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Three things from the Vancouver Whitecaps’ road loss to Real Salt Lake

Apr 7, 2018; Sandy, UT, USA; Vancouver Whitecaps defender Efrain Juarez (6) and Real Salt Lake forward Corey Baird (27) play a ball from a throw in during the first half at Rio Tinto Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

One year after the famous “Snow Bowl” the Vancouver Whitecaps once again fail to record a victory on the road against Real Salt Lake. 

Carl Robinson continues tactical rotations

Another match, another formation. While last season Carl Robinson almost religiously stuck to his 4-2-3-1 formation, the Vancouver head coach has been very experimental this season. The Whitecaps have started games using a 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 and 4-3-3 formation this season.

Against Real Salt Lake City Carl Robinson once again used a new formation starting Nicolás Mezquida next to Kei Kamara on top of the midfield. An attacking midfielder Mezquida was supposed to provide the Whitecaps with some link up play by falling deep and picking up the ball on the rush to allow the Whitecaps to utilise their counterplay.

It was an interesting tactical gamble that, unfortunately, did not pay off. Mezquida struggled in his role and played just seven successful passes all game with an overall pass accuracy of 53.8 percent, contributing only one shot on target. 

Brek Shea continues his road heroics

Ahead of the match, the Whitecaps attacking midfielder had scored four of his six goals since joining on the road. With the Whitecaps one goal down Brek Shea was brought on in the 74th minute for left-back Marcel de Jong to provide more attacking power. 

The move immediately provided the Whitecaps with some more attacking options as Alphonso Davies dropped deep to take over the left-back role backing up Shea defensively. Offensively, the move worked Shea scored a late goal for the Whitecaps bringing his road goal tally to five goals since he joined the Whitecaps. Unfortunately, for the Whitecaps the goal was too little, too late, as Real Salt Lake had scored their second of the game in the 88th minute.

The Whitecaps are vulnerable when trying to control play

The game against Real Salt Lake highlighted once again that the Whitecaps are vulnerable when forced to keep possession. Robinson built his side with quick attacking football in mind, which means that the Caps are comfortable to leave the majority of possession to their opponents. 

Bending but not breaking is the Caps mantra. That tactical approach, however, means that the Caps struggle when they hold the majority of the possession as it was the case against Real Salt Lake. The Whitecaps had 54% ball possession and led the game with three to four shots on target. They also led the passing game with 400 passes played as opposed to Real Salt Lake’s 360 passes. 

It was only the second time this season that the Whitecaps dominated a game in this fashion. The only other time the Caps had similar numbers was two weeks ago against the LA Galaxy, which was also a match in which they struggled to break down a deep sitting defensive line. With teams slowly but surely finding out that the Caps are beatable when they are forced to control the majority of the play Carl Robinson may have to come up with a solution on how to break down defensive teams. 




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