Whitecaps captain likely done for the season
By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer
Eight minutes into the start of the Whitecaps’ season, Jay Demerit’s was all but over. The centre back suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon that will keep him out for six to eight months.
The Caps have nothing to fear though. Much as the loss of your captain is never something to take lightly, there is some quality depth at the back this year that makes the injury easier to swallow. Brad Rusin, the hulking 6-foot-4 26-year-old picked up in the offseason, stepped right in and looked good. Really good. With sound positional play and some solid tackling from Rusin, it seems like the club can put to rest any fears they may have had about finding Demerit’s replacement. Rusin looks more like an upgrade at this point anyway. Should the former Danish Superliga defender falter though, there’s still Honduran international Johnny Leverón and Trinidadian Carlyle Mitchell waiting in the wings. The good teams can take the lumps and bruises and just slot a new player into the lineup whenever necessary without skipping a beat. Under that definition, the Whitecaps just might be one of those “good teams” this year.
Taking a look at the rest of the team’s performance against Toronto, it would appear that the Caps have finally found another player who truly understands the game. Daigo Kobayashi is a master of passing and moving, a concept the majority of MLS players greatly struggle with. The most watchable moments from the TFC match were when Kobayashi and Y.P. Lee worked their way up the pitch together; it was the first glimpse of real soccer the Caps have ever shown. To emphasize the point, the pair were instrumental in setting up the only goal of the day.
First-round pick, Kekuta Manneh got the start on the wing but stunk up the joint. He’s fast, there’s no doubting that, but that’s where the positivity ends. He lost possession constantly, rarely contributed on defense, and couldn’t make a pass to save his life. However, seeing as it was his first professional game, he’ll get a mulligan for that one. Meanwhile, there’s a lot to like about the other first-rounder who found his way onto the pitch, Erik Hurtado. This guy is built like a tank. He made some good runs off the ball and showed some intensity in getting into a few tackles. If his first game is anything to judge him by, Hurtado looks like a keeper.
Nigel Reo-Coker made a quiet debut for Vancouver against Toronto. While he wasn’t spectacular by any means, he also didn’t make any major mistakes. He put in the sort of performance that won’t win you any games, but certainly won’t lose you any. In short, he was perfectly adequate. Of course, if the team wants to win any hardware this year, Reo-Coker will need to take his game to the next level, but in the meantime, he’s a serviceable option in the middle of the park.
Up front, Darren Mattocks and Kenny Miller were invisible for the most part. Mattocks just couldn’t get anything going, while Miller was about as useful as a pylon. He put no pressure on defenders, had zero effort, and was exceptionally poor on the ball. Many have Miller pegged to be the captain in Demerit’s stead and I honestly can’t think of a worse choice. You want your captain to be a leader on the pitch, both vocally and by example. I don’t know how much the lumbering Scot talks out there, but right now, he’s one of the weakest players in the lineup.