Analysis: Vancouver Whitecaps’ approach is aggressive but effective

The Vancouver Whitecaps currently sit at the top of the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings after five weeks of the regular season and their aggressive approach is working to great effect so far.

Saturday night’s 2-0 win against reigning champions, LA Galaxy, was their fourth in a row and that opening weekend defeat to Toronto seems like a long time ago already.

Carl Robinson has watched his side concede just one goal since the loss against their Canadian rivals and the Whitecaps have now scored seven in five – the tied most in MLS.

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Their attacking play has been good. Not great yet, but the signs are there that if everything clicks, the Whitecaps could be a dominant force.

Pedro Morales is the playmaker and makes everything tick. He already has the tied-most assists in MLS with three in five matches and is averaging two key passes per game.

In front of Morales is fellow Designated Player Octavio Rivero, who has already scored four in five and scooped the March Player of the Month award.

The South American pair have formed a good partnership early on in Vancouver colours and the duo are at the forefront of all the Whitecaps’ attacking play.

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Going forward, Vancouver play an aggressive, fast-paced game and look to hit teams on the counter attack. That is proved by their average possession statistic of 43.5% – the lowest in MLS after five weeks.

Despite seeing less of the ball than any other side, the Whitecaps have registered more shots on target (5.8) than any other team, proving that possession is not everything.

Vancouver Whitecaps statistics after five game

Vancouver Whitecaps’ team statistics after five games (stats via

Robinson deserves great credit for setting his team up in a system that keeps them solid at the back, but devastating on the counter.

It is an approach that could lead to low-scoring games as the Whitecaps will have to soak up pressure before attacking. But they have already scored three goals in the 86th minute or later to win matches against Chicago, Orlando and Portland.

Defensively, they have been good but that aggressive approach has seen them pick up more yellow cards (16) than any other side and they have made the second-highest number of fouls in MLS (80).

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The Vancouver Whitecaps have won four in a row for the first time ever as an MLS franchise and Saturday’s win against the LA Galaxy saw them put in their most complete performance this year.

They face Columbus Crew on Wednesday night at home, before a trip to San Jose to take on the Earthquakes next Saturday, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep up the aggression with two games in four days.

What have you made of the Vancouver Whitecaps so far this season? Do they deserve to be at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings?


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