Strong in the back: Whitecaps on defence vs LA Galaxy

31/10/2012 § 1 Comment

Whitecaps-028
(photo: amorey/flickr)

The list is impressive – Beckham, Donovan, Keane. We know they are threats.

The Whitecaps’ backline isn’t so shabby itself. Three former internationals, maybe not with the high-gloss celebrity of their galactic opponents, but they know how to get the job done.

Using MLS’s own tracking data, a look at what players have been doing – where they’ve been going and who they’ll be marking.

WHITECAPS ON DEFENCE

Lee Young-Pyo: The fans’ player of the year, the 35-year-old has missed just one game all year. He’s had the back right of the pitch on lockdown all season, rarely gets beaten to the ball and is always useful when he ventures upfield. He’s going to be very busy marking Landon Donovan, who roams all over LA’s left attacking quadrant.

Andy O’Brien: Irish international centre back O’Brien has been, quite possibly, Martin Rennie’s most astute addition this season. Martin Bonjour partnered Demerit in the heart of the defence for much of the season and may yet see the field on Thursday, but O’Brien has been a class above. Bonjour had a tendency to play attackers much too loose, O’Brien doesn’t seem to have had the same problem. Like Lee, he’ll have his hands full locking down Landon Donovan’s work on the flank and coping with Edson Buddle’s physicality up front. He’s also going to be aware of Robbie Keane’s work through the middle.

Jay Demerit: The Whitecaps’ captain has not had an inkling of the injury troubles that plagued his 2011 campaign. He’s a force in the air, but the Caps have struggled at times this year defending set pieces.He’s on the Robbie Keane patrol.

Jordan Harvey: A much-improved performance from Harvey this season, a player who is quite comfortable not being asked to do too much. He works hard creating overlaps and delivers good crosses into the box, but the key for him on Thursday will be keeping the left side of the defence neat and tidy.

Alain Rochat: He’s mostly been a left back for Vancouver, but he’s spent time in the middle as a centre back and as a midfielder. Of late, Rennie’s deployed him as a defensive midfielder, filling the role that Jun Marques Davidson held for much of the season. He plays in front of the backline, playing almost as a fifth defender, though with his skill set it’s not surprising to see him making offensive forays. Davidson wasn’t much know for that.

Gershon Koffie: He’s become a massively important lynchpin for the Whitecaps’ midfield and his workrate on the right-hand side is impressive. He’ll be busy marking Landon Donovan and his overlapping support runner Todd Dunivant.

John Thorrington: Hands up if you really think he’s starting over Barry Robson on Thursday. Yep, didn’t think so. Thorrington was asked be the man-in-the-middle last Saturday and he did a fine job, making the plays he had to. Robson is a more talented, more experienced version of Thorrington. Plus we all remembered how fired up he got playing against Becks in August. Either way, the guy filling this role is going to be box-to-box.

GALAXY ON ATTACK

Landon Donovan: As befits his reputation, Donovan isn’t just a striker, he’s a classic top-two-thirds-of-the-pitch forward. Galaxy has him roaming the left attacking quadrant and occasionally dropping back into midfield to help out defensively. He’ll be looking the play the seam between O’Brien at centreback and Lee at leftback.

Robbie Keane: Double-guns Keano plays in the middle, although against Seattle (where this data was pulled from) he was found more often towards the right of the net. Don’t be deceived thought, the former Ireland captain is happy shooting with either foot.

Edson Buddle: The sometimes-forgotten man of LA’s attacking armada, Buddle is plays as something between a withdrawn striker and an attacking midfielder. He’s a bit confusing based on where he lines up, but once you see the next picture, it’ll make more sense what he’s being asked to do.

Christian Wilhelmson: Is this what the modern right-winger looks like? More like right midfielder, but he’s clearly playing off of a pair of holes being created by Buddle and some English bloke. There’s no doubt he’s playing the over-lap man, and will be a handful for Jordan Harvey.

David Beckham: There’s still a hint of his old days as a right-mid, but he’s very clearly the man who bosses the middle of the park. He was never known for his quickness and as a 37-year-old his range is even more limited than it was, but we can see he’s still getting plenty of touches on the ball. Losing focus on him will be perilous.

Todd Dunivant: He supposedly lined up against Seattle as a left back, but that looks more like a left-midfielder, doesn’t it? He’s going to cause havoc for Gershon Koffie all day.

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