Vancouver Whitecaps Season Review: Part Three

Here’s a tip for you.

If you’re ever unlucky enough to face the death penalty but lucky enough to choose your own mode of execution then make sure you opt for death by a firing squad comprised solely of Vancouver Whitecaps strikers.

You’ll probably live for another fifty years.

I’m joking of course (you’d last five years maximum) but I’m using humour to slam home the point that the Whitecaps weren’t very good going forward this season.

But that’s not necessarily the fault of the men playing nearest to the opposition goal (though it is partially their fault) because the system that Vancouver play does about as good a job as it can do of setting them up to fail.

The season began with Octavio Rivero back in his world of perfect isolation and when he threw down his tools and headed to the land of Colo Colo it was pretty much a case of “striker by committee” from that point on.

Erik Hurtado got the nod for most of the games and he did what he always does; hustled well, got into good posiitons and then mostly made no use whatsoever of said position.

It’s clear that Carl Robinson admires Hurtado’s workrate but no team is going to achieve consistent success with Hurtado as the lone striker.

Ah the “lone striker”; that most beloved of all Carl Robinson’s tactical ploys.

The problem with that being the team just don’t have anybody who can play that role with any degree of substance.

Blas Perez maybe could have done a couple of years ago but now he needs somebody near him and anyway he’s mostly been consigned to the Rober Earnshaw school of “signing  an experienced and proven goalscorer and then mostly leaving him on the bench”.

Nicolas Mezquida certainly can’t play that role, although the few times he started as a number ten he at least provided some kind of support when the Whitecaps were going forward.

And as for Masato Kudo?

If any signing summed up the issues with the current team then it’s the unfortunate Japanese striker.

Even leaving aside his horrific injury it soon became clear that if he was going to make it in MLS (and that’s a fairly big “if”) he’d need somebody to play alongside him.

But his chances of playing the solitary front man role were zero.

Either the Whitecaps signed Kudo  without giving any consideration to how he would fit into the team or they signed him with the intention of adapting their style of play and then swiftly abandoned any such plan.

If there has to be one guiding principle for the team to follow in the coming months then it surely has to be attempting to bring in players who genuinely fit whatever system Carl Robinson favours in 2017.

Don’t pick the players they want, pick the players they need.

Giles Barnes arrived as a kind of second prize in the mid-season lottery and proceeded to play like the fifth prize in the mid-season lottery and so now the decision to be made is to judge whether his inability to shine was down to him or the broken nature of the team.

But signing him for another year would be a huge, season defining, gamble.

The only person who came out of all this with any positives is Kekuta Manneh (mostly because  he stopped playing due to injury).

Bizarrely Manneh never quite looked right from the very start of the season but even more bizarrely he was still greatly missed once he was no longer available.

Having Manneh back next year will be a bonus but the problem is that he tends to cover up deficincies within the rest of the team (both technical and tactical) because having a player who can run very quickly with the ball is still a pretty effective weapon to hold in MLS.

So figuring out how to get a good finisher and then how to get that good finisher into postions where he can actually finish has to be priority number one for the Whitecaps right now.

The problem though is that isn’t an easy task and it’s exacerbated by the knowledge that the track record in that department is borderline abysmal.

But the law of averages has to kick in at some time I guess?


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