BURNABY, B.C. – The Vancouver Whitecaps are defending well, but still need a bit more polish up top.
With just over a third of the season gone, that’s head coach Martin Rennie’s take. The Scottish tactician has navigated his team to fifth place in the formidable Western Conference with 19 points after 12 games, and has a game in hand over sixth-place Chivas USA, who are four points back.
“It’s progressing reasonably well,” Rennie told MLSsoccer.com recently after a training session. “There’s lot of positive signs of improvement. We’ve put ourselves in quite a good position in MLS overall. Generally most of the games we’ve competed well, and some of the games we’ve actually played quite well and dominated phases of them. “
A big reason for the club’s league position is the defense, which has kept five clean sheets from 12 matches. Led by captain Jay DeMerit and fellow center back Martin Bonjour and supported on the flanks by Lee Young-Pyo and Alain Rochat, the backline has been almost impenetrable when all four have been fit.
“For us, it’s about being consistent – consistently doing well and consistently winning games,” Rennie said. “When we’ve had our first choice back four playing, we’ve only lost three goals in MLS, so we want to keep our back four together as much as we can because that’s a fantastic record.”
One area the team hasn’t always looked so impressive is up front, as the tantalizing attacking group which looks so good on paper has often failed to deliver. The Whitecaps have only 13 goals from 12 matches played despite regularly lining up stars such as Eric Hassli, Camilo, Sébastien Le Toux and Davide Chiumiento.
“We need to make sure that we’re clinical,” Rennie said. “When we get chances, we need to take them. There have been a few games where we’ve had chances and not taken them. If you look at Philadelphia away, Seattle at home, maybe San Jose away – games like that, if we’d taken the chances we had, we might have won all of those games. And those games ended up being ties or one was a defeat, so that would be nine points instead of two.
“So we need to continue to create chances and pass the ball, which we’re getting better at.”
It just needs a bit more polish. Fortunately for Vancouver, there will be 24 more matchdays to apply it.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.