The CCL games against the New York Red Bulls existed in a strange netherworld between pre-season friendly and most important games of the MLS era for the Whitecaps.
But at least the game on Thursday evening was close enough to the regular season to allow us to draw some kind of meaningful conclusions despite the slightly alarming number of absentees for the home team.
And those conclusions probably confirmed what we already knew (confirmation bias notwithstanding) but the new season is finally here so ’tis the time for rapidly evolving mood swings and definitive statements that change on an hourly basis.
Two defensive midfielders doesn’t work- Yeah, yeah, yeah this is playing the same old song but the Whitecaps were fortunate to score an early goal which really forced the Red Bulls to come at them and so set up the “sit deep and counter attack” style that Carl Robinson finds so endearing.
The problem with that is the same problem they faced all last season at home; visiting teams aren’t going to allow space for Manneh and Davies to run in to so Vancouver need to find a different way to break teams down and they won’t do that with both Laba and Teibert on the field.
Jacobson is a slightly better option in the role as he at least possesses some attacking instinct, but Thursday was a classic example of a formation designed to draw the opposition forward and not too many teams will accept that invitation at BC Place.
Fredy Montero needs support- It was great that the Colombian scored on his debut but that can’t disguise how isolated he often was in his thirty minute appearance.
Sure, the state of the game had some influence on that but (and this comes back to the first point) he won’t flourish if all he has to go on are long balls forward from the back four.
A deep lying number ten could be the link man he needs or perhaps the pairing of Davies and Bolaños could offer more consistent support, but let’s hope that what we saw against New York wasn’t a harbinger of loneliness to come (Memo to self: “A Harbinger of Loneliness to Come” would be a great title for that pretentious novel you keep meaning to write) .
The squad depth looks impressive- It feels as though we say this every year but Carl Robinson isn’t short of options if he wants to switch things around.
Bolaños, Mezquida, Techera, Hurtado, Reyna and Rosales were all unavailable for selection but he was still able to put out a decent first eleven and bench. And the performances of Jake Nerwinski and Marcel de Jong in particular must have pleased the coach.
Both are expected to be bit part players this year but although Nerwinski got caught out of position a couple of times he didn’t lose his calm and even offered an attacking threat. And he also understands the right back position which by itself is an improvement on last season.
Marcel de Jong was even more impressive aligning defensive duties with an attacking threat and some great deliveries and it’s easy to see Robinson giving him plenty of minutes, especially on the road.
Overall this probably feels a bit harsh given the injuries, a 2-0 win and a place in the Champion’s League semi-final but deficiencies are deficiencies no matter what the score and they still need to be addressed.