Playing a cup game against a team you are “expected” to beat is a thankless task. Win the game and everybody shrugs in disinterest, lose it and the knives are immediately out for both the players and the coach.
There is losing a game however and there is “losing” a game and the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 defeat to the Ottawa Fury in the first leg of their Canadian Championship clash can be placed firmly into the latter category as the supposedly better MLS team were toothless against their NASL hosts.
No doubt that was partly due to the number of changes Carl Robinson made to his starting lineup, but it’s become something of a trend for the coach to throw in young players in batches rather than allow them the opportunity to slot into a team that is already functioning and the upshot of this policy is those youngsters tend to perform poorly and so drop out of contention for more starts.
That was particularly true for Kianz Froese and Marco Bustos who both began in wide positions when each is better suited to a more central role and, inevitably, they failed to impress in Ottawa and so must feel their progress has taken one step further back.
Maybe they would have been better had the Whitecaps gone into the game with a more positive approach but a 4-3-2-1 formation invited the Fury on to them without ever looking incisive going forward and it was no surprise to see the home team lead by two goals at the interval with strikes from former Whitecaps Johnny Steele and Paulo Junior.
It was even less of a surprise to discover that Carl Robinson had chosen not to make a change at half time as he opted to once again follow his “if it’s not working don’t fix it policy” and a further ten minutes of ineptitude passed before Rivero and Manneh were introduced.
Even that did little to change the mindset of the team and the introduction of fifteen year old Alphonso Davies in the final fifteen minutes was surely a great moment for the kid but not the move of a coach who was desperate to change the momentum on the pitch.
How Robinson approaches the return leg at BC Place will be interesting to say the least because although winning this trophy for the first time last season was clearly important his approach to the subsequent Champions League games was less than enthusiastic.
So does he throw in the likes of Morales, Laba, Harvey, Manneh and Rivero from the start?
The best guess is that maybe one or two from that list make the first eleven with the hope that the bare minimum is required to overturn the two goal deficit but, whatever happens next week, this week was a woeful performance and the third game in succession where Vancouver have played the first half in a tepid and unenthusiastic manner.
That’s probably coincidence rather than an emerging culture but it’s a fairly awful habit for any team to be getting into.
Time then for the Soccer Shorts player rating (Yikes!).
Tornaghi-6, Aird-5, Adekugbe-5, Parker-5, Seiler-5, Teibert-4, McKendry-4, Froese-4, Bustos-4, Mezquida-6*, Hurtado-4 (Manneh-5, Rivero-5)