HONOLULU, HAWAII – Vancouver Whitecaps FC continued to ramp up their preseason preparations on Sunday, playing a 50-minute intrasquad match at the University of Hawaii.
Yordy Reyna scored the lone goal of the scrimmage, finishing a cross from Whitecaps FC Academy product Chance Carter just before the final whistle.
This was very much a training exercise for the ‘Caps, who will play their first preseason match on Friday as part of the Pacific Rim Cup. It was also an opportunity for the coaching staff to get a look at several players currently a part of the club’s Academy and development team, with all 12 Whitecaps FC Academy products on the trip getting some minutes.
Certainly, we shouldn’t be reading too much into a preseason scrimmage, but here are some of my early observations as the ‘Caps continue to build towards their March 2 season opener.
As Marc Dos Santos said from day one, one of his primary goals for the preseason was to establish a clear understanding of the way he wants his team to play.
And that was certainly on display Sunday.
For starters, both teams lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with a triangle midfield, featuring a single defensive midfielder. Jon Erice occupied that role for Team Blue, playing beneath Felipe and Andy Rose, while Whitecaps FC Academy product Patrick Metcalfe did so for Team Green.
See the full lineups below.
18.Zac MacMath (51.Thomas Hasal 33’); 28.Jake Nerwinski, 2.Doneil Henry, 13.Derek Cornelius, 46.Brett Levis; 15.Andy Rose, 6.Jon Erice, 8.Felipe Martins (61.Chance Carter 39’), 29.Yordy Reyna, 50.Theo Bair, 94.Victor “PC” Giro
16.Maxime Crépeau (39.Sean Melvin 33’); 23.Scott Sutter (59. Kamron Habibullah 27’), 26.Brendan McDonough, 24.David Norman, 52.Gabriel Escobar; 54.Simon Colyn, 53.Patrick Metcalfe, 57.Matheus Queiroz; 56.Georges Mukumbilwa, 60.Jefferson Alade, 19.Lass Bangoura (58.Brandon Cambridge 27’)
The formation, however, is simply a starting point.
The ‘Caps coaching staff was more interested in seeing whether the principles and behaviours they have been preaching over the first few weeks of preseason started to come to life – for example, whether the team was trying to win the ball back in the right areas of the pitch, whether they were picking the right moments to attack, and so forth.
“We worked a lot in the first eight or nine days about the principles of our offensive and defensive organizations,” said Whitecaps FC assistant coach Vanni Sartini. “And we saw a lot of what we’re starting to implement. Of course, we have a lot to work on. But I would say that we’re laying a solid foundation to implement our way of playing.”
One combination that stood out for me on Sunday was that of Felipe and Erice.
The duo linked well in midfield, often finding each other with simple one-touch passing. They also combined for a decent opportunity in the 12th minute, when Felipe laid a ball off to Erice at the top of the box before the Spaniard went for goal with a lobbed effort – forcing Maxime Crépeau into one of a few key saves during his 33 minutes of action.
Coincidentally, Felipe and Erice have been spending a lot of time together so far this trip. And if Sunday was any indication, they appear to be building some chemistry on the pitch, too.
“They’re quality players,” Sartini said. “They’re players that can play at a certain level. They can stand out for their technical quality. To be honest, I really liked the attitude of every player.”
Reyna, who started the match on the right wing, caused problems from the get go with his pace and trickery on the flanks and was rewarded with a late goal.
Over the last few years, the Peruvian has been primarily deployed as a withdrawn striker or attacking midfielder for the ‘Caps. And he certainly has a lot to offer in both positions, as evidenced by his offensive production.
But clearly, the ‘Caps coaching staff also feels he can be a fit out wide.
“Yordy is a very talented player,” Sartini said. “It’s a player that is very good one v. one. So we tried to maximize his capacity playing in that role. During the season, he will play as a 10 sometimes, he will play as a 9. He will have to be ready in any position.”