The Vancouver Whitecaps have begun the 2015 MLS season with a bang, climbing to the top of the Western Conference rankings and holding the highest point total in the league after five games.
We once saw the Caps as a legitimate threat in the West when they seized a playoff spot by finishing in fifth place in 2012, when both Camilo Sanvezzo and former Wolverhampton Wanderer Kenny Miller were present as forwards.
However, it’s the team as a whole that wins games, and Vancouver just couldn’t mesh the piece together to successfully compete for the postseason in 2013, while their inaugural campaign in 2011 went poorly due to a last-place conclusion.
Could the end of 2015 mark the first time the Caps seize a top-three position in their conference? It very well could, as long as they remain consistent and potent enough on the offensive end to cancel out any major difficulties in defense.
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Manager Carl Robinson believes that performance maintenance will be necessary to stay unbeaten.
“I don’t want to be a good team one week and a very poor team the next two or three weeks. It’s about consistency,” he said to media following a spectacular 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy. “With young players you have inconsistency sometimes. My job, and my staff’s job, is to make sure we get them more consistent than not. That’s part of our focus here. We’ll enjoy it. It’s one game.”
According to Squawka statistics, the Whitecaps have the best attacking “performance score” (649) in the league, and the next highest total comes from the Portland Timbers, who have netted a sum of goals tied for third in MLS.
Robinson’s side acquired the skills of the game-changing scoring forward Octavio Rivero in December, and since playing in Uruguay for the majority of his young career, the 23-year-old was not highly touted coming to America.
But so far, he’s demonstrated his worth magnificently to a squad that lacked a dangerous forward in their failed quest to hit the playoff mark a season ago. Rivero has five goals in six contests and is currently the top scorer in MLS.
Although his individual ability in recent weeks has drawn widespread attention, the Caps have enjoyed above average performances from several other players, most notably midfielder Pedro Morales, the ex-Malaga man rivaling Rivero’s substantial impact.
Without Morales, the Whitecaps’ midfield would not function as dynamically, and no doubt, he would serve as a major piece to any MLS team’s aspirations for the Cup.
In cohesion with the Chilean, the rest of the squad have done their parts; Kendall Watson and Matias Laba have put in great defensive work, Nicolas Mezquida has ramped up 1-on-1 pressure and Kekuta Manneh has provided a considerable attacking spark.
Even against the Columbus Crew, despite falling a goal behind twice, Vancouver managed to fight back after both sequences, and showcased a focused winning resolve that disappeared at times in 2014.
Given the severe fluctuations in America’s top-flight, we don’t know whether or not the Caps end up faltering this year. Right now, they’re on fire, but heading into San Jose having just played a match on Wednesday, failing to get points would not come as a huge surprise.
The Whitecaps’ responses to losing scenarios will ultimately determine the path their season takes.