12 goals on the season, which is one short of his career-high, he has also quietly racked up five assists. That includes this fantastic last-minute helper in Saturday’s draw. 

Montero, in fact, created a game-high four chances on Saturday.

9. On Monday, all PR directors around the league received player nominee forms for Major League Soccer’s end of season awards. That got me thinking: which ‘Caps deserve to be in the running? For me, I think there are strong cases to be made for Carl Robinson (Coach of the Year), Kendall Waston (Defender of the Year), and Jake Nerwinski (Rookie of the Year) to at least be among the finalists for their respective awards.  

10. As you may have seen on Saturday, new Whitecaps FC midfielder Nosa Igiebor is in town and expected to train with the group for the first time on Tuesday. Igiebor will wear number 50 for the ‘Caps. If you’re wondering how to pronounce his last name, hear from the man himself.