As Jeff Tweedy sings on the new Wilco album “Happiness depends on who you blame” so there should be no shortage of opportunities for happiness for the Whitecaps and their fans as this car crash of a season (Champions League success not withstanding) draws to a conclusion.
Actually scrap the “car crash” analogy and replace it with a runaway truck scenario because that’s mostly what it has felt like since the opening game.
Individual errors were compounded by red cards and retrospective red cards and injuries and more individual errors until at times Carl Robinson seemed more like a man desperately trying to right a ship that had already sailed way passed the dock.
So we should probably discard the “runaway truck” analogy and replace it with one of those metaphorical oil tankers that take so long to turn that they still keep going forward for miles and any actual movement is barely noticeable.
Except in this case the movement has certainly been noticeable as the Whitecaps have struggled to find any kind of identity throughout the season, an issue that was compounded by mid-season signings that seemed as much a case of wanting to be seen to be doing something as actually addressing genuine deficiencies and resulted in a seemingly endless series of changes which always ended up back in the same place.
So let’s dispose of the “oil tanker” analogy and go with the painting the Forth Bridge scenario where no sooner does one piece of the structure seem to be fixed than it’s back to square one again.
Actually the “Painting the Forth Bridge” analogy doesn’t quite work either because Carl Robinson has mostly felt like a man desperately trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without the finished picture in front of him and with the disturbing knowledge that at least one of the pieces is definitely lost behind the couch.
Yeah, let’s stick with the jigsaw puzzle analogy.
Because if you were to ask one hundred Whitecaps fans to name their favoured starting eleven and formation it’s a reasonable wager that you would get 20 or 30 different combinations (maybe more?).
And that’s the real indictment of how the team has progressed with only four games of the season remaining.
Where do they go from here?
Try to win the remaining games of course (especially the home CCL game against Central FC which would guarantee Vancouver to be a top four seed in the quarter-final stage) but the off season feels more like it needs to be a purge rather than a rebuilding and maybe as much of a mental purge as anything else.
The idea for 2016 was to create a team that wasn’t just reliant on the counter attack and could break down the stacked defences that proved to be their undoing last year and the signings of Bolaños and Kudo were the main planks of this plan.
It hasn’t worked out for a number of reasons (one of which was Kudo’s horrific head injury) but too often Bolaños has felt like a luxury player in a team designed for prosaicness, a player who slows the game down in a team where the quick break is everything (and often the only thing).
The ideal world would have seen Bolaños linking up with the likes of Morales, Techera, Rivero and Kudo to create something akin to the kind of one touch football that relies as much on speed of thought as it does on speed of foot but alas and alack that ideal world failed to materialise and with every passing failure (and every failure of a pass) the Whitecaps have reverted more and more to their default setting of being a reactive team.
The problem though is that they just aren’t built that way anymore and the absence of Kekuta Manneh for the second half of the season effectively killed off their chances of any kind of success.
So the plan for the off season has to be for Carl Robinson and the club in general to figure out just what they want that completed puzzle picture to look like in 2017.
If the coach is only comfortable playing counter attacking football then so be it (some of the most successful teams have done exactly that) but any new acquisitions have to be brought in with that knowledge in mind; at least one more very quick wide player and a central midfielder who can get forward for example.
But if the plan is to grow into something more expansive then the possible acquisitions are a little trickier; a genuinely creative number ten, a central midfielder who is comfortable both with and without the ball maybe.
Yet if we also give those late season signings a little more credit than we did earlier (Barnes, de Jong, Edgar) then it seems as though the plan may be to become a more “MLS” team founded on the twin pillars of experience and physicality.
Ultimately the real issue is that this team and this squad could morph into any one of the three options above (and maybe more) and although a few pieces are in place for each iteration there’s nowhere near enough of those pieces to “complete the set” for each tactical option.
So decide on a style of play and buy and sell accordingly should be the astonishingly mundane conclusion to be drawn from all of this (Waste of time reading it really wasn’t it?).
This should cheer you up though.