Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part Four)

We’re finally there!

The last look back at a season that made most of us want to turn away. But at least after Parts One, Two and Three we can turn to the most successful aspect of the whole campaign.

The forward line.

Kei Kamara- Here’s a theory. If Vancouver had only signed Kamara and nobody else during the off season they would have made the playoffs.

Imagine it. No Juarez, Felipe or Mutch to distract Carl Robinson from his one and only love of bunkering in and using a target man? That might well have worked.

But even in the mess of a tactical minefield he was unleashed in to Kamara played well, and yet perhaps his most important contribution was his mentoring of Alphonso Davies.

Because convincing the Bayern bound kid to simply enjoy his football certainly didn’t feel like something anybody else within the locker room was capable of doing.

For a player who arrived with a reputation of being something of a trouble maker Kamara turned out to be the sanest person in the room.

Season rating-6.5

Yordy Reyna- The Peruvian began the year under all kinds of clouds and it wasn’t until the season was in full swing that Reyna followed suit.

But once he did get going he proved himself to be a crucial, unpredictable element to the Whitecaps attack.

He’s a diamond  in the rough for sure, but put a couple of really good players around him and Reyna could be a genuine force in MLS.

Season Rating-6

Brek Shea- If Kendall Waston personifies the early stages of Carl Robinson’s reign and Efrain Juarez personifies its end then Brek Shea personifies the club as a whole.

Coming in on a trade simply because they wanted to get rid of somebody else and earning an extension simply because somebody forgot about a clause in his contract Shea is the DP that nobody wanted.

Not even the occasional flash of quality can mitigate the disaster his signing has been and it will be fascinating to see where he ends up next (and how much he is paid).

Season rating-3

Cristian Techera- Techera is the very definition of flattering to deceive given that he’s capable of putting up stats that make you think “Hmm, he actually had a good season”.

But it’s clear he only plays well when he really wants to play and drifts out of games far too easily.

His ability to put in a good delivery from a set piece was always his saving grace but he won’t be back.

Season Rating- 4

Anthony Blondell- Blondell began the season with some promise but then immediately fell off a metaphorical cliff.

Hard to know if that’s down to his own failings, the failings of the coaching staff or some other extraneous factor but it’s not impossible to imagine him having a decent season next year if he stays (it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible).

Season rating-3

Erik Hurtado- We know what we get with Hurtado. Lots of effort, plenty of speed and a lack of any real quality.

It’s possible that Dos Santos will like his hustle for his pressing game but it might be time for Hurtado to move on.

Season Rating- 4.5

Nicolas Mezquida- We know what we get with Mezquida. Lots of effort, moments of quality and a lack of any real speed.

It’s possible that Dos Santos will like his hustle for his pressing game but it might be time for Mezquida to move on.

Season rating- 4.5

Alphonso Davies- Saving the best until last at least.

This season Davies went from being a young player with potential to being an actual player.

He lit up a number of games with his pace and his skill and provided almost all the moments of genuine joy for the fans watching the team.

He still had days when he tried to do too much or selected the wrong pass but playing with (and against) better players in Germany should move his game up to another level at least.

He will be missed for sure but he leaves with everybody in and around the club wishing him nothing but the best (and that won’t be true of all the departures in the off season).

Season rating- 7

Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part Three)

New coach Marc Dos Santos will probably need to set aside at least a couple of months if he wants a quick chat with all the central midfielders his new club currently have on their books but, in lieu of such wasted days, he could simply check out the following blog post which rates his putative midfield charges on their 2018 performance.

He should also feel free to check out parts One and Two as well.

You’re welcome Marc!

Aly Ghazal- The Egyptian looked most comfortable when asked to play as the lone defensive midfielder toward the end of the season. He still retains the bizarre habit of hitting one absolutely horrendous pass in every game (Ghazal seems to look up, see an opponent in isolation and pass the ball directly toward him).

Every Vancouver player’s future now rests upon the tactical whims of Dos Santos but the biggest hit against Ghazal is the hit he takes on the salary cap.

He’s a decent player, but not decent enough to allow him to adversely impact the overall recruitment strategy.

Season rating- 5.5

Efrain Juarez- If Kendall Waston is the player to epitomise the beginning of the Carl Robinson era then Juarez is the player to epitomise the end.

Seemingly signed because he’d played in a World Cup and with the understanding he would play in the centre of the pitch rather than his more familiar full back Juarez was the Platonic ideal of a player brought in for a lot of money and with little thought.

His biggest contributions were picking up unneccessary red cards and advising other players where to be positioned while hopelessly out of position himself.

