What a refreshing cool drink of water the CONCACAF Champions League tournament has been for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season.
And that water was no less clear and fresh for the 4-1 victory over Central FC at BC Place on Wednesday evening.
But what if the reflection of the team we could see wasn’t from that sparkling liquid? What if that reflection was actually from a deep dark mirror offering a gateway into another Space-Time continuum?
A parallel universe where the Whitecaps played every game as though they both wanted to win and were enjoying the experience of playing football? Where fear of conceding goals was outweighed by the rush of adrenaline of getting players forward into the box at every opportunity? Where the burden of expectation didn’t seem to weigh on every shoulder and where eleven men played as a team rather than a collection of individuals?
Sadly this isn’t the place to explain the entire cosmological thinking behind such a theory but safe to say that isn’t what has been happening to the Whitecaps this year.
But if Carl Robinson can figure out why virtually every performance in the Champions League has been more enjoyable to watch than virtually any performance in MLS then he’ll have gone a long way to solving the problems of the season.
A cynic might say that it’s simply down to facing inferior teams but that’s probably a little too generous to MLS while ignoring the fact that Vancouver themselves have never put out their (so called) first eleven in the competition.
It may simply be the case that they haven’t taken the tournament too seriously and that lightness of spirit has transferred into a brightness of play.
Where MLS games have been burdened by fear of conceding the first goal every CONCACAF game has been buoyed by the hope of scoring the first goal and perhaps the overarching lesson to be learned is that to get the best out of this group of players liberation is better than the leash.
As for the game itself nobody played badly for Vancouver but Blas Perez looked like a man with something to prove and Brett Levis once again out in a composed and confident performance.
Levis is twenty-three so it seems odd to speak of him as a newcomer but even so he looks far more “MLS ready” than any other WFC2 alumni have done thus far (and yes that even includes Alphonso Davies).
It’s just his misfortune to be playing in the one of the few areas of the field where the Whitecaps have genuinely impressive depth.
Next stop for the Whitecaps is at home to Seattle in a game as much about pride (and the Cascadia Cup) as it is about clinging to faded playoff hopes but (once again) the Champions League performance has pointed the way to go.
Maybe this time the rest of the team will follow that direction?
Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.
Tornaghi-6, Aird-6, Waston-6, Parker-6, Levis-7*, Jacobson-7, de Jong-7, Techera-7, Mezquida-7, Perez-7, Kudo-6 (Bustos-6, Greig-6)