Before we get on to any kind of tactical discussion let’s first address something said by Carl Robinson in his post game comments after the 4-0 defeat to the Chicago Fire.
Asked to outline what went wrong the coach said
“Attitude and energy. That’s what we didn’t have in the first half. We were there and we were running beside people, and I thought we weren’t making contact. We were playing in probably second gear”
That certainly feels like the ideal opportunity for Robinson to make a “statement” substitution. His team is trailing 3-0 and he clearly feels that at least some of his players aren’t giving their all for the cause.
So take somebody off after thirty minutes to let them know how unacceptable that is. Send a message to the rest of the team that any sign of lack of commitment will be showcased for all to see.
But Robinson isn’t, and probably doesn’t want to be, that kind of coach and a double change wasn’t made until six minutes into the second half.
But now that a number of players are returned or returning from injury what’s the best way for the coach to use the more plentiful resources available?
TRIGGER WARNING- THE FOLLOWING WILL CALL FOR A RETURN TO THE 4-2-3-1 FORMATION AND THE POSSIBLE INCLUSION OF ERIK HURTADO!
Looking back at recent deals the Whitecaps have made it sort of feels they have mostly gone for the players they want rather than those they actually need; stocking up on wide midfielders while leaving the rest of the field largely untouched.
So when discussing any starting lineup it’s best to reverse that thinking and try to live in the tactical world we need rather than the one we want.
And we’ll also be living in a world that doesn’t include hypothetical signings, so there won’t be any Atiba Hutchinson magic bullet to solve all the problems.
The Whitecaps can only play the players they have and sooner or later Robinson will have to bite the bullet (Not the Atiba Hutchinson magic bullet, a different one) and play those players in the positions they are actually best suited to.
If he does do that he will end up with the following.
A fairly predictable back four of Harvey, Parker, Waston, and Nerwisnki/Williams (dependant upon the circumstances of the latter).
For the defensive two you can take your pick out of Laba, Tchani, Jacobson and Teibert. They all have their strengths and they all have their weaknesses in that role.
If pushed I would start Jacobson and Laba, but if somebody wants to argue for another combination then that’s not a hill I would want to die on (I don’t want to die on any hill! Why am I dying on a hill?)
The next three is where it gets interesting and where the lopsided nature of the recent transfers become apparent.
But as things stand Bolaños and Techera have earned the right to a starting position out wide.
We can then drop Fredy Montero back from his lone striking spot to a number ten role (He actually drops back there anyway to try to get the ball) and, for now, give Bernie Ibini a chance to prove his worth as the kind of powerful striker that Carl Robinson’s style of play desperately calls out for.
The disadvantages of this system are clear.
Too many defensive players, no starting gig for Shea, Reyna, Davies etc. and there’s still the chance that the disconnect between the midfield and the forwards will be painfully obvious.
But here are the advantages.
Players are playing in their best position and there’s a genuine alternative at every one of those positions, which should make the fight for places genuinely intense if managed correctly.
And did I mention that players are playing in their best position?
Nobody would pretend that a lineup which even hints at the possibility of Erik Hurtado being a regular starter (If Ibini fails to perform) will go on to win the MLS Cup, but we are where we are.
It was refreshing to see Robinson try different tactical options earlier in the season but we’re approaching the stage where a number of MLS teams are clearly finding both their groove and their feet and the time for consistency and certainty is fast approaching for any side looking to push on in the second half of the campaign.
If not now then when? If not this then what? if not who then why? If not how then which?
I commend this lineup to the house.