The Vancouver Whitecaps benefited (and still do) from having their reserve team close to home.
Whitecaps FC 2 of MLS Next Pro play at Burnaby’s Swangard Stadium. That is where the Vancouver Whitecaps of the Canadian Soccer League, US Leagues First Division and USSF Division 2 played their home games from 1986 to 2010. (From 1986 to 2001, they were known as the Vancouver 86ers.)
Whitecaps FC 2 was born for a second time last year with MLS Next Pro. That is the league for all the MLS reserve teams.
WFC 2 were originally established in 2015 as part of the United Soccer League and played their home games at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium. Alphonso Davies played 11 games with the original WFC2 in 2016 and scored two goals. He was the youngest goal scorer in USL history.
The USL Whitecaps FC 2 was dissolved in 2017 in favour of a new affiliation with Fresno FC. As you can imagine, sending players to and from Fresno was a hassle, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last season, Simon Becher played for WFC2. Becher led the team with eight goals.
He also had a few minutes with the first team in 2022. WFC2’s player of the year, Ali Ahmed even assisted Becher’s late equalizing goal on August 5 against the Houston Dynamo. (A game which the Whitecaps would win late.)
That was the Whitecaps 2022 first round MLS Superdraft pick’s first taste of MLS action and his first MLS goal. Ahmed didn’t get credit for the assist since his pass deflected off a Dynamo player and right to Becher but you can count the assist if you want.
Becher, along with Ahmed signed MLS contracts this offseason. (Ahmed should also get some more minutes.)
Is Simon Becher the Whitecaps’ secret weapon?
If the Whitecaps scored two or three more goals this season, we would be talking about a completely different season. But goals are the biggest reason why they are one of four teams in MLS that are still without a win. (The others are LA Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City and Colorado Rapids in case you were wondering.)
In every game in MLS play this season, Vancouver has scored one goal in each of them. The second goal has been hard to come by. According to FotMob, the Whitecaps are 19th in goals per game at 1.0. (Four other teams also have 1.0 goals per game) When it comes to expected goals, the Whitecaps are seventh in MLS with a rate of 6.9. Nice. But when it comes to actual goals they are 19th with just five. Not so nice.
Brian White has had trouble finding the back of the net. But that does not mean he has been terrible. When it comes to finishing, he does need to do better but White’s build-up play has been good. It seems he is doing all the right things but not scoring.
As for Becher, he is the first Whitecaps forward to score a goal this season. Yes ahead of Brian White, Sergio Córdova and Cristian Dájome.
Just like the game last season against Houston, it was a game-tying goal for Becher last Saturday against Minnesota United.
You got to give credit to Mathias Laborda ( who should be playing at center back, his natural position) for making the interception that kickstarted the attack. Becher timed his run perfectly and manage to get the ball into the net to secure the Whitecaps a point.
“At the end of the game, we were trying to get forward, we were trying to throw everything at them,” said Becher after the game in Minnesota per JJ Adams of The Province. “I saw the ball get sprayed out wide to Pedro. I just tried to get into the box and got to the back post. It got flipped on, and from there, it’s just kind of instinct. It fell to me, so I just put it away.”
In all three games Becher played in his career so far, (Two MLS and one CONCACAF Champions League) he has played 42 minutes and scored three goals. So that is pretty much a goal per game for him.
“Simon is a poacher,” said Whitecaps head coach Vanni Sartini on Becher after the game against Minnesota United. “Simon is a box player. He is going to be useful this season in the last 20 and 30 minutes and we think he did his role perfectly. He came on, he worked with Brian two or three times, he worked his…lower back off, even in pressing. I’m happy he scored at the end.”
Becher was named to the bench of the MLS Team of the Week on Monday.
Could Becher help the Whitecaps with their finishing problems?
The Whitecaps have three home games coming up next. This Saturday they play CF Montreal, LAFC in the CCL on April 5, and Cascadia rivals, Portland Timbers.
These games are big. If the Whitecaps want to kickstart a run, the game against Montreal is a perfect opportunity. But as we all know, finishing needs to be better.
“We need to keep working,” said Sartini on the lack of finishing. “We need to work a lot I think on the confidence of the players because I think that can become an issue. e confidence when you shoot … can become an issue now that everyone is a little bit antsy and he tries to do even more.”
He may be only in his first MLS season and only 23 but Becher has proved he can put the ball in the net in a small sample size of games. With his poaching ability, perhaps he could be the key to turning the Whitecaps’ season around. In soccer, having a striker that is confident in scoring is huge. It looks like the St. Louis university alumnus has that confidence.
Perhaps it is time for him to get some more minutes. With Córdova out with a hamstring injury for six to eight weeks and White struggling to score, it is time for Becher. Should he start Saturday against Montreal? Absolutely.