He did have  a good game in the 2-1 win in Colorado though.

Season rating-2

Felipe Martins- What a strange season it was for Felipe (for all of us really).

The player best suited to feed the attacking front three of Kamara, Davies and Reyna was positioned deeper and deeper as the year went on until his transformation into a not very good defensive midfielder was complete.

In the end he lost his place and, once again, the Whitecaps saw a big pre-season signing contributing nothing to the team. He may though be one player who is suited to finding a place under the new regime.

Season rating-5.5

Jordon Mutch- When he did play the Englishman showed a degree of quality missing for so much of the season but that “when” is the telling tale because Mutch never looked capable of stringing a consistent run of games together.

His loan move was a chance worth taking once but the Whitecaps should take a pass on any further extension.

Season rating- 4.5

Russell Teibert- This was Teibert’s best season in a Whitecaps shirt. He was the most consistent central midfielder in the team and when moved forward by Craig Dalrymple at the end of the year he even demonstrated an eye for goal.

His end of season interviews though felt more like a campaign to be made captain for 2019 than they did an attempt to heal wounds or solve problems.

Just as in his overall play Teibert tends to favour the clichéd over the innovative or refreshing and the thought of listening to his post game interviews for a whole season is spiritually debilitating.

If Dos Santos is being candid about the style of play he wants to install it’s hard to see Teibert slotting in without a major overhaul of his play and Teibert’s role is likely to revert back to the valuable bench player he undoubtedly is.

Season rating-6.5

Next time out it’s a look at what was (mostly) the best part of the season; the forwards.


Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part Two)

Last time out we took a look at the goalkeeper and fullbacks so now it’s the turn of the central defenders to receive their end of term report.

Spoiler Alert! The Whitecaps defence was terrible all year so none of these are going to be great.

Kendall Waston- Waston will go down as the defining player of the Carl Robinson era. Brought in to provide physicality and help shore up the defence (which he did) the Costa Rican seemed to mirror the mood of the coach more often than not.

And this season was no exception.

There was an uncertainty about Waston’s play for much of the year (no doubt exacerbated by having to play with a number of different central defensive partners) and his air of dominance dissipated to the occasional showing.and even his value on attacking set pieces only really came to the fore when he was given the added incentive of facing the returning Tim Parker.

Waston can be a surprisingly insular on field presence for a team captain and once Robinson was released it was clear his head was only part way in to the remaining games.

Chances are he won’t be back in 2019 and the fact that feels like less of a loss than it might have done a season ago tells us all we need to know about Waston’s play in 2018.

Season rating-4.5

Doneil Henry- The Whitecaps took a chance on the Canadian given his injury record and in some ways it paid off and in some ways it didn’t.

The only real injuries he suffered were self-inflicted (punching a locker room wall in frustration after conceding a late own goal to Toronto) and while that makes a great metaphor for the whole season it’s also a reminder that Henry retains a somewhat astonishing ability to produce a game changing mistake out of nowhere.

His physicality means he could be Waston’s heir apparent next year but the new coach will have to decide if the mostly good is good enough to outweigh the occasionally terrible.

Season rating-4.5

Aaron Maund- We can add Maund to the list of players who were left out of the team for an inexplicably lengthy stretch.

When he did play Maund was solid and unspectacular (no bad thing) and while he was certainly culpable on more than one goal that culpability wasn’t exclusively his.

In retrospect sticking with Maund may have given the Vancouver defence the continuity and cohesion it so desperately needed (although chances are that would never happen no matter who was in the line up).

He may be a decent back up at best but that probably makes him the best central defender of the season.

Season rating-5

Jose Aja- Aja arrived as the tentative replacement for Tim Parker and “tentative” probably best describes his play this season.

The theory of pairing Waston with a ball playing partner was theoretically a good one but in practice Aja’s passing wasn’t all that great and Robinson didn’t really want (or know how to get) his team to play in that way anyway.

By the end of the year Aja was mostly a presence in either the stands or the bench but when he did play his lack of physicality (and match sharpness to be fair) did little to persuade anybody that he should be back next season.

Season rating-4

Next time out we will take a look at the several dozen midfield players to have played in 2018

Ring, ring goes the bell

Imagine the scenario if you will.

The Principal of a school in British Columbia (let’s call him Mr Bobbio) discovers that one of his teachers (let’s call him Mr Carlio) has lost control of his classroom.

Most of the kids still love Mr Carlio but every week at least one of them turns up in Mr Bobbio’s office accused of committing some misdemeanor or another.

