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  • Whitecaps welcome back Johnny Leveron as they look to continue defensive dominance


    Carl Robinson has already indicated that the Honduran will get the start for Waston, ahead of other choices Christian Dean and Carlyle Mitchell. It's a bit of a downgrade on Waston in terms of aerial presence, but then who wouldn't be?! Leveron though bring a calm, steady and usually reliable mindset to the backline. Just what the Caps could be needing in what could be a night of hot heads in Northern California.

    "He's ready, he's fine," Robinson said of Leveron's return to the team. "Johnny lost his place, not because he was playing poorly but because he went away with the national team, so sometimes you get penalised for being a top quality player unfortunately.

    "He was playing probably as well as he's played in the last two years. Unfortunately he picked up an injury, he's come back and Andy and Kendall have done great.

    "Kendall being suspended is a big loss for us. Johnny is a different kind of player but I've got no worries about him stepping in. He'll be confident as always, he'll defend right and hopefully he can fit in with the team we're going to pick."

    There is no doubting that Vancouver will miss Waston's presence, as I covered over on MLSsoccer.com earlier in the week, but having an international player like Leveron at your disposal to replace him, is a nice luxury for Robinson to have at this key stage of the season.

    It may not feel like it, but Leveron has made only three fewer appearances (15 in total) for the Whitecaps this season than he did last year. Robinson had been keen to keep as settled a side as possible down the stretch. Sometimes his hand is forced, but having that settled backline the last couple of games has been important. Leveron now has to come in, readjust and settle back into the swing of things pretty quickly, with a lot on the line.

    The man that will be directly behind him, goalkeeper David Ousted, is unconcerned about the enforced change.

    "The continuity's nice and you get to learn the people in there," Ousted admitted. "But Johnny's a good player and Johnny's shown before that he can go in and fill that spot. Like I said last week with Seba out, where's there's people out, others need to step up and Johnny has to step up now and we know he can do that."

    His centre half partner Andy O'Brien has been getting used to partner swapping these past two seasons, but O'Brien and Leveron have played multiple games together now and know each other's game inside out.

    "I played with Johnny before so hopefully we can get back in the groove we had prior to Kendall coming in," O'Brien told reporters at training. "That's what we've done well in recent weeks, the relationships across the whole team. Not only in the 11 that have started but the whole 18 squad and the guys that are not involved.

    They may have played together before, but defenders get a familiarity built up with each other. How they're going to play and move and pass. O'Brien has had that with Waston over the last eight games, so what kind of extra challenge does having to adjust to a new partner pose for the veteran?

    "It is different," O'Brien admitted to AFTN. "They're very different players in terms of their style. As I've said before, it sometimes isn't who you're playing with but who you're playing against and what do you need to do to counteract what they're doing.

    "I think there's a real team ethic that even if you're marking but you can intercept the ball, don't think you're happy enough just doing your job. Guys are filling in and there's been times where I've been playing a little bit higher than I normally would do, but guys are filling in. Whether it be a full back or whether it be Rusty, and likewise if strikers drop short the pocket in front of us is getting well protected in terms of the defensive screening.

    "Sometimes you have to do other people's jobs and I think a lot of the guys are doing that and when they are doing that, other lads are filling in, so it's working well."

    Exactly how much the Caps will be tested by the Quakes tonight is the unknown commodity. San Jose are a bit of a shambles of a team at the moment. A 13 game winless streak, two goals in their last four games, they've just sacked their manager and looked woefully out of form the last couple of matches.

    Can they find the scoresheet no matter who is playing in the defence? Can the Caps? 0-0 would do the job!

    There's always a danger going in to a game like this that last weeks heroics against Seattle could lead to a flatter performance against a weaker team. We have seen it all season from Vancouver. Having the pressure of knowing that they have to come away with at least a point is another factor as well.

    Robinson knows the pitfalls and admits to a little apprehension.

    "For me, this is a more difficult game than against Seattle away," Robinson told reporters. "At Seattle, no-one expects anything from us, obviously everybody expects us to go there [to San Jose] and get a result. But all the information we're getting out of San Jose is that they've nothing to lose. They're fighting for contracts those players. Dominic's going to be going in for next season, so they're going to be wanting to prove a point to him."

    The Whitecaps themselves would no doubt settle for a point tonight. But if they can get all three, then next week is set to be a barnstorming season finale.

    To get there, the defence will likely be the key. So keep calm and Leveron.



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