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Whitecaps’ Jacobson settling into offensive role ahead of visit to Colorado

Whitecaps' Jacobson happy in offensive role

Soft-spoken and usually a man of few words, Andrew Jacobson didn’t want to spend a lot of time talking about his stunning goal.

No, he hadn’t seen a replay, adding quickly the strike that helped the Vancouver Whitecaps earn their first road points of the season in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Montreal would be meaningless if they didn’t continue on the same path.

But what the veteran midfielder was happy to discuss was his two-year-old son Henry’s reaction to dad’s exploits while watching the game on television back in Vancouver.

“He was running around screaming,” Jacobson said with a proud chuckle after training this week. “My wife has it on video. It was pretty cute.”

With the Whitecaps down 1-0 in Montreal, Jacobson peeled away from a crowd of teammates and opponents as a free kick bent towards the Impact penalty area.

A defender headed the ball away from immediate danger in the chaotic goal mouth, but only as far as Jacobson, who snapped a picture-perfect volley into the top corner from 18 yards out.

“When I was younger I probably would have just hit it as hard as I could,” Jacobson said of his 29th-minute effort. “I’ve seen enough of those sky over.

“I figured … get it on frame and see what happens.”

With a number of attacking players out injured — including midfielders Yordy Reyna and Brek Shea — and 16-year-old phenom Alphonso Davies starting to wear down, Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson also played a hunch three weeks ago.

He switched his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders to a 4-1-4-1 setup that saw both Jacobson and Tony Tchani pushed further up field to support striker Fredy Montero.

The result was Vancouver playing well in a 2-1 road loss to the Portland Timbers on April 22 before the same lineup broke through in Montreal.

“It’s about people wanting to get in the box,” said Robinson. “I’ve challenged my players to want to get in the box and want to score goals.

“It’s just about continuing to do the right things.”

But what made him think Jacobson — a player who had scored just eight times in 203 Major League Soccer appearances over eight-plus seasons with five different clubs before Saturday — was suited to fill that role?

“Maybe I might know a little bit about the game?” Robinson joked, adding that Jacobson has had four or five great chances the last two outings and finished the most difficult of the bunch. “I get to work with him every day and I get to see that technically he’s very gifted.”

Jacobson, who would cap his day against the Impact by setting up Cristian Techera’s second-half winner, said he’s enjoyed the more advanced role in a formation that forces the Whitecaps (3-4-1) to attack on the road, where they visit the slumping Colorado Rapids (1-5-1) on Friday.

“It takes a lot of work and it takes everybody moving off the ball,” said Jacobson, a 31-year-old from Palo Alto, Calif., acquired from New York City FC in March 2016. “If you start to get complacent you can get burned real quick.”

Colorado had the second best record in MLS last season and opened 2017 with a victory, but has dropped five of its last six, including four straight.

Vancouver, meanwhile, has lost six in a row at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which sits about 1,600 metres above sea level, with the Whitecaps’ only points there all-time coming in a 2012 victory.

“The altitude definitely affects you,” said Jacobson. “I’ve always thought a lot of that is the mentality of guys going into it, almost giving yourself an excuse.

“Every year’s a different team. We haven’t played there yet with this team.”

Notes: Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey, who started his career with the Rapids, is in line to make his 250th MLS appearance. … Shea (knee sprain) was a full participant in training this week and could be available Friday. Reyna (broken foot) is still a few weeks away from returning after getting hurt in pre-season. … Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard is eligible to return after serving a three-game suspension. … Vancouver wraps up its four-game road trip in Houston on May 12.

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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