Photo Credit: TheBlueTestament.Com via Denny Medley of USA TODAY Sports
*This was originally posted on June 2, 2022*
It is now June.
It is the month when the 12th graders graduate and have their proms and the month summer begins. It is also kind of the midway point of the season for the Vancouver Whitecaps and the rest of the MLS teams.
The Whitecaps had a successful month of May. They beat two Canadian Premier League teams to advance to the Canadian Championship semi-finals which will be played on June 22 at BC Place against York United. If the Whitecaps win that game, they will host the final which will be against CF Montreal or Toronto FC.
The Whitecaps also did well in MLS play during May. They went 3-1-1 and that is good.
However, the Whitecaps need to get the momentum going in June. Up next they have Real Salt Lake at home, are on the road to face the Seattle Sounders and FC Dallas, the Canadian Championship semi-final against York and New England Revolution at home.
The roster is still kind of depleted with numerous players hurt but here are three keys to a successful month of June for the Whitecaps.
#1:The return of the Brian White and Ryan Gauld connection
We have barely seen Brian White and Ryan Gauld play together this season. That is mainly due to the injuries they both have sustained this season.
White started the season with foot injuries and has just come off the health and safety protocol and is training with the team. Gauld is day-to-day with a hamstring injury and missed last week’s game in Kansas City. He will be re-evaluated in the next couple of days and there is a 50/50 chance he plays on Saturday.
Once both Gauld and White are healthy, they need to recreate that magic they had in the second half of last season.
White has scored twice this season. He doesn’t score fancy goals or bangers but he knows how to finish. Gauld was a big reason why he was scoring. The Scotsman was always making great passes and crosses for White to find and finish.
Gauld has excellent vision when he was the ball and White is a guy who finds ways to receive the ball from him.
Once these two get healthy, they need to rediscover their chemistry.
#2: New signings start strong
Andres Cubas was signed in late April from Nimes of Ligue 2.
He hasn’t arrived yet mainly due to him getting his Visa and Canadian passport. Well, he has got them both but still hasn’t arrived. Cubas is on international duty with Paraguay and it looks like he can return in a couple of weeks.
Cubas is a ball-winning midfielder and is someone the Whitecaps have needed. The Argentinian-born Paraguayan international was apparently one of the best in Ligue 2 in terms of winning the ball.
As you can see below, tackling and interceptions are his strengths. He and Caio Alexandre (when he gets back from his hand injury.) could make a good duo in the defensive midfield and he adds competition to Russel Teibert,
Luis Martins got some action last Saturday against his old team.
Martins is a left-back from Portugal who has experience in MLS, La Liga and Primeira Liga. The Whitecaps needed someone on that left side who can defend and start the counters.
Martins is very good at passing.
However, he isn’t that great defensively.
It’s wrong to expect Cubas and Martins to come in and change the Whitecaps’ fortunes instantly. That would be nice but they both need to show us why the Whitecaps brought them in.
Cubas can provide stability in a leaky midfield and Martins could provide service from the left. They better come as advertised.
#3: Defence must be organized
The Whitecaps have not been a good defensive team this season.
They gave up 23 goals so far this season which is ninth most in MLS. Vancouver was near the top at the end of April. However, they are still giving up plenty of goals.
The goals that have been given up have been due to defensive errors and transitions. The Whitecaps have given up goals where the defenders get caught easily on the transitions or due to poor turnovers.
In Kansas City, despite the threats from the home side, Vancouver managed to prevent them from scoring and looked more composed defensively.
The Whitecaps need more of that. They don’t need to try to make a big defensive play. (Though Javain Brown’s game-saving header was pretty big.) They just need to make smart and simple plays. That is making clean tackles, and blocks and just getting the ball away from the 18-yard box. The Whitecaps also can’t have the defenders press too high which is why they have been getting caught on the transition.