1. You're probably sick of hearing/talking/thinking about it, but what's up with the Whitecaps' struggles this season?
If I wasn't sick of it before, I sure am now after the Canadian Championship. It's not like the Whitecaps are playing awful, (1 loss in their last 8 matches), they're not playing good. They're absolutely stuck in mediocrity right now, and that falls on every member of the team, coaching staff, and upper management. Players that were counted on to provide offense, well, haven't. Camilo has heated up lately, but he was M.I.A. and in Martin Rennie's doghouse earlier this season. Darren Mattocks has been an almost complete write-off in his sophomore year, while Kenny Miller has been injured most of the year. Add that to the 'Caps inability to defend set pieces, they're penchant for giving up leads late in matches, and you have a club that should be achieving way more.
2. I'm hearing a lot of angst about under-using Darren Mattocks. Is that just a lot of bluster from people in the league-wide media? Where do you come down in that debate?
Earlier in the season, I was quite critical of Rennie for not using Mattocks or Camilo enough. I've always been of the mindset that you need your big guns on the pitch earning their paycheques match in and match out. However, Mattocks has been such a frustrating case this season. He was getting opportunities earlier and simply not finishing, but now he's doing his best Claude Rains impression in "The Invisible Man." The 'Caps simply have other players that have pushed him out from time to time. Corey Hertzog, Kekuta Manneh, Erik Hurtado, Tom Heinemann, Kenny Miller; there's a long list of players that have been giving more than Mattocks, and that's why he's been sitting so much.
3. Maybe it's a personal fascination, but I was intrigued by the 'Caps bringing in Daigo Kobayashi and Nigel Reo-Coker this season. How have they fared so far?
I shudder to think where the 'Caps would be without Reo-Coker. He's been their best player by a long shot. His command of the midfield would be the envy of most generals, while the offense flows through his surging runs up the pitch. He's been a mentor as well, taking the young Russell Teibert under his wing. As far as signings go, this is one of the best in Whitecaps history. Daigo Kobayashi sure started the season well, but his production and creativity have diminished. Some say it's because he can't handle the physicality of MLS, but he scored a very gritty goal against the Impact on Wednesday, so it might just be a slump. He's got lots of upside, but the results haven't been there for most of the season.
And ours answers for Szekeres' questions...
1. How has New York been so successful this year?They've finally put it all together.
The Red Bulls have never lacked the pieces. It's just about getting them to work, which, even with Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, is more like rocket science than one would expect. Hans Backe failed in that regard, but Mike Petke's made leaps and bounds.
Not to say it didn't come without some growing pains. The Red Bulls faltered early, starting the year 0-2-2. But Petke's adapted his game -- dropping his favored 4-3-3 for a 4-4-2 -- something Backe never did. Whatever the reason -- coach, time, other -- the Red Bulls are playing well. Hell, they're not even firing on a cylinders yet. There's still plenty of rough edges on their game.
2. The Whitecaps say they might use a reserve heavy lineup this weekend. What's your reaction to that?
The Whitecaps haven't had the best of times as of late and if that's Martin Rinnie's strategy Saturday, I think it's a good bet those misfortunes will continue. I'm not sure I blame him, though, what with the Voyageurs Cup final mid-week.
Then again, they do have Corey Hertzog, and everyone fears the scorned former player coming back and beating up on his old team. Maybe I shouldn't be so confident...
3. Aside from the obvious big names, who are some underrated Red Bulls the Whitecaps should keep an eye on?
You might know him from his Real Salt Lake days, so I'm not sure if he's under the radar enough, but Jonny Steele has played really well out wide. For a relative MLS newcomer: Markus Holgersson. He might not have the best reputation among Red Bulls fans, but he's been great lately.