Let’s start with the traditional caveat that preseason games should always be taken with more than just a pinch of salt.
But even so the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Wednesday evening was so replete with familiar issues from last season that it probably should have been preceded by some kind of trigger warning for long-suffering fans.
So in the spirit of the performance itself let’s just throw some random thoughts at the wall and see if any of them make any sense whatsoever.
There’s nothing wrong with sending out a team to play defensive football; many of the world’s best coaches do exactly that.
But “defensive” doesn’t just mean sitting back and letting the opposition attack. It means a level of organization in both the defence and midfield and it means at least some degree of connection between the midfield and the forward line.
There was none of that against the Timbers.
As was the case last year the Whitecaps looked like a team that had simply been sent out to play rather than one that was being coached or managed.
In other words, players were playing as individuals rather than as a team with Laba charging around the middle, Hurtado isolated up front, the full backs offering little in the way of attacking threat or defensive cover, the wide players offering the same, Barnes playing in a position that clearly doesn’t suit him and Parker and Waston failing to function as a unit.
Consequently once the first goal went in it was clear that the players lost any faith or confidence in what they were doing.
That still doesn’t explain the appalling sense of stasis that emanated from all quarters however with the defence content to stand and admire Portland’s build up play and the forwards equally content to stand and admire when one of their own had the ball.
It’s one of the basic tenets of football that movement is key to success so it’s hard to know if the lack of it was down to players either not knowing where they should be moving to or simply a lack of interest in doing so.
At the end of the game Timbers coach Caleb Porter opined that “In some ways the game was too easy” to be a useful work out for his players and if that isn’t as damning a comment as could be made then I don’t know what is.
The counterpoint to all this negativity is that both Montero and Bolaños were missing and they are undoubtedly the team’s two quality players, but that absence of quality should have made the rest of the team concentrate on the basics even more.
The first game of the Champion’s League tie is less than a week away and a good result there would change everything but, as of now, the Whitecaps look to be as adrift and as rudderless as they were last year.