Camilo Sanvezzo scored two goals on Sunday for Queretaro but many won’t even remember the score of the game after his brilliant first effort.
The Queretaro forward scored the first of two finishes in the 66th minute after winning the ball in his own half, carrying it into the Toluca end and unleashing a deadly shot from just inside midfield.
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.
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.
Beasley, Orozco among Puebla players protesting against missing paychecks
Puebla FC has slipped to 15th in the Liga MX’s Clausura table, but the on-field problems are just the tip of the iceberg.
The players, including U.S. internationals DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco, aren’t getting paid. And we don’t mean “Eddie Johnson wants a raise” getting paid, we mean a distinct lack of paychecks.
So Beasley and Orozco were among many of the their teammates as they publicly protested their wage crisis. While Puebla’s president came out Monday to say the players were owed for the last 15 days worth of work, team captain Luis Noriega laid out much deeper burdens than just over a fortnight.
“We want to say that this squad is owed from a month and a half to three months (wages), corresponding to the months of November, January and February, as well as bonuses from last season,” said Noriega.
The report from Tom Marshall says two other MLS connections are on teams facing money problems. Chiapas FC (Gabriel Farfan) and Queretaro (Camilo Sanvezzo) are two more clubs in a bad state.
With the 2014 season approaching and a new coach in charge, the Whitecaps are hoping their new direction brings them new success. What remains to be seen is if the assembled roster can follow suit.
With an overload of defenders but gaps in the midfield, the Whitecaps are still a work in progress, but things appear to be moving in the correct direction. Up at BC Place they are hungry for success and the Southsiders are ready for some silverware to turn up in British Columbia. Thus far there’s been just one playoff appearance for ‘Caps fans to shout about, but this year they could be a dark horse in the race out West.
PlayersIn:Steven Beitashour (trade with San Jose), Matias Laba (trade with Toronto FC), Nicolas Mezquida (transfer from Boston River – Uruguay), Sebastian Fernandez (loan from Boston River – Uruguay), Paolo Tornaghi (free agent), Mehdi Ballouchy (San Jose, Re-Entry Stage 2), Christian Dean (MLS SuperDraft – Cal), Andre Lewis (MLS SuperDraft, New York Cosmos), Mamadou Diouf (MLS SuperDraft – UConn), Michael Kafari (MLS SuperDraft, University of New Mexico), Mackenzie Pridham (MLS SuperDraft, Cal Poly)
Players Out: Camilo Sanvezzo (Transfer to Queretaro FC), Daigo Kobayashi (Traded to New England), Brad Knighton (Traded to New England), Lee Young-Pyo (retired), Greg Klazura (waived), Joe Cannon (waived), Brad Rusin (waived), Tommy Heinemann (waived), Jun Marques Davidson (wavied), Simon Thomas (waived), Corey Hertzog (waived).
Key Players: Kenny Miller/Kekuta Manneh
On a roster completely lacking of any particular star power, it will be up to this strike pair to replace the 22 goals and five assists lost when Camilo completed his transfer to the Liga MX. 19-year-old Maneh, according to coach Carl Robinson, will receive “a lot of time and…a lot of opportunities” to ply his trade up front.
The two of them, plus support from Omar Salgado, Darren Mattocks, and the complete unknown in Nicolas Mezquida should be just fine in replacing the Uruguayan superstar.
However, if multiple pieces of this front line break just as they did last year, it will be very difficult for one particular individual to carry the load. Manneh is only 19, Miller is on the other end of the spectrum at 34 years old and remains fragile, the rest at this point are little more than bench options.
The offense should be fine at the beginning of the year, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the attack get off to a bang. They’ll need it to, especially with the completely retooled defense behind them still learning to play together. But the biggest question for the offense will be can it hold up through the rigors of a long season.
Manager:With the departure of Martin Renne after last season, the load now falls on Carl Robinson, who is fresh off his 14-year playing career. The club reportedly made a go at Bob Bradley, Frank Yallop, and Jason Kreis, but failed to bring in any big names. That left them with one option – promote from within.
