In the first of what will be a season-long series, MLSsoccer.com digs deep into the Vancouver Whitecaps current state to learn what you need to know to help your team in MLS Fantasy Soccer: Manager.
What’s wrong with the Whitecaps offense? That is the question bouncing around the Pacific Northwest these days after the famously attack-minded roster failed to score two matches in a row.
But the defense is holding strong. The 'Caps have not conceded a goal all year.
Today, the Spotlight catches up with Whitecaps beat writer Martin MacMahon (twitter: @martinmacmahon) to discuss the team’s offensive struggles and how defenders Lee Young-Pyo and Martín Bonjour could be cornerstones of your FS:M team.
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Fantasy Spotlight: What reasons would you give for the strong defensive performances?
MacMahon: The biggest shift between last season and this season has been a commitment to team defense, with head coach Martin Rennie regularly fielding two defensive-minded central midfielders.
With a congested midfield, opposing teams are struggling to create much in the way of quality chances.
It doesn’t hurt that the personnel at the back is much improved as well — there is no comparison between Lee ($6.7m, 29 pts) and last year’s starter Jonathan Leathers. Lee is mobile, comfortable on the ball and can aid in the attack. Bonjour ($6.5m, 26 pts) is also providing a physical presence and calmness alongside Jay DeMerit ($6.9m, 36 pts).
FS: Can the Whitecaps keep up the strong defensive play and earn shutouts against some very good offensive teams (San Jose, Sporting KC, etc.) in April?
MacMahon: I don’t think this team will leak goals. The 'Caps put a lot of players behind the ball on defense, and seem to prefer to counterattack rather than attempt to dictate play.
That said, the teams they’ve played to date are not offensive juggernauts, so I predict the 360-minute shutout streak will come to an end soon. I’d say Chris Wondolowski ($11.5m, 28 pts) will break it this weekend in San Jose.
FS: On the other side of the ball, four games into the season the offense has only managed three goals.
MacMahon: The biggest problem continues to be the creativity deficit in the center of midfield. Jun Marques Davidson ($6.5m, 14 pts) has been a strong addition in terms of neutralizing threats, but he’s a very one-sided player who offers little going forward.
His partners — Gershon Koffie ($5.4m, 5 pts), Matt Watson ($5.5m, 12 pts), John Thorrington ($6.4m, 2 pts) — are two-way players, but none of them dictate the speed of play or really get the team ticking. It’s probably a matter of waiting until the arrival of Designated Player Barry Robson in July.
This team is loaded with offensive talent, but creating offense doesn’t start in the final third – there’s no point having a sharp sword if the handle is as brittle as glass.
FS: Against Philadelphia, Sébastien Le Toux ($9.9m, 13 pts) missed two great opportunities to score. Do you expect him to get back on track soon?
MacMahon: Predicting anything but success for Le Toux seems ill-advised, but there have been times when he has appeared frustrated. He is willing to run and run for his team, but will he get the service required to be as lethal as he was down the stretch for the Union last year?
Le Toux will bounce back, but if you have other options available on your fantasy team I’d give him a week or two on the bench.
FS: So which Whitecaps offensive player would you recommend for fantasy owners?
MacMahon: There is great value to be had by selecting the team’s defensive players. Joe Cannon is a bargain ($5.6m). DeMerit, Lee and Bonjour will bring a strong return on investment.