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Chalkboard: Scouting Vancouver Whitecaps

FCD haven't won at Vancouver in last 5 visits. Will Saturday night be the end of that barren run?

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

System of play used:

(All other graphics all linked with words and/or sentences below.)

Offensive Organization

-Vancouver usually lineup in a 4-4-2 formation, although Robinson has utilized other systems like 4-2-3-1 and a defensive-minded 4-3-3 throughout his tenure with the Whitecaps.

-Prefer to play counter-attacking soccer with reliance on their wingers and forwards to link with the midfield, provide width and outlet for counter opportunities, and like to use their speed on the break.

-Adding onto above point, they do like to play with the ball and are able to do so more with several technically acceptable players, including Parker, Aird, Jacobson, Laba, Techera, and Bolanos in their ranks who all rank in the 70s or higher percentage-wise when passing accuracy is concerned. Possession stats are better than before, but still primarily like to play through counters.

-Allow both fullbacks, Aird and Harvey, to overlap often and support the attack. Aird is a better passer of the ball and more balanced while Harvey is more erratic with the ball but gets involved more in advanced positions. As a result of this, Vancouver prefer to attack down their left side more although both players attempt crosses often as a part of team's style.

-Their crossing style are usually direct and aimed diagonally towards one of the posts where they can attack the spaces and put the opposing goalkeeper under pressure.

-Vancouver often like to attempt through balls for their wingers and forwards. Responsibility for this often falls to players like Aird, Harvey, Manneh, and Mezquida who try to release quick balls into open spaces where they can free their teammates in behind for crossing and shooting opportunities.

-Due to struggles in creating chances, they like to shoot from long range distances.

-Manneh likes to cut inside, attempt long range opportunities, and link up with teammates but isn't the best crosser and struggles to keep ahold of the ball because of his small physical frame (176cm). Techera has an even bigger issue with aerial and physical duels because he's even shorter (158cm) but likes to deliver crosses and send long balls often to compensate. He's an adept set piece taker, much like Bolanos is who is the best passer of the trio although plays similarly in style to Techera although with a higher level of quality.

-They've learned to mix it better between the two, but Vancouver still prefer the long ball buildup approach to a short passing, on the ground routine. Forwards like Perez (6'1') and Rivero (6'2') are the intended targets of this style in their team and like to be aggressive, hold up balls, and brings other into play.

Offensive Transition - after winning ball possession

-Try to get the ball as quickly as possible into an offensive area where it can be attacked. Usually they either try to play Manneh into an empty space that he can run into and make use of his speed (as evidenced by the positions he received the ball against RSLHouston, and Seattle) and dribbling abilities or they'll switch it to the other side where Techera can put crosses into the box for the forwards to attack and get on the end of.

-If fullbacks are present in transitional attacks, Harvey will run down the touchline or get to the byline and deliver a cross into the box while Aird more often either links with a player nearby or will do the same.

-As a result of their preference to play through balls whenever possible, their goal is always to find spaces that they can attack in and use that as their main source of creating chances in open play. They've struggled in this area for much of the season because of inconsistency of certain players, but remain a threat if things fall together when they need it most.

-They commit their four wide players in transitional attacks which leaves them open at the back and vulnerable to counter attacks themselves.

Defensive Organization

-Set up with a four-man defense that plays in a line with two midfielders in front who are instructed to sit deep and protect them, which leads to a compactness that is hard to break down for opposing teams but leaves them short in numbers for attacking ventures of their down and hurts their chances of playing possessive soccer.

-Play with two tall centerbacks in Waston (6'5') and Parker (6'2') who are strong in aerial duels, like to be aggressive, and often clear balls out of danger when under pressure.

-Waston is good at making himself big and getting into good positions to block and intercept balls, but can be ill-disciplined at times and commits too many fouls as a result of his overly aggressive approach.

-Aird and Harvey overlap when the opportunities present themselves, but Aird usually plays more conservatively of the two and likes to put himself into tackles which often leads to too many conceded fouls and freekicks given away in the defensive half.

-As a result of Harvey's commitment to attacking duties, Manneh often supports the team defensively on the left side and has become a better tackler for it, averaging nearly one per game (as seen against RSLSeattle, and Houston).

-Laba is a proficient tackler who averages close to 3 successful tackles per game and is also a good interceptor of the ball who isn't afraid to get stuck in. Jacobson in comparison is a more tidy player but is stronger in aerial duels because of his height superiority (6'2') and possesses the physical tools to be a strong, combative defensive player. The two compliment each other well and protect the defense well, but often over-commit at times and overdo things a bit when it comes to their eagerness to win balls back for their team.

-Strong at protecting winning leads and advantages.

-Defensively they don't struggle much generally because of Vancouver's preferred approach of playing in their own half and keeping things tight at their own end, but give too many fouls away which is a big defensive worry that they have. As a result, they concede a larger than normal amount of freekicks each game and allows opponents to get scoring chances through other means despite their usually well-organized defensive system.

Defensive Transition - after losing ball possession

-Have issues with dealing with opposing counters and often have to commit fouls to allow players to get back into position, which leads to a higher amount of cautions than they'd like.

-Possess a lack of pace at the back which gets exposed against faster, skillful players, especially in open spaces and 1v1 or other outnumbered situations.

-Are prone to counters on both sides with Jacobson drifting forward which leaves Aird unprotected on the right while Harvey's left is exposed whenever he overlaps and there's no player covering for the spaces he leaves behind with Laba having to cover for Jacobson as well. This leaves them open in several areas, which can be attacked through different angles.

Set pieces - Attacking

-Have as many as 10 players in the squad whose height is at least 180cm, which makes them a threat on set plays and why it's important to avoid being put into defensive situations on them as often as possible. Waston, Parker, Jacobson, Perez, and Rivero are their biggest weapons on this front, which is an avenue that they've used to score two goals from this year.

-Set pieces are usually taken by Morales, Bolanos, or Techera who prefer to cross the ball towards the penalty spot where most players are standing and ready to attack the ball aerially when it comes in.

Set pieces - Defending

-Don't have many issues in this area thanks to the amount of options with physical and aerial presence in the squad, don't often switch off or relax in their positioning or man marking which makes it difficult to beat them in these situations.

-Usually keep just one man on the posts for defending corners with it usually being one of the wingers from Bolanos, Manneh, or Techera. Seven other players man mark while the remaining two stay forward for possible counter attack initiations.

-Often form five man walls for defending direct freekicks with the rest of the team man marking barring one who stands on the edge of the penalty area. Just keep 1 man in the wall for defending indirect freekicks with every single player having a man marking assignment in their own box.

Other observations

-Like to rotate their squad so may start with one or some of Bolanos, Bustos, Telbert, Froese, Kudo, or Perez in the lineup; Morales unlikely to be part of not just the lineup, but the match squad.

-Offensively struggling to score goals this year with not one registered from open play (worst in league) but very much pose a threat in other areas.

-Do a lot of running and chasing off the ball, mainly in the defensive half, which is a staple in the way that they play and makes them a tough unit to crack down.

-Are capable of changing between formations with applied substitutions. May sub off defensive players for attacking ones on the bench in losing positions in hopes of trying to score a goal, while they'll usually add another body in midfield in place of one of the two forwards if they're winning in hopes of injecting some extra energy in the middle of the park.