If the mountains that Vancouver Whitecaps are named for are truly immovable objects, then it is fair to say the question of what happens when they encounter an unstoppable force has been answered. Borek Dockal was that force on Saturday, and his clever movements and powerful left foot turned the Whitecaps to slush in Philadelphia’s midsummer heat. Dockal had two goals and played five key passes -- passes that set up a shot -- before Derrick Jones replaced him with four minutes to play.
Vancouver’s deep defensive block is meant to deny space between the lines to a player like Dockal. But whether he was sneaking in behind Brek Shea, turning away from Jose Aja with ease, or simply spraying the ball around in front of his beleaguered opponents, Dockal was entirely untroubled by whatever Carl Robinson did to try and stop him. The ‘Caps coach made two halftime substitutions, but Dockal simply scored again. His best moment was likely his second goal, a subtle movement found him free in a passing lane, and a swift turn away from Shea compounded by a silky touch around Aja left the Union’s creative hub with time to fire an easy finish into Brian Rowe’s net.
Mark McKenzie is officially listed as having completed 56 of 58 passes. This is misleading. In truth, McKenzie attempted 56 passes, one headed clearance from inside the opponent’s half following a corner kick, and one headed shot at goal that, instead, flew high into the evening sky.
In short, McKenzie was actually perfect with the ball, and so good without it that Alphonso Davies, Kei Kamara, Cristian Techera, and Jordy Reyna never made Andre Blake’s acquaintance.
Very few teenaged defenders become regular starters in MLS. But McKenzie’s intelligence on the ball is clear -- he nearly always plays within himself -- and his ability to maintain confidence after making the inevitable errors of a young center back, as he did against Atlanta, are particularly unique and impressive.
But there’s also this: He’s an incredible athlete. Perhaps no play this season highlights McKenzie’s tools as well as his full field sprint to dispossess Techera Saturday evening.
Vancouver managed to outlet the ball to Techera so the tiny winger could run in on goal alone down the right channel. McKenzie, starting from the opposite side of the pitch, tracked down Techera with a blistering recovery sprint at an angle, making up ground with every step. Sensing the defender closing, Techera attempted to use McKenzie’s speed against him and cut the ball back, but he underestimated his opponent. Slowly slightly to maintain balance, McKenzie stuck in a foot and left Techera, only one game off of a hat trick, with nothing but grass at his feet.
When Dockal notched the Union’s opening goal two minutes later, he did it from a 0-0 scoreline because his attacking prowess was supported by McKenzie’s defensive work. Combining youth and experience is essential to the Union’s success, and both the veteran attacker and teenaged defender deserve their places in the MLS Team of the Week.