Most of the talk this week within the Whitecaps camp has concerned the kind of intangible states of mind which ultimately add up to “grit”.
And while there can be no doubt that the team has been desperately lacking something from a psychological point of view in recent weeks we haven’t yet got the stage where we have access to CAT scans of players emotions throughout the game.
So, in the absence of such fascinating data, let’s stick to the mundane facts of what happened on the field
There’s been pretty much universal agreement that Pedro Morales needs to play in the deep lying midfield role if he is to be effective and that’s what happened against San Jose last Friday.
The good news is that the Captain got much more time and touches than he ever does when playing the number ten role but (and it seems there’s always a “but” with the Whitecaps this season) how effective that time and those touches were is open to question.
Stats show that Morales sent most of his passes to Christian Bolaños and the second most to Matias Laba followed by Giles Barnes and Kendall Waston.
Passes to the front two you ask?
Here’s a shot of his passes to Masato Kudo
And the same for Nicolas Mezquida
So the teams most creative player hit the grand total of six passes to the two forwards of which two were inside his own half and the only pass to finish in the penalty area was from a corner.
Now we can argue whether this deficiency is down to Morales or whether it’s down to Mezquida and Kudo but the truth is probably that those two forwards just don’t play the game in a way that fits with the way Morales plays the game.
They both want quick, short passes in front of them whereas Morales wants to hit longer, searching passes across and up the field.
We can save the debate of why a Designated Player needs to be accommodated so specifically for another time but right now the Whitecaps are where they are, and where they are is needing to find something (anything) that works.
And that means giving Morales the forwards who suit his game.
There were hints against San Jose that Barnes could use his pace to fill a kind of surrogate Manneh role and it’s probably time that the in game savvy of Blaz Perez was used to full effect.
That gives a front two with both pace and height (the ideal targets for Morales to hit) and should also mean that Vancouver are able to hold the ball far more effectively up front than they have been in recent road performances.
It would be rough on Mezquida to make him pay the price for the overall troubles of the team, but it would mean that both he and Kudo could start the CCL game against Kansas that could well be the main priority for the season by the time that Tuesday rolls around.
It all feels very “make do and mend’ for this team at the moment and the fact that with nine games remaining nobody (and I mean “nobody”) can confidently name the best starting eleven is a startling testament to just how awry this season has been.
But sometimes if you throw enough things at the wall one of them will actually stick.
You should get the FourFourTwo app by the way, it’s a great way to find out the kind of info about a game that can bore people to death for hours (just mention my name to Siri when you go to the app store).