And the word in the staff room is that factions are starting to form among the kids and that Mr Carlio tends to favour one of these factions over the others and on at least one occasion this has spilled over into a fight in the schoolyard.

By now the parents of these children have started to ask questions about whether Mr Carlio is right for the job and wondering if Mr Bobbio should intervene.

“Pupil discipline is the responsibility of the teacher” says Mr Bobbio earnestly “and these matters will be dealt with internally”.

As the school year speeds by the situation gets no better. Grade averages begin to decline, divisions begin to magnify and Mr Carlio gets more and more sarcastic when parents question his authority.

“Have you seen the funding this school receives?” he asks with mock incredulity. “The kids at the school down the street are much more intelligent than your kids” he patiently explains when questioned about poor performance.

But not even the occasional round robin missive to parents from Mr Carlio’s Teaching Assistant (let’s call him Mr Stewio) telling them that this is the happiest classroom he has ever worked in can quell their anxiety and, with just five weeks to go before the crucial end of term tests, Mr Bobbio fires Mr Carlio and appoints a substitute teacher (let’s call him Mr Craigio) to take over.

Crazy situation eh?

A Principal of a school who knew, near the beginning of the term no less, that a teacher was failing in one of the most basic aspects of his job but allowed the situation to spiral out of control and didn’t for one moment think “Maybe I should intervene?” or “Maybe I should performance manage Mr Carlio to ensure the children receive the education they deserve and the grades they are capable of?” or “Maybe the taxes the parents pay to fund my salary compels me to take a more proactive role in running this school and to not just blame everything on the teachers?”

A shocking absence of responsibility and accountability that I think we can all agree would never happen in real life.

Anyway, next time out I’ll move away from writing about the education system in British Columbia and get back to writing about the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Vancouver Whitecaps: And….scene

Obviously the transfer fee the Vancouver Whitecaps received for Alphonso Davies was nice but perhaps the greatest benefit they have reaped from his presence has been the opportunity to somehow fashion some kind of a silk purse from a sow’s ear of a season.

And that purse got a little bit silkier on Sunday afternoon at BC Place as the Whitecaps beat the Portland Timbers 2-1 with Davies scoring both of the goals (the first with a trademark surging run and shot).

None of that made up for the debacle of a year but did at least leave everyone departing the stadium with a modicum of humanity in their hearts.

The cynic will say that the Timbers were resting players and therefore not at full strength. But how many times have we seen the Whitecaps react to just such a scenario with timidity?

But not this time around as Craig Dalrymple sent out a team with the attitude of trying to win the game rather than settling for the minimum.

He also broke all previous protocol by asking his players (trusting his players) to pass the ball on the ground and use movement to open up the opposition, with even attacking set pieces seen as another chance to methodically build an attack rather than the be all and end all of forward intent.

Hopefully this was a foreshadowing of what is to come from the new coach next year.

Davies aside there were also good outings for both Nerwinski and Levis and Aly Ghazal had the kind of game to emphasize his value to the team.

Just sitting in front of the back four breaking up attacks and playing simple passes.

Bizarrely Vancouver finished the campaign two points out of the playoff places and it’s tempting to wonder what might have been different had they had a full squad available for selection in that recent 4-1 home drubbing by Sporting Kansas City.

But the reality is they didn’t deserve to make the post-season given how they played and it was certainly sobering to see so much salary cap wandering the field at the end of the game in casual attire.

If points were awarded for wearing hipster cardigans then Vancouver would be clear favourites for the Supporter’s Shield.

But instead it’s all about farewells now.

To Davies who has somehow maintained his sense of perspective despite carrying the club both on and off the field for much of the year and to so many others (Maybe a dozen or more?) who either aren’t wanted or want to move on.

It’s going to be a maelstrom of rumours and news and speculation over the next few weeks and that’s part of the fun of being a fan.

Not as much as being in the playoffs of course but beggars can’t be choosers.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-5.5, Nerwinski-6.5, Levis-6, Waston-5, Henry-6, Ghazal-6, Teibert-5.5, Reyna-5, Davies-7*, Mutch-6, Kamara-5.5

Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part One)

Oh well. Only one more game to get through before this season can finally be laid to rest for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

And, tempting though it may be to look away from the horror show of a year, that means it’s time to look upon all the horrors to have been performed in our name.

Or, in other words, time for the player ratings for the season.

Let’s start with the goalkeepers and full backs.

Stefan Marinovic- What can we say about Marinovic? Seriously, what can we say?

Marinovic is an oddity for a goalkeeper in that he doesn’t have any defining characteristics or on field personality or anything of anything really.

