Jon Szekeres joins Big D Soccer this week to talk about the upcoming home and home series with the Vancouver Whitecaps. The first match is in Frisco, TX this weekend. Jon is with the Whitecaps' website Eighty-Six Forever; let's see what he has to say....
1. I believe Martin Rennie's success at the lower divisions made his leap to MLS inevitable. How is he doing in his second year as an MLS head coach for Vancouver? Have you observed any major lessons learned from 2012 that have impacted choices this season?
Rennie was the golden boy for most of 2012, until the wheels fell off and the Whitecaps barely squeaked into the playoffs. This year, I think he's been very good for the most part. He's been getting his rookies valuable playing time, while still playing his veterans as well. He's made controversial lineup decisions at times, with Camilo and Gershon Koffie finding themselves on the bench at times, but I think he was given a solid roster to work with this year. I will say that I'm disappointed he hasn't learned from his biggest gaffe of 2012, and that was playing his veteran guys waaaaay too much. YP Lee was promised more rest this season, but we haven't seen it. Same goes for the entire backline. He's played the same four guys for essentially the entire season (excluding the injured Jay Demerit), while a solid depth defender in Jordan Harvey hasn't seen a sniff of action. Now he's injured, so those same four defenders will have plenty more playing time ahead of them. Lesson NOT learned.
2. The Whitecaps were battling FC Dallas for the last playoff spot almost to the very end of the 2012 regular season. What changes were made to the squad over the offseason to ensure that the Canadian club would reach the post-season a second time?
The midfield was a problem last year, with Barry Robson failing to live up to expectations. The 'Caps got a huge upgrade in that department with the arrivals of Daigo Kobayashi and Nigel Reo-Coker. They haven't provided the level of offense that was expected, but they've strengthed a midfield attack that looked quite poor last season.
3. What is the key to unlocking Darren Mattocks' goal-scoring fury in his sophomore season?
I wish I knew. The big knock on Mattocks in 2012 was his inconsistency, and his repeated problems with finish. Basically, if he did score a goal, he usually needed more than his fair share of chances to make it happen. It's the same story this season (His one goal on the year came in match in which he had 4 SOG) so I really don't know what to say. His speed is there, he's getting opportunities, but more often than not his shot is off target and wasted.
BONUS: What player that FC Dallas fans may not be familiar with has the biggest potential to make an impact this weekend?
BONUS: Daigo Kobayashi has been inconsistent offensively, but when his game is on he is almost poetry in motion in the midfield. His lone goal on the season was an absolute beauty, and his creativity adds another dimension to the Whitecaps attack, when he is firing on all cylinders.
My answers to Eighty-Six Forever's questions:
1) With the Whitecaps and FC Dallas jockeying for that final play-off spot last season, is it safe to say there is a bit of a rivalry here?
There may be a little something brewing between the two clubs. It helps that Eric Hassli has joined Dallas. He has had nothing but nice things to say about his time with Vancouver from what I’ve seen, but it is always fun to go up against your old team. Additionally, the Dallas Stars played the Vancouver Canucks this week. The FCD and Stars social media teams have been bantering back and forth to make this #BeatVancouver week in DFW. (The Stars defeated the Canucks 5-1 Thursday night.) I think the home and home series over these next two weeks will be a ton of fun for both fan bases.
2) Dallas is first in the West this year, after missing the playoffs last year. What are they doing right?
The Dallas squad is closing out games much better than last year. In 2012, FCD conceded 75% of their goals in the 60th minute or later. The team has been a bit up and down this season, but so far, they have been maintaining that fighting consistency to the last whistle.
On top of that mentality improvement, the Front Office put in good work this off-season to strengthen the roster. Although Brek Shea was sold to Stoke City, you will see several newcomers make a positive impact for FCD, including Eric Hassli, Michel, and hometown product Kenny Cooper, to name a few.
3) Eric Hassli was a fan favorite during his stay in Vancouver. How has he adjusted to Dallas, and have the fans in Dallas accepted him?
The Dallas fans were very excited for Hassli to join the team when it was announced in February. Our team was lacking quality depth at forward last year, having to play midfielders like Jackson and Shea when veteran striker Blas Perez was not able to start.
Hassli has had a tough adjustment period to take the field for Dallas. I have seen reports that he picked up an injury late in the season with Toronto last year, and he was left out of training during the offseason until Dallas picked him up. He has been fighting hard to return from his injury and regain match fitness. I believe he will be a fantastic addition to the weekly squad once he is able to compete at 100%.
I heard that he has been very enthusiastic to move to Texas on a personal level. His wife loves horses, so I believe he has already bought up some prime Texas countryside in order to have horses again.
4) Lastly, can I get a prediction for this match?
Dallas has been a beast this season. The team is on a fighting run. I expect the offense to net one or two goals, and for the defense to make life impossible for Vancouver in the home end. I will estimate 2-0 to Dallas.
Thank you to Jon for his participation this week. We'll be back next week for 3 Questions on the away leg in Vancouver.
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