Only time will tell if the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo at BC Place on Saturday afternoon will turn out to be a point gained or two points dropped, but a home tie against the worst team in the Conference can at least be described as “less than optimal”.
True the Whitecaps were without a number of key starters but that doesn’t excuse the lethargy with which they began the game and it came as no surprise when the Dynamo took the lead in the twentieth minute thanks to some nice build up play and some sloppy defending from the home team.
Vancouver didn’t really wake up until the fortieth minute when referee Drew Fischer decided to eject both Alex and Pedro Morales for an altercation that should have been a yellow card for each at most.
There’s nothing more tiresome than constantly harping on about refereeing standards in MLS but too many officials resemble those teachers we all had in our school days who couldn’t control the kids through gaining their respect but instead always went for the nuclear option of meaningless shouting or undeserved detention or the stick (depending on your age and your geography).
This of course simply lessened their authority in the same way that instantly reaching for the red card does to a referee.
But at least the Whitecaps came out with fire in their bellies for the second half and Octavio Rivero hit a fine shot into the top corner just seven minutes in and suddenly it felt as though Vancouver would surge to victory.
But then nothing.
They allowed the Dynamo to settle back into the game and seemed bafflingly content with picking up a point and maybe sneaking something on one of their forays forward without ever really committing to those forays with either belief or man power.
Maybe Carl Robinson was so unsure about his patched up back four that he felt the need to keep two defensive midfielders on the pitch for virtually the entire game, but having six defensive minded players against a team who hadn’t picked up a single point on the road was unnecessarily cautious.
It also meant that a huge gap opened between the Whitecaps forwards and the rest of the team with nobody capable of making use of the space that existed between those channels.
The Whitecaps did have such a player but he stayed on the bench until the ninetieth minute of the game.
It’s hard to know what Nicolas Mezquida needs to do to get more meaningful minutes but Saturday’s game was crying out for exactly his type of player; full of energy, can play centrally and just behind the forwards and so drag opposing defenders out of position.
And even in his three minute cameo he helped to inject more urgency into the attack than had been evident up to that point but all to no avail.
One further thought before we consign this game to the history books.
For the second consecutive game the Whitecaps played the first half at half throttle and then came out in the second all guns blazing and Robinson himself admitted this was an issue that needed to be addressed.
Maybe that issue is exacerbated by his policy of always giving the starting eleven a chance to redeem themselves in the first ten or fifteen minutes of the second half?
If players know they won’t be withdrawn at half time (or sooner) then they are always playing in the comfort zone (subconsciously at least) and the performance against Houston was a perfect chance for the coach to take them out of that comfort zone by making a change as early as the first thirty minutes.
If it’s not working then fix it as quickly as possible and let the players know that they will be held accountable for it not working.
Here then are your Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Ousted-6, Smith-6, Parker-6, Jacobson-6, Harvey-6, Teibert-6, Laba-7*, Morales-6, Techera-5, Manneh-5, Rivero-6 (Hurtado-5)
You can follow me on Twitter: Twitter.com/squadplayer