Just over a week spent in the land of Great Brexit meant that I missed seeing the defeats to Tigres and Real Salt Lake as they happened.
That was probably a blessing in many ways but it was also kind of interesting to view the games almost solely through the prism of social media because the people who follow the Whitecaps (Or at least the people who I follow who follow the Whitecaps) are a remarkably forgiving bunch on the whole.
Lose to Tigres: “That’s to be expected because it’s the Champion’s League game”.
Lose to Real Salt Lake: “That’s to be expected because the game was so close to the Champion’s League game”.
I may be paraphrasing slightly for dramatic effect but it’s still not too far away from the truth and if any group of players or any coach didn’t need this kind of forgiveness it’s the current Vancouver Whitecaps.
Perhaps behind closed doors Carl Robinson runs the whole operation with the kind of sadistic brutality of Sergeant Williams in the 1965 movie “The Hill” but all indications are that he runs them more in the style of Sergeant Wilson in the long running TV series “Dad’s Army” (Forgive the overly British references here I’ve only just got back!).
Let’s look at the evidence.
Last season Cristian Techera showed up for preseason clearly out of condition and never found any kind of form until the latter half of the campaign.
This season Robinson himself has admitted that Christian Bolaños was unfit when he arrived at training and when Kekuta Manneh was sent to Columbus Crew their coach, Gregg Berhalter eschewed playing him because, “We want to make sure he’s right and prepared and we did notice a little bit of a difference in I guess his stamina compared to our guys”.
All individual incidents for sure but individual incidents that hint at a culture aimed more at keeping the players happy than keeping them at their physical peak.
And do we really have to listen to Robinson list a series of excuses for yet another defeat before he then utters the deathless phrase “You know me, I don’t like to make excuses”?
Or listen to another player saying that the latest loss will “Only make us stronger” and is “Something we can learn from”?
Here’s a word to the wise; if you keep losing games of football then you’re not getting stronger and you’re not learning anything.
You’re just losing games of football.
The next five games already feel season defining given that they consist of a home game to Seattle followed by four tough road games and while the excuses are already built in to that agenda; injuries, travel, playing good teams (Got to love the last of those as it implies that having a good team is some kind of cheat mode) the Whitecaps could emerge from that spell already adrift of their much coveted sixth spot.
Maybe I’m wrong (Hopefully I’m wrong!) and this is just the jet lag talking and Vancouver are about to embark on a run of form that overturns everything that has gone before but, as of now, the Vancouver Whitecaps feel like a really fun place to be if you’re a player but not so great a place to be if you just want to watch the games.
That’s probably not sustainable as a business model and it’s definitely not sustainable as a way of achieving meaningful success on the field.
Unfortunately, unless Carl Robinson has some kind of unexpected epiphany (Though all epiphanies are unexpected I guess) the likelihood is that things will carry on as is for the forseeable future with the parity of MLS ensuring just enough points to keep the hopes of the playoffs mathematically alive until late summer and the inevitable fading away of yet another season.
As Sergeant Wilson himself would enquire of the coach and the organisation as a whole, “Do you think that’s wise?”