Does he even exist when we aren’t watching him play?

His first full season in Vancouver has been marked by injury and a startling inability to prevent the opposition from scoring less than two goals and while the defensive frailties are not solely his responsibility he’s been unable to offer any degree of organization for the players in front of him.

Marinovic almost never makes a terrible mistake and almost never makes a game winning save. He just is.

Season rating-5

Brian Rowe- Rowe stepped in for the games where Marinovic was missing and it didn’t make much difference. The team still conceded the obligatory two goals most of the time and while Rowe was less decisive than Marinovic in commanding his area the transition between the two was sadly seamless.

Season rating-5

Jake Nerwinski- The young full back fell victim to the increasingly bizarre selection strategy as the season progressed. Just when it seemed he was set for a run in the side he was left on the bench for enough games to allow him to lose his match sharpness.

By the end of the year he had reestablished himself as the first choice right back but never quite lived up the standards he set last season.

His defending will always be a little suspect, a bad decision here a moment’s hesitation there, but this was offset by his attacking threat.

This season though he’s offered little of value in that area.

And when he has got forward his delivery has been poor (ironically he was one of the best crossers of the ball last year) possibly because he’s trying just too hard to get the delivery right. Maybe the whole back line have had to think too much about what they’re doing?

Nerwinski will always be a trier and the hope is that a new coach will use him in a way that magnifies his strength and limits his weakness (Hint. Playing as a wing back).

Season Rating- 4.5

Brett Levis- In some way just seeing Levis get a run of games and earning the start at left back is a kind of triumph after the injuries he has suffered.

But he’ll need more than that if he is going to be a regular in 2019.

Firstly he needs to figure out his inability to get through the full ninety minutes (It has to be psychological at this stage surely?) and secondly he needs to find a level of consistency that has eluded him thus far.

But Levis will always be a trier and the hope has to be that a new coach will use him in a way that magnifies his strength and limits his weakness (Hint. Playing as a wing back).

Season rating-4

Sean Franklin- A stop-gap replacement for Nerwinski who probably played two or three games too many to the detriment of team cohesion.

Franklin did nothing too terrible but was still part of that defence so let’s not get carried away.

Season rating-4

Marcel de Jong- This has been a season in which de Jong has very much regressed.

He began the year as the first choice left back and put in a few of his typically solid performances before losing his way.

Put some of that down to injury and put some of it down to being part of a disorganized back line but he still made too many unforced errors for such an experienced player and he’ll do well to convince the new man that he still offers value to the team next season.

Season rating-3.5

Next time out it’s the central defenders. Yikes!

Vancouver Whitecaps do not go gently

Well that could have been worse.

When the Whitecaps went 2-0 down to LAFC early in the game on Sunday afternoon it felt as though the home side would be slicing through Vancouver’s defence with impunity all night long.

It was all too easy.

But Russell Teibert promised that the team would never ever give up again and it seems his word is his bond as Alphonso Davies produced a great run to earn the penalty kick that Yordy Reyna converted and, in the second half, Jordon Mutch hammered one home from distance to earn an unlikely road point.

A cynic might suggest that LAFC were so comfortable in those early stages that they took their metaphorical foot off the imaginary pedal a little too early, but credit to the Whitecaps for having the wherewithal to capitalize on that failing.

It’s hard to say if anything means anything anymore (for the Whitecaps and for life in general) but Davies and Reyna demonstrated they can unnerve any opponent (what a waste of their talent this season has been) but the defence is still a work in progress with only one game remaining and Aly Ghazal is still a player who can combine being very good and very bad within the same game (sometimes within the same passage of play).

And we really are all going to have to stop being fooled by Erik Hurtado’s annual flurry of decent games.

He isn’t a “decent back up” for anybody in this league anymore. Kudos to his work rate and his energy but watching the ball bounce of his shin time after time has become wearying.

But at least he doesn’t eat up salary with the voracity of Brek Shea, who Craig Dalrymple seems determined to stick with.

Once again Shea demonstrated he knows how to get involved in the play without ever really knowing what to do when he is involved. Or when he does know what to do he is almost always incapable of completing the maneuver he wants to complete.

So it’s on to the final game in Portland next week with nothing to play for but a modicum of pride and a farewell to Davies.

Pretty sure most of us will be glad when it’s all over.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings

Marinovic-4.5, Nerwinski-4.5, Levis-4.5, Waston-4.5, Henry-5, Ghazal-5, Shea-2.5, Teibert-4, Davies-5.5*, Reyna-5, Hurtado-3.5