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Fireside Chat: Fire v Vancouver, MLS #20

We complete the question-and-answer ritual with Jon Szekeres of 86 Forever


HT: Vancouver is starting to get noticed for the its depth of terrifying attackers - Pedro Morales went off against Dallas, and there's Erik Hurtado and Darren Mattocks in front of him, when it's not Kekuta Manneh - but it's been five games since the last win. What's preventing this squad from climbing the table?

86F: A supreme lack of finish. For instance, many have been praising the work of Pedro Morales on the weekend, given he threw 12 shots at the FC Dallas net, the most in the history of this club's brief MLS existence. However, he wasn't able to finish any of them, scoring his goal from the penalty spot after a Dallas handball in the box. Meanwhile, Darren Mattocks scored a nice goal on a breakaway, but beyond that, he missed a couple of really easy chances that could have turned the game in a completely different direction. Whether it be Hurtado, Manneh, Mattocks or any of the 'Caps young guns, putting the ball in the net on a consistent basis has been a problem, and that's troubling moving forward.

HT: How does Jay Demerit's midseason retirement affect the team? Does it create cap space for another move, or is it purely subtractive?

86F: It makes them weaker on the backline, and increases the need for Carl Robinson to go out and find a good CB before the transfer window closes in early August. Carlyle Mitchell certainly didn't endear himself to fans after a head-scratching handball on the weekend, Andy O'Brien is 35 and coming off a hip injury, and Johnny Leveron is playing very well, but is young and doesn't have a full season of MLS play under his belt yet. If Robinson doesn't get a CB by the deadline, that's a major gaffe.

HT: Frank Yallop seemed all but signed as the new Whitecaps manager last fall, before a surprising swoop by Fire owner Andrew Hauptman wooed him to the Windy City. How's it been with Carl Robinson? Any lingering feelings in British Columbia over the deal?

86F: Not really. The Whitecaps are competitive and they score a lot of goals, so people have generally forgot about the hiring process. As an assistant coach, Robinson was known for having a great relationship with the players, which has been a plus for him as the main man in charge. He's also not been afraid to mix things up, or to put his trust in young players. During the Canadian championship, Robinson trotted out a startingly young lineup that included a teenager goalkeeper in Marco Carducci. They were actually competitive against their Eastern rivals, and I think Robinson gained a lot of respect for having the guts to do that. His additions to the team have been great as well, when you look at players like Steve Beitashour, Pedro Morales and Sebastian Fernandez. I think Robinson has done a very good job here, however we can't fully judge him until his rookie head coach season is finished.

Prediction: 'Caps squeak out a fourth straight draw. 1-1

Predicted 11: Ousted, Beitashour, O'Brien, Leveron, Harvey, Koffie, Laba, Hurtado, Morales, Fernandez, Mattocks