RSL Soapbox) Vancouver started out very hot but seem to have cooled off a bit whereas RSL seem unpredictable. What is behind the three losses in the last five games?
Eighty Six Forever) A busy May schedule certainly hasn't helped things, but the Whitecaps are going through some ruts, both in their attack and in their personnel on the backline. Beyond Octavio Rivero, the Whitecaps scoring abilities are questionable, especially since both Kekuta Manneh and Darren Mattocks have failed to show much consistency through the first part of the season. Mattocks and Manneh have both looked like all-world talents at times this year, but obviously those glimpses are few and far between. The Whitecaps also need more from their Captain, Pedro Morales, who has looked flat and has yet to truly gel with Rivero. Also, paging Mauro Rosales? Injuries have hampered him for sure, but he's been a major disappointment for the club so far this season.
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RSL Soapbox) Octavio Rivero currently leads MLS in shots taken with 48. 21 of those were on goal and six found the back of the net. How would you assess Rivero's efficiency as a forward?
Eighty Six Forever) I like Rivero a lot, and it's not just because he shoots the ball a whole heck of a lot. Rivero has speed, nifty footwork and is able to create chances for himself. If there is a knock against the 23 year old, I believe it's how easy he's willing to go to the ground. It's something that I personally don't like, and it seems like he isn't getting the calls from officials because of how quick he is to fall down. Beyond that,I think Rivero could be greatly helped by some consistent secondary scoring from the Whitecaps. If teams can focus in on Rivero, and only Rivero, it's obviously going to impact how effective he can be in the Whitecaps attack. Overall, the club has said they believe Rivero could score 15 to 20 goals in an MLS season, and I'm inclined to agree with that notion.
RSL Soapbox) How much is Steve Nash involved with Vancouver Whitecaps in decision making, ownership decisions, or other things? Has he been more involved since he retired from the NBA or is he more of a figurehead?
Eighty Six Forever) I may be talking out of my rear end, but I'm under the impression the soccer decisions are handled by Coach Carl Robinson, and President Bob Lenarduzzi. I haven't heard much about Nash increasing his role, so I'm going to cop out of this question with a big, I don't know.
*Questions from Eighty Six Forever to RSL Soapbox*
Eighty Six Forever) Does RSL deserve it's 4-4-5 record?
RSL Soapbox) At this point, they certainly don't deserve much more. It's a fascinating thing because it really feels like a helterskelter start to the season with the team still trying to find its identity. RSL used to be known for their diamond formation and for their determination to possess the ball and attack methodically. They experienced as much change as they ever have in the off season and are still adjusting to each other's style of play. But the biggest problem for me has been injuries. Javier Morales has missed a handful of games, Sebastian Jaime, their newest DP, has missed more than a handful of games. Chris Schuler, RSL's best defender in my opinion, had surgery and will mist a total of about 6 to 8 weeks. And Joao Plata is just coming back from an injury that he got on the first day of training. So things are starting to come together but it feels like it is sputtering along.
Eighty Six Forever) How do you beat RSL?
RSL Soapbox) It used to be that you had a good chance to beat RSL by sitting back and countering, but that is not necessarily the case any more. Now, it seems like if you have a lot of speed and quality up front, RSL can get a bit disorganized. Another strategy would be to shut down Javier Morales, which is no easy task because he is so good at adjusting on the fly and creating something out of nothing. Thus far in the season RSL has tended to shoot themselves in the foot, so another strategy would be to force them to make mental mistakes. They have conceded the most PKs this season so that is a weakness to be sure.
Eighty Six Forever) Who's been a pleasant surprise on the RSL roster?
RSL Soapbox) Elias Vasquez has been the biggest surprise for me. He replaced Carlos Salcedo after his controversial exit after RSL's disappointing postseason exit. Vasquez is a very young player that is confident and composed but plays tough and is good with the ball at his feet. He is regularly called up to the Guatemalan National Team and after watching him play about five or six games, I can see why. He has a chance to be a special player. His biggest mistakes so far have been being to aggressive at unnecessary times. For example, not long ago RSL was up 2-0 in Chicago with about 10 minutes left in the game and Vasquez made a silly tackle in the box resulting in a penalty. RSL was positioned well and there was no need to take that risk. He conceded another penalty the following game for something silly as well. These are normal rookie mistakes that he will correct and will eventually be a great player for RSL, hopefully for years to come.