Vancouver Whitecaps: Insert Generic Overhaul Pun Here

From last night but now with additional meanderings.

Who knows why Director of Recruitment Nikos Overheul really left the Vancouver Whitecaps this week?

Well, quite a few people know obviously, but not the fans of the club who were left to wonder, once again, if there was anybody really steering the good ship Whitecap.

Maybe Overheul has been offered a better job? Maybe he’s tired of seeing the players he’s signed being played in unfamiliar positions? Maybe he grew weary of recruiting for one system of play and discovering that the coach had moved on to another? Maybe he’s just going to Goa to find inner peace?

Laborda at right back is text book Sartini. Take a player and try to make him fit into a role he isn’t used to. See the myriad wing backs from last season for further reference.

Whatever the reason he will no doubt have been watching his former team struggle to a 1-1 tie in Minnesota on Saturday evening.

To be fair to the Whitecaps they were missing two players to international duty. But, to be fair to Minnesota, they were missing eight players to international duty and featured more debutantes than a BBC adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.

Given the above a 1-1 tie is a pretty poor result. But the nature of it (a ninety-eighth minute equalizer when only six minutes of stoppage time were called for) will probably be enough to stave off the wolves that have been surrounding Vanni Sartini of late.

Whether that turns out be a blessing or a curse in the long run is a matter for debate but all the old failings were still there for this Vancouver team.

Decent possession at times, but a lack of both confidence and guile as soon as the ball got near to the opposition penalty area. An over reliance on set-pieces when it came to threatening the opposition goa and the inability to defend crosses.

Schopff seems to be going under the radar both in terms of his overall play and the avoidance of criticism. The midfield is better this season but rarely does he catch the eye or arrive in the box at the right time as he was predicted to do when signed.

Pedro Vite made a difference when he came on because, unlike Dajome, he has a vague notion of the right pass to play at the right time and Simon Becher once again showed more quality (and kicked the ball into the net!) than many more of his more highly paid colleagues.

It was Vite’s promotion to regular first team starts that gave the Whitecaps a glimmer of the playoffs last year. Why he’s not preferred over Dajome (who isn’t a number ten and who kills attacks with his inability to find the final pass) is a mystery.

It’s impossible for Becher to keep up this scoring rate of course but he has undeniably earned more minutes and already looks a better option than the erstwhile Cordova.

The optimist may think that two road ties in LA and Minnesota is a pretty good foundation for the Whitecaps to build on during the upcoming home stand.

The regular Whitecaps watcher knows that the world doesn’t work like that.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Takaoka-5, Laborda-4.5, Raposo-4, Veselinovic-5, Blackmon-5, Berhalter-4.5, Schopff-3.5, Gressel-5, Gauld-4, Dajome-3, White-5 (Vite-5.5*, Becher-5.5, Ahmed-4)

A Pyrrhic tie for the Vancouver Whitecaps

From last night but now with additional contemplations.

A 1-1 tie on the road to the LA Galaxy isn’t the worst result in the world, but the Vancouver Whitecaps still resemble a work in flux more than they do a work in progress.

And that perception isn’t helped by the coach.

In this game Sartini started Cordova up front with White and Dajome as the de facto number tens. (Spoiler alert! White and Dajome and not number tens). And he elected to play the best number ten in the team as a midfielder.

Trying to turn Ryan Gauld into the new Russell Teibert seems a strange path to take but there we go.

Last season Sartini was probably saved by a cup competition, and there’s enough of those this year to give him some leeway. But Axel Schuster surely can’t be watching these performances and thinking that the coach is getting the best out of this squad?

Eventually even the footballing gods had seen enough of such nonsense and an injury to Cordova and the exhaustion of Dajome forced the coach to revert to a semblance of common sense.

The Cordova signing already looks snake bitten. But signing a front man who can’t press to a team that wants to press from the front will enhance that perception.

The Whitecaps weren’t great after those changes but they were better than they were before.

Now if they could just spend some time practicing how to kick the ball to a player in the same colour shirt when they reach the edge of the opposition penalty area they might start to win a game or two.

