Long Tan won’t allow himself to be the Whitecaps’ forgotten striker

Long Tan

Chinese striker Long Tan has enjoyed an impressive run for the Whitecaps in the Walt Disney World Classic.

That is, if you don’t count his penalty kick attempt. “Attempt” is the key word there.

Tan drew two penalty kicks, the first one which was converted by Sebastien Le Toux, as the Whitecaps beat the Houston Dynamo 1-0 Sunday.

The second one, which Tan chose to take himself, wasn’t good. Let’s just chalk it up to it being a preseason match. It was a feeble attempt to chip Dynamo back-up keeper Tyler Deric. Tan sent a chip up the middle, but Deric held his ground and caught the lob with ease.

But, penalty aside, Tan has asked some questions of coach Martin Rennie through the first couple of matches of in this preseason tournament. When he came in as a sub in the 3-0 win over Montreal, he drew a penalty.

Then, Tan made the most out of his opportunity to start on Sunday, drawing two penalties in the first half, and proving to be a handful for the Dynamo defenders with a mix of clever runs and physical play.

Anyone who watched the Rennie’s Carolina RailHawks play in the NASL last season knows that the Scottish coach values forwards who offer a mix of skill and physicality. And Tan’s willingness to take on defenders should appeal to his coach.

Rennie has to start most of the depth players Sunday — or, at least, the members of the squad we expect to be depth players — as the Whitecaps played their second match in less than 48 hours.

Brad Knighton, the former RailHawk who was a NASL Best XI keeper in 2011, got the start, but had nothing to do. And it’s clear from preseason, that the Whitecaps’ method of improving over its woeful defensive record of last season is to keep the opponents on their defensive heels. The best defence is a good offence.

With the likes of Le Toux, Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento Camilo, Atiba Harris and even 2011 No. 1 draft pick Omar Salgado up front, it would have been easy for fans to almost forget that Tan is on the depth chart. But, with some solid performances in preseason, he is clearly sending a message that he’s still in the picture. He looks to have developed a decent understanding with Le Toux.

And, rememeber that reigning NASL MVP Etienne Barbara, injured at the moment, is also expected to sign. And that Designated Player Barry Robson is going to arrive in July.

If there are so many offensive options, it gives the Whitecaps some flexibility. In the long run, the best way to shore up the back might come via trade. And there may be some offensively challenged clubs in MLS that might want to give the Whitecaps a call.

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.