In a world of increasing tumult and uncertainty how reassuring it is to have the Soccer Shorts player ratings to turn to.
Oh sure, the “Nobody lower than a 6, nobody higher than a 7” policy hints at a kind of Orwellian dystopia but Orwellian dystopia is pretty much the best we can hope for in this particular timeline.
Last time out we assigned numbers to the defence, so this time out I predict that it will be the midfield to step into the firing line.
It is! I was right!
Christian Bolaños-7 The absence of Pedro Morales has turned Bolaños into the creative hub of the team.
Carl Robinson has even flirted with playing the Costa Rican in the central number ten role but it’s clear that he is far better suited to the more open spaces of the wing.
The 4-1-4-1 has also reduced Bolaños’ defensive duties and the combination of him, Montero and Techera is showing signs of developing into a trio that can produce goals in a number of different ways.
The bad news is that Bolaños picked up a shoulder injury during his international appearance with Costa Rica and while (At the time of writing) it’s too soon to say just how long he will be out for it would be a huge blow for the team to lose their most inventive player for any length of time.
Not least because of his set-piece delivery.
Alphonso Davies-6.5 One player who could step in to replace Bolaños in the wide role is Alphonso Davies although there remain a couple of question marks hanging over his sixteen year old head.
Sure, much of the hype is well deserved but Davies still seems to have problems in linking up effectively with team mates on a regular basis as he often tries to beat one tackle too many when a simple pass would be the better option.
That may be a result of still learning his trade at the higher level or it may be a result of too many years spent as by far the best player on the field in his younger days.
Either way it’s an area of his game that needs to grow.
The other problem facing Davies is that he seems to be caught in the hinterland between being too good to drop down a level while being not quite good enough to earn a regular starting spot at this level.
He probably needs more minutes than he’s getting but Robinson would be brave to sacrifice team results in the short term in favour of individual results in the long term.
We shouldn’t worry about Davies too much though; he’s clearly a talent. But maybe we could worry about the success the Whitecaps (And Robinson) have had in improving young attacking players over the years?
The next two years will define Davies’ career so it’s vital that the right moves are made.
Cristian Techera-7 This felt like a make or break season for Techera because, after a bright start in 2015, he was well below average for most of 2016.
Would he be able to justify his salary in 2017?
The answer so far is an unequivocal “yes”.
Techera has been almost as effective as Bolaños at creating chances and his trademarked “Pick up the ball on the right wing, stop, shift the ball onto his left foot and whip in a perfect cross” may be a poor man’s version of Arjen Robben’s “Cut inside and shoot” when it comes to things that defenders know will happen but can’t seem to stop, but it has been a remarkably potent weapon.
The starting spot is now his to lose.
Andrew Jacobson-7 It has often felt as though Carl Robinson hasn’t really valued Jacobson in the past. Seeing him as a kind of Russell Teibert clone who can do a job if needed but not often needed to do a job.
That’s all changed this season however as Jacobson has slotted into the midfield while offering both attacking and defensive attributes.
He’s certainly not a flashy player, but he reads the game well enough to always contribute and it’s become hard to see the current 4-1-4-1 system functioning without his presence.
That’s quite an upgrade.
Tony Tchani-6 Tchani arrived in packaging that advertised him as the kind of box to box midfielder the Whitecaps have been lacking since the dawn of time.
It hasn’t panned out that way though and, if anything, he’s the more defensive partner in his pairing with Jacobson.
Tchani still seems to be coming to terms with his role in the team (At least once a game Robinson calls him over for a fairly lengthy chat about positioning for example) but there’s at least a sense that he is growing into the role.
He’s still a ‘6’ for now but if you have to bet on where he will be at the end of the year I recommend you bet higher (Please note that betting on the Soccer Shorts player ratings is strictly forbidden!).
Russell Teibert-6 Teibert can do a job if needed but is not often needed to do a job.
Mauro Rosales-6 His brief appearances have indicated that Rosales is good for twenty minutes of football at best and is probably more valuable sitting on the bench as an influence than coming off the bench to actually kick the ball.
This is his last season as a player for sure.
So that’s the midfield. Maybe not as big a success story as the defence but, once again, it’s an improvement on last season when the whole enterprise felt like a constant attempt to fit a square pegged Pedro Morales into an increasing number of round holes.
I predict that the it will be the forward line who will be evaluated next.