The lack of compusure on the final pass last night was almost hilariously bad and has to be a sympton of the lack of cohesion the team seems incapable of resolving.

Overall though this game didn’t feel like the renaissance this team needs. Nor did it even feel like the beginning of the end of the dark ages.

Not quite the Plague of Justinian perhaps, but certainly not the Code of Justinian.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Takaoka-5, Brown-5, Raposo-5.5, Veselinovic-5.5, Blackmon-6*, Cubas-6, Gressel-4.5, Gauld-5.5, Dajome-4, White-4, Cordova-3 (Vite-3.5)

Whitecaps kick a ball about for a bit

Somebody saying be quiet

There are some games of soccer of which it is best to say as little as possible.

And the Whitecaps 3-2 loss (7-3 win) against Real Espana was just such a game.

But….in brief.

The pitch was terrible.

Vite looked lively-ish

Yao looked worrisome.

Hasal looked both good and bad.

White looked much better than Cordova (and so did Becher really).

The Whitecaps still can’t defend against balls crossed into their box in the air.

Now let’s all move on from this shall we?

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Hasal-6*, Laborda-5, Raposo-4.5, Blackmon-5, Yao-3.5, Berhalter-5, Ahmed-4, Ngando-4.5, Vite-5.5, Dajome-5, Cordova-4.5 (Brown-5, White-5)

Whitecaps Fail To Complete The Game

What a frustrating afternoon of football that was.

The 1-1 tie with FC Dallas featured the visitors disrupting the rhythm of the game at every opportunity, a referee who often seemed to be buffering, so delayed and random were his decisions and because the Whitecaps failed to build on the momentum of the midweek 5-0 win.

One would have hoped they would come out from the first whistle pushing Dallas back toward their own goal but, instead, they allowed Dallas to make the early running, conceded in the first five minutes and spent the rest of the game never quite overcoming the hurdles needed to take all three points.

They came close at times, but it was mostly half chances rather than carving open their opponent in a way that the improved passing in the middle of the park should be leading to.

Partly that’s down to the final delivery.

Brown and Raposo word hard in getting up and down the field but the former lacks the quality of cross too often and the latter’s need to cut inside to get the delivery in allows the opposition defence time to settle.

That wouldn’t be as big an issue if there were better runners from midfield but, unlike in mid-week, that never really happened.

There’s also something incongruous about Sartini simultaneously claiming that his team played well while explaining why he changed the tactical set up twice in the second-half.

Starting the half with Cordova and White was a mistake (White is not a number ten) and then switching to three at the back to match up with Dallas was indicative of the kind of tactical tinkering that makes it harder for the players to settle into the game and feels more about the coach wanted to “do something” rather than being called for by the state of the game.

There are still promising signs however.

As mentioned earlier, the passing definitely is better. The depth of the squad should help given the numerous competitions the team are in and the spine of the team looks solid.

It’s now just about a finding a little more decisiveness and quality with the final ball, playing for the full ninety minutes and the coach trusting in his own process.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Takaoka-6, Brown-6, Raposo-5.5, Veselinovic-5.5, Blackmon-5, Cubas-6.5*, Gressel-5, Schopff-4.5, Dajome-4.5, Gauld-5.5, White-5.5 (Cordova-4.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps are the real deal

Well that was better.

Let’s not pretend that Real Espana are the greatest team in the world, but the Whitecaps have lost to worse teams than that in the past.

The first half was fine but, in the second, as the Hondurans wilted the Whitecaps finally found the ability to punish a team when they were there to be punished.

It’s hard to imagine that even the Whitecaps can blow a 5-0 lead in the second leg.

Random thoughts on a few players.

Give Gauld players running in front of him and he will find them with a pass.

Raposo did more than enough to win back the left back role for Saturday’s game.

Blackmon may not be the most reliable defender at all times but he’s by far the best man to bring the ball out of the back and offer Vancouver the opportunity to disrupt the shape of an opponent.

