Alain Rochat, Lee Young-Pyo attack from the back to great effect for Vancouver Whitecaps

VANCOUVER, B.C. – Fullbacks have become a focal point of the attack in modern soccer, and the Vancouver Whitecaps used that to devastating effect in Saturday’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew.

Lee Young-Pyo and Alain Rochat continually bombed down the flanks, overlapping with the team’s wingers and combining to create several scoring opportunities.

While their play was not directly related to either of the goals scored, that attack from the back was a big part of a strong first half which saw the team hold more than 57 percent possession.

That’s pleasing to the team’s head coach, who lamented with a chuckle the fact Lee has said this will likely be his last season.

“I was very happy,” Martin Rennie said of the pair’s involvement in attack. “I can’t really give Y.P. enough credit, either. Some of his performances in the first two games have been unbelievable. I’m going to need to start talking him into playing another year I think.”

OPTA Chalkboard: Whitecaps use entire width of field in possession in win over Crew

Lee and Rochat played plenty of time in the fullback positions last season before the latter moved into midfield, but neither was ever as aggressive going forward as they were on Saturday.

So what’s changed? Well, having the likes of Nigel Reo-Coker and Daigo Kobayashi to help hold the ball in midfield is allowing for a bit more dynamism from the back.

“We always want to attack with our fullbacks and get them into good positions, but this year it’s easier, because we’re keeping the ball better,” Rennie said. “We’re moving it into good areas and then switching it out, and those guys are then in good spots to get forward.

“It’s always something we wanted to do, but now it’s happening a little bit better because of the quality of player.”

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So the fullbacks are benefitting from the possession – but it’s a two-way street. Reo-Coker spoke following Saturday’s match about the options Lee and Rochat are providing by joining the attack.

“When you’re playing with good players it makes football so much more easier,” Reo-Coker said. “That’s why it looks so easy to the fans – the chemistry we build is something good footballers can do very quickly.”