“There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
The year 2016 certainly feels as though it’s one where decades are happening in almost every week; but what would Lenin have said about the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 win over Sporting Kansas City in the CCL on Wednesday evening?
“There are whole seasons where nothing happens: and there are games where whole seasons happen” perhaps?
We will probably never know what he really would have thought but safe to say he would have left BC Place that night with the palpable taste of revolution on his tongue.
Now before we go any further let’s first acknowledge that people living in the very heart of historical moments are almost universally incapable of perceiving their import and that sometimes it can be the seemingly insignificant moments that actually dictate the path of history’s narrative (“Turn a different corner and we never would have met” as George Michael once sang (possibly in reference to the fateful meeting between Lenin and Trotsky in London in 1902?).
But with such caveats acknowledged it’s hard not to escape the sense that the aftershocks of this game could rumble on for weeks and maybe even seasons.
So what will have changed?
Two up front- Carl Robinson has been more attached to the lone striker than a barnacle to the bottom of a banana boat but the win against Kansas offered definitive proof that his team could prosper with a forward duo (as they also did in both Toronto and Philadelphia by the way) as the running of both Hurtado and Kudo kept Kansas constantly confounded.
It may be too much to hope that he sends out a similar system in LA on Saturday but the following home game against the Red Bulls has to be pencilled in for a repeat showing given just how poor the team have been at BC Place this year.
Robinson got a “performance” by using the stick and not the carrot- It’s pretty clear that Robinson is an “arm around the shoulder” kind of coach by instinct, but something finally broke last week and he made Matias Laba pay that breakage by leaving him out of the roster for the MLS trip to Kansas.
Laba was back in the eleven on Wednesday and also back to his best as he set out with something to prove from the very first whistle.
If Robinson learns the lesson that different players need to be motivated in different ways then it bodes well for the rest of his time here and bodes ill for any players who have been coasting by on reputation alone.
The new Manneh?- It’s been somewhat shocking to find out just how much the Whitecaps miss the presence of Kekuta Manneh. Sure we all knew he offered something different to anybody else in the team but the plodding nature of the attack without him is remarkable.
The smart money was probably on Alphonso (“he’s fifteen you know”) Davies stepping into Manneh’s shoes but against SKC Fraser Aird looked much more like the heir apparent.
Like Manneh he has blistering pace and, like Manneh, he doesn’t lose much of that pace when he actually has the ball at his feet.
He doesn’t always make the right choice with his final pass (like Manneh) but whether as a starter or a late substitution Aird does at least offer a rough approximation of the speed from deep that the team has been profoundly lacking.
A change of mood?- Up until Wednesday the whole season seemed to have drifted into a kind of all encompassing mixture of lethargy and angst with most of the discussions surrounding off the pitch issues and potential hirings and firings.
Suddenly though Vancouver are clear favourites to progress to the knockout stages of the Champions League and (somewhat unbelievably) are still only two points away from a playoff spot.
Admittedly of the four teams chasing that single position they are the least well placed but sometimes the best that you can hope for is just to keep the season alive for as long as possible and the season suddenly seems to have a few more weeks than recently seemed possible.
Their next game isn’t even a “must win” (although the one after that certainly is) but if they do somehow manage to find a way to be a “coupon buster” in LA as Carl Robinson put it (no doubt confounding many people unfamiliar with British gambling vernacular) then who knows what could happen.
You gotta have faith! (Which was the original title of Lenin’s “Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism” I believe).