Cordova did not look like a DP forward in this game. All lumbering runs and bad first touches.

This was Dajome’s best game for about a season and a half and probably the first game in that length of time that he’s genuinely looked like he wanted the ball. Let’s hope that continues.

New midfielder J.C. Ngando wasn’t given much time to show his worth but he has a likeable swagger of arrogance about him when he’s on the ball.

One swallow does not make a summer and one win does not make a season.

But the Whitecaps have shown they can create and finish chances. Now they need to do that on a regular basis.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Takaoka-5.5, Laborda-5.5, Raposo-6.5, Veselinovic-5.5, Blackmon-6, Cubas-6, Gressel-6, Gauld-6.5, Dajome-6.5*, Vite-5, Cordova-3

Deja vu all over again for the Whitecaps

From last night but with additional sighs of desperation.

Last season the Vancouver Whitecaps were awful in the first hall of every game and it cost them a bucket load of points.

It was a problem that needed to be solved.

The good news is that they’ve solved it.

The bad news is that they’ve solved it by being awful in the second half instead.

As with last week against RSL the Whitecaps were good for the first forty-five minutes and then allowed the game to drift away from them in the second. And the key word here is “drift”. It wasn’t taken from them by San Jose, they simply allowed it to wander away because they are incapable of even the most basic of in game management.

It’s tough to guess at what Sartini is saying to his players during the half time break, but the most likely answer is that he is telling them to stop passing the ball so crisply and to cut out those pesky attacks on the opponents goals.

In his post game media session Sartini said that he wanted his team to play in the same way as the first half. He needs to figure out why they aren’t listening to him.

At least this week he reacted to the in game situation by making changes. The problem is that the changes almost immediately made things worse.

And thus far in his brief Whitecaps career Sergio Cordova looks like the exact kind of forward the team don’t need. A big man up front who will persuade the rest of the team to lump the ball forward and bypass the better players in the middle of the pitch.

That’s probably harsh on a striker who has played less than forty-five minutes. But it does speak to the inability of the team to manage a game.

A penny too for the thoughts of Ryan Gauld. He looked thoroughly fed up with the situation in his post game comments last week and he cut a forlorn figure during that mess of a second half tonight.

Gauld also looked to have picked up an injury but if the Whitevaps best player stopped buying what the coach is selling that’s a real problem.

And Sartini?

Maybe he’s just a bad Champions League exit away from being shown the door?

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Takaoka-5.5, Brown-5, Martins-3.5, Veselinovic-5, Laborda-5, Martins-3, Cubas-5, Gressel-5, Schopff-5.5* Vite-4, Gauld-4, White-3.5 (Cordova-2)

Whitecaps in just another Winter’s Fail

From last night but with additional exasperations.

The first half was great.

The Whitecaps led Real Salt Lake through a Javain Brown header, passed and moved with purpose and kept the visitors at arms length throughout.

The midfield looked solid (the midfield!) and the team as a whole were playing with purpose and pace.

By the second half though Schopf drifted it of the game and Gressel looked worryingly leggy.

So I guess the tactical decision they faced at half time was to either continue playing well or to play not so well.

Sadly they chose the latter option and the inevitable Salt Lake equalizer and equally inevitable winner followed in swift succession leaving the Whitecaps to huff and puff their way to a late rally that never once looked like it would lead to a goal.

In his post game comments Sartini put this change of fortunes down to the vagaries of MLS. But RSL adapted at half time and Vancouver failed to deal with that switch.

This failure of a second-half wouldn’t be quite so worrying if it wasn’t indicative of one of their major failings from last season too.

Last year whenever they were faced with the opportunity to kill a game off they consistently backed away from the challenge, preferring instead to drop deeper and deeper and allow all the momentum to slip through their fingers.

And this performance against Salt Lake was particularly shameful.

In front of a very good home crowd, who had braved multiple weather warnings to get to the game, the players decided that making an effort for half the game was quite enough thank you very much.

