To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s clash against the Vancouver, we spoke with Eighty Six Forever’s Tyler Dahlin to get his take on the Whitecaps’ terrific start to the season, Tim Parker’s departure, and expectations for 2018.
DSS: Vancouver has gotten off to a great start, winning both of their matches. What factors do you contribute the most to that?
ESF: The biggest factors contributing to the Whitecaps hot start to the season were:
1. Adapting to the opponent. At home against an undermanned Montreal, the Caps controlled the game and had the bulk of meaningful possession. Against Houston’s high press and explosive counter, the Caps were happy to sit back a bit and let the Dynamo control the pace of play. Then when the chance arose, they played their own counter and were able to sneak away with their first win in Houston.
2. The leadership of the big men at both ends of the pitch. Kei Kamara and Kendall Waston were standouts in each match. Kei’s work rate and holdup play have really set the tone for the offense. Meanwhile on the back end, Kendall has been the absolute backline boss. He was so calm and composed, weathering the storm against the Houston onslaught last week.
DSS: How did you feel about Tim Parker’s departure?
ESF: The loss of Tim Parker was a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he is a better than average CB and it always hurts to lose young talent. He was a physical presence, a boss in the air, and could chip in offensively as well. The flip side is that we already have Kendall Waston and he provides all those things and does them just a bit better. The Caps need a modern CB to step in and play beside the Towering Tico. Whether that is Aaron Maund, Jose Aja or Doneil Henry remains to be seen. When you factor in that Parker was also looking for a significant raise (rumored to be asking for more than Kendall makes), I think it was best to let the player walk. The return we got from NYRB also helps take the sting out of his departure. The team sorely needed a ball-moving midfielder.
DSS: After making the playoffs last season, what are the expectations for the Whitecaps this season? Did they regress over the offseason?
ESF: I think the Whitecaps have to have an equal or better finish to last year’s. While we may have regressed a bit at CB, we have added a better suited center forward and have improved the midfield. That being said, for the Caps to truly take that step forward, it has to start with the coach. Carl Robinson has been criticized in the past for trotting out the same formation(4-2-3-1) and for playing hoof-ball too often. We finally have a few midfielders who are able to distribute the ball in midfield. This should allow us to alter tactics and be a lot harder to predict. The further emergence of Alphonso Davies should help push us beyond where we ended last season.