At just 37 years old, he’s been thrust into the role, promoted from assistant just a year after joining the Whitecaps. Robinson only finished his playing career in 2011, retiring as a New York Red Bull. Speaking of the Red Bulls, the bar has been set for first-year former players as coaches by Mike Petke in New York, carrying them to the Supporter’s Shield in his first season as a head coach.
With high expectations in Vancouver and the club in the process of picking up last year’s pieces, there is a lot on Robinson’s plate this season. But that’s usually the case with any first-year coach.
Outlook:The aura surrounding the Whitecaps this year is young. Their coach is young, the drafted players out of college appear to be headed towards a significant role, and the aforementioned Kekuta Manneh is just 19. The club has retooled quite a bit and as a result they will not be relying heavily on one or two individuals to carry the brunt of the weight.
However, with a defense that has been shuffled completely, including the exciting addition of Cal central defender Christian Dean and the return of Jay DeMerit, it may take a while for the back line to run together effectively and efficiently. Thanks to that, the attack will need a flying start early to offset a potentially rusty defense learning on the fly.
Today’s reveal of Major League Soccer’s postseason awards finalists gives us some insight into how media, players and coaches saw the season, with each triad of ‘nominees’ of resulting from voting that concluded earlier this money. If a player’s in the final three, we know a decent numbers of voters thought that he was among the top two candidates for the award. Each ballot only had room for a first and second choice.
So when we see Omar Gonzalez as one of the Defender of the Year nominees, you know a lot of people not only had him among the top two but probably at the top of their ballots. Yet as opposed to 2011, when the latest LA Galaxy Designated Player won the award, this was not the best season for the U.S. international. He wasn’t bad by any means, but a dip in form around the time his new contract was announced was so noticeable Bruce Arena was left trumpeting his defender’s rebound by season’s end. This was not a Defender of the Year season from Omar, which makes you wonder how much reputation trumps performance when it comes to these ballots.
To a lesser extent, Matt Besler probably benefitted from the same effect. Last year’s best defender has also broken through for the U.S. Men’s National Team, future raising his profile. But he only played 23 games for Sporting Kansas City this year, and while he very well might be the best defender in Major League Soccer, he probably didn’t have the best season. It’s hard to made a strong case that 23 games of Besler is worth more than 29 from Aurélien Collin, 29 from Jámison Olave, or 34 from Jose Goncalves (who, in fairness, we the third nominee for the award). Being the best player seems to be the most important quality; not whether that player had the best season.
But amongst the finalists list released by MLS today, those type of curiosities are the exceptions. In fact, most won’t consider them curiosities at all. It’s only when you start digging that questions arise regarding Gonzalez and Besler, and the truth is most voters may not put in that kind of time. When a ballot has two slots for Defender of the Year, players, coach, and media might have reflex responses – responses that lead to Besler getting a nod despite missing almost one-third of the season.
Marco Di Vaio’s case is a bit different. In contention for the Golden Boot until the season’s last day, the Montréal Impact’s candidacy was much discussed throughout the year. As the only real goal scoring option in Marco Schällibaum’s attack, Di Vaio’s importance to the Impact is undeniable. Yet it is curious how much more attention he received than Camilo Sanvezzo, another attack-only guy on a borderline playoff team (Vancouver) whose candidacy’s almost entirely dependent on his goal totals. Sanvezzo finished with 22. Di Vaio finished with 20. Goals per 90 minutes: Sanvezzo 0.82; Di Vaio 0.66. If Sanvezzo had Di Vaio’s history in Serie A – his name recognition – would we be talking about his candidacy instead of Di Vaio’s?
They’re minor qualms, and until we see the final voting, we don’t know how close each player came to winning the award. Jose Goncalves may run away with Defender of the Year, rendering second and third meaningless. And maybe Di Vaio finishes closer to the unlisted Sanvezzo than he does Mike Magee or Robbie Keane. This may all be needless nitpicking.
Still, you can never underestimate the role reputation plays in these types of votes. Whenever there are doubts, it’s natural for voters to default to players with whom they’re most acquainted. Sometimes that manifests in voting for your teammate, player, or the guy you cover on a day-to-day basis. Other times, it means going with the names you hear most.