The dynamic duo of Rob Vincent and Kevin Kerr have become the talk of the town as the pair see their names littered across the USL statistical leaderboards. Vincent leads the league in a plethora of categories, including goals (9) and points (22), while Kerr trails his teammate in the points race with his 5 goals and 5 assists. The two have formed a seamless connection as they go deeper into their third season together. This formidable connection isn’t all owed to experience however. Their new positions out on the wings in Mark Steffens’s system has given them the freedom to push forward and find each other in goal scoring situations.
Kerr and Vincent, who are traditional central midfielders, have relished this opportunity to work in the attacking zone under their new head coach.
“I’m loving every minute of it,” said Kerr. “I’m playing the highest I ever have in my career. I feel at home out there.”
Although they have played occasionally out wide in their careers, the tandem still had to make the proper preseason preparations for their new roles. Vincent particularly had to condition himself for the increase in running required for operating on the flank.
“It’s a different type of running. In the central of the park everything’s kind of short, maybe 5 or 10 yards, but on the outside you’re making 60-yard runs up and down. It was a big transition to make. Luckily, the preseason allowed me to build that fitness base.”
Vincent also looked back to his homeland for inspiration on how to play his position. He studied Premier League talents like Eden Hazard so he can best utilize his right foot on the left. Emulating the type of positions the Chelsea winger takes up on the field and movement he makes with the ball has been helpful Vincent claims.
Vincent wants to cut back inside so he can get a shot off on his favorite right boot. He has been successful so far in finding those areas within the box where he can score goals. The Englishman has tripled his goal total from last season.
Kerr meanwhile has deferred to Vincent’s rampant goal scoring, preferring to be the playmaker that sends his teammate on goal. The Scotsman had made his contributions recently by finding Vincent on crosses and through balls.
Kerr has found acres of space on the right hand side throughout the season leading to his fair share of goals as well, including a hat trick against Harrisburg opening night.
“All season I’ve tried to stay as wide as possible,” said Kerr. “This sometimes means that there might be a six to ten minute spell where I won’t see the ball. The key is to stay disciplined and remain out wide so the one or two times I do get the ball, I’m in some great space and can get into dangerous positions.”
This cross-field partnership that Kerr and Vincent have created is a major part of why Kerr has been so open. Vincent will control play on the left forcing the defense to shift over. At that point Vincent will play a switching ball over the defense that finds Kerr in space. The defense now already out of position will have lost track of Vincent who has cut into the box to be an available target for Kerr.
The British roots that both Kerr and Vincent share have contributed to the success of their partnership. Both possess the ability to play long balls over the defense, which is considered a staple of the British style of play.
“I know that Bobby can hit that long one,” said Kerr, “so every time he gets the ball I’m running down that line to see if he can hit me over the top.”
“Maybe that comes with our time playing back in Europe,” said Vincent. “If you’re playing a lot of short passes it becomes very predictable and easy to defend against. When you can hit that long ball every now and again it certainly catches teams off guard.”
Steffens also deserves a fair share of the credit for allowing Kerr and Vincent’s skill sets to flourish in his attack minded system. The free flowing play that Steffens seeks gives the two every chance to get forward and interchange with each other.
“The shackles are off,” said Kerr. “Goals have been flying in.”
The duo has also found times within games to pinch into the middle because of the constant interchanging of positions under Steffens. Together they have been able to combine their advanced roles with their defensive capabilities developed during their time as central midfielders to press high and create turnovers in dangerous areas.
The next step for both Kerr and Vincent is to get the rest of the team on the same wavelength they operate on. If they can do this then Vincent believes the Riverhounds can reach their full potential.
“Two players working on the same page is good, but if we could have 6 or 7 on the front foot then it would be so much better.”