The first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League semi-finals between Tigres and the Vancouver Whitecaps was a tense one. Many players on both sides of the pitch turned in great performances, leading to a hard fought and exciting match to watch. The added atmosphere by the Tigres supporters was fantastic, as there wasn’t a single second of silence throughout the entirety of the match either.
Three Things the Vancouver Whitecaps Learned in the First Leg Against Tigres
Alphonso Davies Can Handle The Spotlight
Davies has been nothing short of a revelation for the future of both the Whitecaps and Canada Men’s Soccer. He is, without a doubt, the most exciting prospect to come from Canada at his age in a very, very long time. On top of high expectations for the future, the present is just as bright for the young Liberian-born Canadian.
Questions arose before the semifinal first leg in Monterrey, Mexico on how Davies would react to this type of stage and those questions were definitely answered. It needs to be said that there wasn’t doubt in the air, but more a sense of curiosity on whether or not he could duplicate his domestic form against such a storied club in a tense and loud atmosphere.
Davies was arguably one of the best, if not the best, players on the pitch on Tuesday night. He played his part defensively, tracking back to cover for Sheanon Williams on multiple occasions when he made runs forward. He showed superb awareness when on the ball, being able to see the open spaces before even receiving the ball. These are both two very important characteristics to ensure a young phenom will develop into a star.
Davies didn’t look even remotely hindered by the pressure this type of stage brought with it, showing that he is mature well beyond his years. If he can continue to replicate the form he’s had this season thus far, it will be difficult for Vancouver to quell the interest from across the Atlantic him away.
Break Shea Plays an Important Role
While Shea might not be the most flashy or fancy-footed player on the field at any given time, he plays a very important role for the ‘Caps. The role that Shea has shouldered since arriving in the Pacific Northwest is that of the attacking workhorse. This role seems to suit his skill set perfectly, and it will play a huge role in the season ahead for the Whitecaps.
It’s fairly obvious that Shea is never going to be a top goalscorer, or even add a large amount of assists, but that doesn’t matter. He brings a physical presence that no other attacking player on the ‘Caps roster can duplicate. Not only is he physical, but he covers a great deal of ground in both the middle third and attacking third of the field, making play much more simple for players like Davies and Fredy Montero by creating pressure on the opposing backline and allowing focus to be shifted on the players with a keener eye for goal.
‘Caps fans should be thankful for the addition of Shea by the organization. Don’t understate the importance of Shea. He may just get the ‘Caps a win or two from now until the end of the season.
Robinson Had the Tactics Right
Despite the 2-0 scoreline at the end of the match, head coach Carl Robinson deserves credit for setting his team up for success in Mexico. The talent level in the attacking corps for Tigres is lethal behind the likes of Andre-Pierre Gignac and Eduardo Vargas, and they were largely ineffective for a vast majority of the match on Tuesday night.
Vargas did, however, bag himself a goal. But it wasn’t out of poor play by the back line from Vancouver, but rather out of his own quality play. The ineffectiveness of Gignac and Vargas, for the most part, goes down to the tactics that the Whitecaps put onto the field against Tigres. Every time either one of the main attacking players touched the ball, the nearest man was on them within an instant. This was an important point that the coaching staff very obviously put emphasis on leading up to the first leg.
Aside from shutting down Tigres’ stars, the midfield played effectively when they were able to get on the ball, albeit for a very small period of the 90 minutes. And allowing Davies free range to roam wherever his play took him was an excellent idea from the coaching staff that made play in the defensive third very difficult for Tigres. All in all, the 2-0 score is unfortunate, but the tie is by no means over. Give credit where it’s due and applaud Carl Robinson and the rest of the coaching staff this weekend against Toronto.