There were times last night when the Whitecaps had three coaches up and shouting instructions at the players. But it seemed there was nobody who could calmly assess what was going wrong and figure out how to fix that.

If those on the pitch don’t have the mental fortitude to play as they should for ninety minutes and if the coaching staff don’t have the courage or insight to know that changes are needed until it’s far too late then we all face yet another season of this team bobbing around the edge of the play-offs, celebrating pyrrhic victories and always finding a reason to forgive themselves for all their shortcomings.

A nice easy ride for the players, a not so easy ride for the rest of us.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Takaoka-6, Brown-6, Martins-4, Veselinovic-4.5, Blackmon-4.5, Cubas-6*, Schopf-4.5, Gressel-4, Dajome-3, Gauld-4.5, White-4.5

Vancouver Whitecaps: The Time Has Come

Today and tomorrow and yesterday too

The flowers are dying, like all things do

I Contain Multitudes, Bob Dylan

As we get older Time ceases to seem as linear as it once did, less circular even. Time increasingly become like an Escher drawing, folding in and out of itself until every day is a doorway into a random set of events that seem increasingly disconnected from any kind of narrative function.

A fever dream of today, tomorrow and yesterday.

Superfluous then to write about what may be to come? Not really. Fooling our waking mind that the laws of physics still hold true is the only way we can cling on to our coherent vision of reality.

So, in that spirit, let’s examine five things we would like the Vancouver Whitecaps to do next season. You won’t believe number 4!!

Play the whole season- If the Whitecaps (and Vanni Sartini in particular) can be rid of the notion that the early games don’t really count it would go a long way to making the playoffs a more attainable target. The same goes for road games against Eastern Conference opponents. “There’s still points to be won!” I often scream angrily at the television as some representative or other of the team shrugs away a a defeat as a mere bagatelle rather than the three points that my cost the team post-season football.

Play the whole game- Last season (and for seasons before) the Whitecaps seem to have viewed the first-half of any game as an annoying distraction from the more important task of warming up for the real contest that occurs in the second half. Playing for the full ninety minutes is a much better proof of “character” than desperately chasing game after game.

Be less tactically “interesting”- Sartini’s low boredom threshold can lead to him trying things when they don’t need to be tried. Playing players in the right position might not be proof of tactical innovation, but it is proof that you want to win games. Less emphasis on trying numerous misfits at wing-back and more emphasis on playing wing-backs at wing-back would help a lot.

Complete the midfield- Andres Cubas was a great signing. Season changing in many ways. But now he needs somebody alongside him of equal quality. Maybe Alessandro Schöpf will turn out to be that guy? Although the coach was reluctant to play him there at the tail end of last season. But the team need more than the endless series of journeyman who chase aimlessly after the ball leaving more and more gaps for Cubas to fill.

Be fun- If the World Cup in Qatar taught us anything, it’s that soccer can transcend any circumstance or obstacle because, at it’s best, it’s the perfect mix of skill, stupidity and comedy. The Whitecaps will never attain the heights of Messi, Modric and the like, but they can be better than they have been in recent seasons. See above for how they can attain this. Being competent at football is a great way to keep the fan base engaged without the need for endless marketing gimmicks and picnic tables on the pitch.

As Twitter gradually sinks into the abyss of a Billionaire’s subconscious private Black Mirror episode you can follow me at

@Squadplayer on Mastodon and/or Post

Vancouver Whitecaps Season Review: The Forwards

Well, I’m back.

After dissecting the defence and monitoring the midfield it’s time to focus on the forwards.

How did those responsible for the Whitecaps attacking “threat” fare in 2022?

Deiber Caicedo- A season cut short by injury makes is hard to judge Caicedo since he left the season before the team got good. But, if Sartini continues with the same system of two men behind the lone forward, he should be (at the very least) prove to be a good option from the bench. Season Rating-3. Stay or Go? Stay.

Cristian Dajome- This was Dajome’s worst season as a Whitecap by a country mile. He certainly wasn’t helped by being played in a variety of positions but there were times where his confidence appeared to be completely shot. Best suited as a wide forward it’s hard to see how he will ever get regular games while Sartini remains. Season Rating-1. Stay or Go? Go.

