Whitecaps trying to kickstart their offense from the back

VANCOUVER, B.C. — With only 19 goals 20 Major League Soccer matches thus far this season, the Vancouver Whitecaps are looking to create offense starting from the back.

Head coach Tom Soehn has brought in a possession-based system and is encouraging his defenders to push further up the pitch in a bid to add numbers when on offense. By instructing his fullbacks to burst forward when the team has the ball, his side can create man-advantage situations in the final third of the field.

“It’s a part of the game where you can create so much,” Soehn told MLSsoccer.com after training on Wednesday. “[The fullbacks] become extra guys that the opposition doesn’t account for. That’s the beauty of the game and that’s how you break teams down.”

For right back Jonathan Leathers (pictured above), the system suits him to a tee after playing in a similar system in Kansas City.

“I enjoy it. I love to get forward,” Leathers said. “I’d much rather attack than defend, even though that’s my main job. I try to whip in some crosses and get near the goal to create things. One of the huge things [a fullback pushing forward] does is create two-v-ones, which gives you an advantage. The more numbers you get forward, the harder it is for the opposing defenders.”

On the left side of the defense, new addition Jordan Harvey made an immediate impact on his Vancouver debut by playing a part in the buildup for Camilo Sanvezzo’s goal on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.

“[Harvey] is a tremendous player, a great defender and he gets forward well,” Leathers said. “I’ve played against him before and that was tough when we played [Philadelphia earlier this season], he was attacking down my side. In his first game for us, I saw a lot of qualities that show he’ll be a great fit for this team.”

Another defender that may be joining the Whitecaps fold is former United States U-18 international Omar Elmasri, who is on trial with the club. The defender has spent time in Mexico, playing for Primera División club Tigres UANL’s reserve side, and was previously involved with the Chivas USA system.

With games against Real Salt Lake on Saturday (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online) in league play and a big World Football Challenge match against Manchester City on July 18 (10 pm ET; ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TSN), the Whitecaps offense will take all the help it can get from the defense.