VANCOUVER, BC – Vancouver Whitecaps FC have become the best attacking team in Major League Soccer. And no, that’s not a hot take.
Since the start of May, the ‘Caps have scored more goals – both total (16) and per game (2.29) – than any other MLS team. They’ve also created the most chances (95) and big chances (21) during the same timeframe, according to Opta Sports.
These numbers confirm what many in these parts already know: this team is fun to watch right now. And Saturday’s 5-2 thrashing of Orlando City SC at BC Place was just the latest example.
So, what has been behind Vancouver’s offensive explosion?
Certainly, there are many factors at play, but it’s hard not to point towards Vancouver’s formation tweak as the catalyst. After experimenting with a few different formations in the early parts of the season, Carl Robinson trotted out a 4-4-2 on May 5 against Minnesota United FC.
It didn’t produce the result he wanted in that game – the ‘Caps lost 1-0. But there were some encouraging signs indeed. Vancouver created 19 chances that game, their season-high, so Robinson stuck to his guns.
And good thing he did.
The ‘Caps are unbeaten in six matches since that defeat in Minnesota, and they’ve scored at least two goals in each of those outings, which is a remarkable level of consistency in production.
One player who has particularly benefited from the new formation is Yordy Reyna.
The Peruvian attacking midfielder struggled to find his form in the first two months of the season, failing to find the scoresheet, but has been absolutely electric since the start of May while playing as a second forward with either Kei Kamara or Anthony Blondell. Case in point: Reyna has found the scoresheet in four of his last five starts for a total of three goals and three assists.
As a second forward, Reyna is still able to drop into midfield to get on the ball and defend when necessary, while also providing more of a threat in behind with his pace. Kamara’s opening goal on Saturday was the perfect example of what the latter can do for Vancouver’s attack.
You’ll notice that Reyna is actually the first ‘Caps player to make a run into the box. He occupies just enough of Oriol Rossell’s attention to open a passing lane for the trailing Kamara. By playing further up the field, Reyna makes Vancouver a much more dangerous side in the final third. It also takes a body out of the midfield, which places more responsibility on the shoulders of Felipe.
So far, he has risen to the challenge.
In his first seven starts, Felipe had one assist. In his last seven, he’s had five. The 27-year-old central midfielder is also averaging more touches, successful passes, and chances created from open play per game than he was in the first two months of the season.
It’s Felipe’s job to get the ball to Vancouver's attacking players. He’s certainly been doing that, and the likes of Reyna, Kamara, and wingers Alphonso Davies and Cristian Techera have taken care of the rest. On Saturday, for example, Felipe initiated the 'Caps attack on their first and fifth goals with passes to Davies, including this left-footed feed that split a pair of Orlando players.
Davies and Techera have been nearly unstoppable as of late, earning MLS Player of the Week honours in two of the last three weeks with a pair of electrifying performances at BC Place.
As Robinson said on Saturday, this might be the best attacking foursome he’s had at his disposal. And they’re firing on all cylinders at the moment, which has been a treat to watch.
Whitecaps FC return to action following the World Cup break on Saturday, June 23 at Philadelphia Union before hosting Colorado Rapids on Canada Day at BC Place (4 p.m. PT – get two tickets and a ‘Caps Canada scarf for $90).