BURNABY, B.C. – The past month has been a bit of a juggling act for Alain Rochat.
He’s primarily been the Vancouver Whitecaps’ starting left full back in 2012, but has recently filled in at central defense or central midfield, both to cover in for injuries and simply as a result of tactical juggling from head coach Martin Rennie.
In fact, he last played at left back on Aug. 25, in Vancouver’s 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. Since then, he was given a rest for the club’s 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy on Sept. 1 and played center midfield against FC Dallas in a 1-0 loss on Sept. 15.
This past weekend, the Swiss-Canadian started in central midfield against the Colorado Rapids, only to get switched to center back after Rennie elected to bring Kenny Miller into the match.
"It's difficult [to switch positions mid-game]," Rochat said. "But you have to adjust – the moves are totally different, but I just do it and I'll do my best."
Despite dropping back into a defensive role, Rochat found himself involved in sparking a 'Caps comeback, cleverly redirecting a cross from Gershon Koffie past Matt Pickens in the Colorado goal 64 minutes in. Miller then appeared to further validate Rennie's substitution, following up four minutes later to bring the score to 2-1.
But then, Rochat had a miscommunication with Lee Young-Pyo, failing to clear a simple ball as Jamie Smith opportunistically jumped in to retrieve the ball before hitting a screaming equalizer.
Following the match, Rochat suggested the team’s form and the fact he’s being played in all sorts of positions factored into his indecisiveness on the play.
“This is an easy, easy ball that you can just clear,” Rochat said. “I missed it because of – first of all, from the losing streak – all the easy passes, easy control, became hard to do.
“But as well, when you change all the positions, the moves are totally different and you need sometimes to adjust, but of course I can [take the blame] on this second goal.”
His coach wasn’t buying that argument when asked about Rochat’s comments at a training session at Swangard Stadium on Tuesday.
“It’s a pretty good excuse,” Rennie said. “But I don’t see that, no.”
Rennie explained his move to bring Martín Bonjour off at the half and drop Rochat into central defense was a tactical attempt to generate more offense.
“Left back is probably his best position,” Rennie said. “I think he did quite well. I think he did better against Dallas [as a defensive midfielder] and then obviously in the second half he played as a center back and did fine. Helped us build out of the back and scored an excellent goal in the game, so there were some good things there for sure.”
As for the player himself, he doesn’t know what position he’ll be playing against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday – he just says he wants to play, period.
“I want to be on the pitch,” Rochat said when asked where he prefers to play. “Everyone wants to play this game. It’s a derby. The rivalry is there, and we are home. The details are just for statistics. We need to go into this game and have fun, and enjoy it.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.