Cristian Techera rejoined Vancouver on a permanent deal to start the year after a strong showing in 2015. Last year, the little Uruguayan put in a respectable seven goals and four assists in 19 starts. He rarely lost possession in a position where that is seemingly a byproduct of the area.
Still, the little winger is hardly ever an integral part of the Vancouver attack, and that is where the Whitecaps are mistaken. Techera does so much with so little, and that is not a joke referencing his size. The more touches Techera has, the more successful the Whitecaps have been.
Yet it is clear that Vancouver is willingly opting for less involvement from Techera. He is attempting eight less passes per game on average this year as compared to last. Add to that the lack of touches.
Against Houston, Techera had the ninth most touches on the Vancouver side. Against Kansas City, he had just 11 touches before being removed at half time. Against Seattle he played just seven minutes.
Vancouver is another team that has been experimenting with formations and personnel, but why is Techera a victim of the musical chairs?
It is incredibly apparent when watching Techera what his strengths are. He has a masterful touch on the ball, as his low center of gravity helps him keep possession against any challengers. But his vision to pick out the long ball is sensational, as is his chance creation in general. Then there is his unquestionable work ethic.
In fact, in his two years with the Whitecaps, only star man Pedro Morales has created more chances per 90 minutes played than Cristian Techera.
Against Los Angeles, Techera re-emerged. For the first time all year, he played the full 90 minutes and Vancouver was able to reap the rewards of his incredible work ethic and creativity. Techera showed a brand new facet with his defensive prowess, combining seamlessly with Fraser Aird, a partnership that is truly blossoming. Techera alone accounted for eight successful tackles – more than any two players on either side combined.
Real Salt Lake’s pride and joy Joao Plata shares many similarities with Techera, even beyond their size. The main difference is that Real Salt Lake have learned to utilize Plata as their spearhead, but even that took until this year. If Vancouver wanted to, they could do the same with Cristian Techera.
Both of the crafty attacking midfielders are set piece specialists. A good chunk of the chances they create come from free kicks and corners. As it stands, Plata is creating about 34 percent of his chances from free kicks, that’s right at where Techera ranks in at 37 percent. But the similarities don’t stop there. They both send that lobbed ball from time to time as well, as they average about a long ball and a half per 90 minutes played. Expanding further, they complete a dribble a game.
The stats continue to line up side by side.
It is more than mere coincidence that someone like Joao Plata, who was MLS’s player of the month by scoring three goals and adding an assist (add to that another assist after Sporting KC) is averaging the exact same number of shots as Cristian Techera.
The two are very similar players. It seems to be only a matter of time before Techera finds more involvement. When the Uruguayan finalized a permanent deal this year, coach Carl Robinson was thrilled to have Techera around.
“Cristian has shown in his first year that he’s a terrific young player. He’s the type of player that gets fans out of their seats. We’re thrilled to have him remain with the club.”
Both Vancouver and Real Salt Lake have also resorted to the same sort of play. They are content to sit back and let the opposition control the tempo before they strike on the counter. Again, Plata and Techera both are excellent resources for this style of play.
But it is here that we find ourselves at another difference. Plata is a focal point. He is sought out by his team mates. Consider the passes received against Sporting Kansas City (via Statzone).
On the contrary, Cristian Techera is often used as a last ditch option or as a resource to switch the angle of the attack (again via StatZone). The same could be said of his time against Houston. Play always seems more likely to go through Kekuta Manneh on the left than Techera on the right.
While traveling to RFK Stadium was less than convincing, he still created one of the few chances that Vancouver mustered.
Along with having to compete with the man opposite him on the pitch, Techera has also had to fend off right-sided midfielder Christian Bolanos. The Costa Rican has been filching minutes from Techera on the right hand side and it has always been at the best times (for Bolanos, that is). Against Seattle, Bolanos lead the Whitecaps in touches whereas Techera, as mentioned, rarely cracks the top half.
Yet when you dig into the same stats that Techera stands up to Plata in, we can see the truth in the team mates’ qualities.
For starters, Bolanos just about never shoots. It could therefore be assumed that he would rather spend his time passing. To an extent, that is true because he does create more chances than he takes himself, but Bolanos still averages less created chances than the 23 year old Techera.
It also begs to be mentioned that when Bolanos plays, he steals the free kick responsibilities from Techera. Yet it is Techera who has more success with set pieces, delivering the exact same accuracy from free kicks, but an improved accuracy in corner kicks. Plus, Techera delivers a chance a game from free kicks – Bolanos cannot make the same claim.
Techera is the better passer, shooter, set-piece taker and dribbler. He can even chalk up defending after his eight-tackle display against LA Galaxy.
So what can be done?
The attack just doesn’t rely on him. That is something that only time – or a fantastic opportunity – will heal. Luckily for Techera, that opportunity may be coming. Both Manneh and Morales had to be subbed off due to injury against Los Angeles and while Manneh’s injury does not look to be serious, Morales’ does.
That means that Techera is currently the leading creative mind in the Vancouver attack and more responsibility would sensibly fall on him as the counter attacking game continues. The Whitecaps have a talented young midfielder in Techera and much like Joao Plata, it is only a matter of time before the goals and assists start falling in line with the rest of his numbers.