There have been times this season when trying to figure out the Whitecaps best starting eleven and formation has been a bit like trying to complete a “Connect the Dots” game in which the dots are constantly moving and even the ultimate picture itself is in a state of flux.
Glance out of the side of your eye, squint a little and you may get an idea of a shape or a shadow but then it all slips away again leaving nothing but a frustrating sense of fluctuation and an unsettling sense of unsteadiness.
And the imminent arrival of Fabian Espindola from DC United does little to clarify the picture.
Are we looking at him playing alongside Kudo in a two man forward line or is he to be the new lone striker (a kind of Rivero 2.0) with Kudo acting as the alternate when need be?
Much more likely is that Espindola will play on the left, but his versatility does at least make the Whitecaps forward roster look a good deal deeper than it did when Kekuta Manneh limped off against Colorado last week.
All this probably means that Pedro Morales will drop deeper again although he may well be “rested” for at least one or two of the tough upcoming road games with Jacobson slotting alongside Laba in what has been an intermittently effective midfield partnership.
Actually “intermittently effective” might well be the call sign for the whole season so far and nowhere is that more pertinent than along the back line.
It seems reasonable to assume that the new plan is to insert David Edgar alongside Kendall Waston at the back and move Tim Parker to the (what I think we can safely label) “infamous” right back slot.
Fraser Aird progressed in that role before temporarily disappearing from the scene and while there’s something mildly heroic about Jordan Smith even taking to the field given how much he has struggled he’s become not so much an Achilles heel for the team as an Achilles lower limb.
So move Parker there and everything will be fine?
In most ways it probably will be. His relative lack of attacking threat doesn’t matter so much with Kudo and Mezquida as the front two, since they prefer the ball on the floor than having to fight for headers against MLS central defenders.
And Parker at right back releases most of the pressure on Bolaños to track back and also keeps an almost constant threat at set pieces on the field.
It may well be that the only real downside to having Parker at right back is for the player himself.
Removing a promising young defender from his best position (a position he is still learning and would no doubt learn even more about alongside Edgar) isn’t the ideal scenario.
And this probably wouldn’t be a brief hiatus because, assuming the Whitecaps aren’t contemplating moving either Waston or Edgar in the off season, then Parker faces an extended stay at right back.
It’s been noted elsewhere that young players have struggled to develop once they reach the MLS level in Vancouver and it would be a shame if Parker were to join their ranks in this way.
To be fair if I were Carl Robinson I would be making exactly the same move, the lineup has to be about the good of the team rather than the advancement of an individual, and a back four of Parker, Edgar, Waston and Harvey looks about as solid as any can be in MLS but it may come to pass that by season end a young player who could have been a stalwart in Vancouver for years to come is suddenly itching for a move.
Those dots just keep on moving!