VANCOUVER, B.C. — When struggling teams bring in new players, the incumbents often find themselves in a battle for their starting positions. For Vancouver Whitecaps defender Alain Rochat, however, the arrival of left back Jordan Harvey from the Philadelphia Union last week didn’t have many observers considering whether he’d be dropped, but merely where he’d play.
In Harvey’s first match as a Whitecap last Saturday, Rochat found himself partnering with Michael Boxall in the heart of the Vancouver defense against the Colorado Rapids. The role was not an unfamiliar one, as Rochat has tucked into the middle for stretches this season when captain Jay DeMerit has missed extended periods through injury.
“All throughout my career, I moved to the middle, to the left, to the center,” Rochat explained at training on Tuesday. “I’m used to it, so it’s not a problem.”
The Canadian-born Swiss international played in a variety of defensive roles with his former club FC Zürich, starting as a left fullback for his first two seasons before primarily playing as a center back in his last two seasons with the club before moving to Vancouver.
His ability to play the ball on the ground makes him an asset for the possession-focused system head coach Tom Soehn is phasing in.
“Alain is so clean playing out of the back,” Soehn said. “He generates a lot of the attack, so he becomes an asset that way. [Adding Harvey] gives us versatility. It allows us to move Alain wide or inside. Jordan is suspended for this week, so the more options you have, the better it is and the more competition you have.”
Playing a possession-based game means players need to show for the ball and get into the right positions.
“We have to open up the game and build from behind, and that’s what we’re working toward,” Rochat explained. “[The possession system] requires more movement. You can’t just say, ‘Guys, let’s keep possession.’ To be good in possession, you need to have two, three, four options, and you choose the best one. If there is no movement, it’s impossible to keep the ball.”
As for Vancouver’s newest defender himself, Harvey will have to wait until Monday’s match against Manchester City in the World Football Challenge to make his home debut, as he will sit a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation after receiving his fifth caution of the season against the Rapids in his ‘Caps debut.
“I’m looking forward to the Man. City game, hopefully get some minutes there, and then carry that over to the San Jose game two days after,” Harvey said. “I’m excited and looking forward to another two games with these guys.”