Brian White- White was nothing like the goal threat he was last season and there was many a time when his touch brought an attacking break to a preemptive end. But his positional sense and work rate made up for a lot of his deficiencies and the Whitecaps looked the most dangerous when he played with Gauld and Vite behind him. A better version of Brian White would be ideal for next season. Season Rating-4.5. Stay or Go? Stay.

Lucas Cavallini- This was Cavallini’s best season as a Whitecap by some distance yet it was still pockmarked with controversy and petulance. His red card against Nashville should probably have been the end of his time here but he returned to score a goal and indulge in more petulance. A individual with no interest in the whole. Season Rating-4.5 Stay or Go? Go.

Ryan Gauld- It’s possible (probable even) that if Gauld had been fit for the whole season the Whitecaps would have made the playoffs. he makes the right runs, plays the right passes and must be a joy to play with. Season Rating-7.5. Stay or Go? Stay.

Tossaint Ricketts– Extending Rickett’s contract for 2023 felt like a case of hope over reality. But the Canadian forward proved to be the most effective attacking option from the bench. A much needed feel good story. Stay or Go? Go (But stay at the club in some capacity).

And so it ends.

Will the lessons of 2022 be learned in 2023? How am I supposed to know the answer to that???!!!

But there is hope. There is always hope.

After all, tomorrow is another day.

Vancouver Whitecaps Season Review: The Midfield

Last time out we took stock of the Whitecaps defenders in 2022. So what on earth do we do now???

Why, we shelter from the rain and carefully take the all-seeing and infallible “Book of Judgment” down from the shelf to see what the mighty tome says about the midfield.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Sebastian Berhalter- Berhalter at least offered the possibility of being able to play both the defensive and attacking sides of the midfield role. There is still some growing to do in terms of each of those traits but it’s not inconceivable that he could become a decent player for the Whitecaps. Season rating-5. Stay or Go? Stay.

Leonard Owusu- For every five games he plays Owusu seems to be very good in one, fine in two, poor in one and never seen a game of football in his life in the other. If he could find consistency (good consistency obviously) he would be so much more valuable to the team. That won’t happen though and he’s probably not worth the risk anymore. Season rating-4. Stay or Go? Go.

Alessandro Schopff- Schopff was heralded as a difference maker in the midfield when he arrived. He was then played behind the striker instead of the midfield until it finally dawned on Vanni Sartini that he really wasn’t ready to play games at all. Hopefully he will be ready next season. Season rating-2. Stay or Go? Stay.

Andres Cubas- An actual difference maker. Defends the centre of the pitch by moving to where the ball will be rather than chasing after it and prevents opposition passes by blocking off the angles. These skillsets are revolutionary to see in a Vancouver midfielder and he makes life easier for every other Whitecap. Season rating-7. Stay or Go? Stay.

Ryan Raposo- Raposo was played as a left wing back for much of the season. A role that he performed well without really providing a ton of attacking threat. It’s unlikely he will be played there again unless it’s in an emergency, so only time will tell if this was a wasted season for Raposo’s development or a valuable one that taught him more about the game. Season rating-5.5. Stay or Go? Stay.

Russell Teibert- There’s not much more to be said about Teibert. He shouldn’t be starting for a team that wants to make the playoffs and, as captain, he doesn’t seem to be much of a leader on the field and is a poor speaker off it. Season rating-3. Stay or Go. Go (but won’t).

Michael Baldisimo- Never looked capable of being the player that Sartini wanted and has now been released. Hopefully he can find a team that wants his particular skillset and will get to play the games he desperately needs. Season-rating-2. Stay or Go? Gone.

Pedro Vite- My theory is that if Vite had played in the games that Schopff started then the Whitecaps would have made the playoffs. Sure he’s mercurial but he grew in confidence once he was given a run in the team and offered a much needed alternative to Gauld when it came to attacking threat. Season rating-6. Stay or Go? Stay.