Major League Soccer teams bring in players like Nigel Reo-Coker to do this very thing: to make a giant difference, to change the game in meaningful ways.
Preferably, they’ll “change” the game straight-away, from a starting 11 position. But Vancouver and manager Martin Rennie will surely take it this way, too.
Reo-Coker’s second half introduction – his first MLS minutes after years in England – completely changed things Saturday as the Whitecaps finally took hold of matters against a scrappy, visiting Toronto team that is far from its final version. Gershon Koffie had the goal in Vancouver’s important 1-0 win over TFC (important because it’s a match Rennie’s team should have, and needed to win.)
After a half of blah on both sides (but probably one the visitors felt better about), Reo-Coker came in and stabilized the midfield from one of the holding spots in Vancouver’s 4-2-3-1.
His positioning, possession, leadership and guiding voice changed everything for the home team.
The vastly improved possession was just a start. His presence pushed Kenny Miller, now an attacking central midfielder for Rennie, apparently, higher up the field. That was helpful.
It added shape to a match that needed some. It helped keep the ball in TFC’s end, keeping the scrappy visitors mostly pinned back for the second half.
It all allowed Darren Mattocks to be more dangerous, as his touches came closer to the TFC goal. Or they came on the break, as Reo-Coker showed a greater awareness of when to go, go go … and when to stay more patient.
And the amount of possession subtracted from Toronto mitigated the effect of a weakened Vancouver defense; ‘Caps center back Jay DeMerit limped off after just seven minutes, surely a point of major concern for the club going forward.
Full highlight pack to come; until then, here is the game’s only goal: