PORTLAND – The Vancouver Whitecaps’ once-missing attack has been found alive and well, and it’s starting to show the explosiveness that many expected from Carl Robinson’s exciting team before the season began.
After all the hand-wringing when Vancouver started the year with no goals from open play in their first six matches, the Whitecaps now sit on 22 goals for the season so far, third-highest in MLS.
Conversely, after conceding four goals in a 4-2 loss at Portland on Sunday, Vancouver’s defense has now sunk to joint-worst in the league in terms of most goals conceded. The ‘Caps attack certainly needs to be active to try and keep the team in games. They’ve now hit 10 goals in their last four matches, but that’s a hard strike rate to keep up.
“We’re playing well, keeping the ball,” Whitecaps winger Kekuta Manneh said after the loss in Portland. “Creating chances, too. We just need to tidy up on a few things defensively.”
With places on the field at a premium for Vancouver’s multitude of attacking players, those currently getting the nod know that they need to perform consistently at the highest levels to stay in the starting 11. And if they’re in any doubt, head coach Carl Robinson has made that abundantly clear of late.
“They need to play well. If you have the [starting] shirt, you’ve got to keep the shirt,” Robinson said. “If you haven’t, you’ve got to fight your way in. That’s what I want. I want competition. We have got a lot of good, attacking guys but they’ll go in and out of form.”
One player who has risen to that challenge is Manneh, who after finding the net against Portland has hit three goals and registered two assists in Vancouver’s last three matches.
Manneh and Christian Bolanos have been Vancouver’s two attacking forces in recent games and are presently setting the example the others need to match.
“Everybody should be on the same page,” Manneh said. “If you’re not playing well, I don’t think you should be playing. This is a team. We want to win. If you’re playing, and you deserve to play, you play, and if you’re not performing well then coach should give a chance to some of the guys we’ve been seeing throughout the season.
“Coach is encouraging everyone. It’s a team squad. We need every single one if we’re going to be successful this year, any year. Coach made that clear – if you’re performing, you’re going to play, if you’re not performing, you’re going to sit on the bench or not even be in the squad. I think that’s helping us as a team. You can see everybody wants to be in the squad, playing for their jobs.”