The Vancouver Whitecaps played the first forty-five minutes of the game against Sporting Kansas City like a team who had been routinely scythed open in their last outing which, funnily enough, they had been.
Their was very little “counter” and almost no “attack” to their play.
It was simply a case of defending for their lives and hoping for the best which, funnily enough, is exactly what happened.
They survived a penalty kick after a moment of madness from Kendall Waston and numerous other forays into their box before the half time whistle finally blew leaving those of us watching wondering how much longer they could survive playing in a manner that treated the ball as some kind of invasive species that needed to be removed from their possession as quickly and as desperately as possible.
Fortunately we never found that out because the Whitecaps seemed to take sustenance from their good fortune and produced a far more cohesive performance in the second half.
They were still mostly defending of course, that’s the default setting for this team, but this time around there was at least some sense of danger when the ball went into the Kansas half.
So when Erik Hurtado flicked home a Jordan Harvey long ball with a trademark outside of the boot finish we could express surprise, but not astonishment, at what we had just seen.
And from that moment on Vancouver looked at least as likely to score as Kansas did and the introduction of Jordy Reyna gave them exactly the burst of pace they needed for the final thirty minutes.
In the end they didn’t need another goal and, despite a ludicrously harsh red card for Christian Bolaños, ended the game with a degree of comfort that seemed inconceivable during the first period.
What can we take from the game?
Well, we may have reached the point where trying to take anything remotely rational from any Whitecaps game is a forlorn dream but let’s at least try. You have to try!
Stefan Marinovic won’t be available for the trip to New York next week because of international duty but, given his impressive outing, David Ousted may now be one error away from losing his starting spot.
(Memo to self: stick something in here about a New Zealander thriving in the land of Oz).
That would be a huge decision for Carl Robinson to make, but it could well be season defining one way or another.
Jordan Harvey did enough to lock down the left back spot for now and Marcel de Jong did enough to suggest that he is a much better option as the stand in central midfielder than almost anybody else (particularly away from home).
Hurtado and Mezquida fully justified Robinson’s decision to give them the start, but whatever Shea and Davies offered defensively was nullified by their ineffectiveness going forward.
And no need to mention that Jake Nerwinski was once again solid (and yet I do mention it).
A top two finish now seems as good as wrapped up for the Whitecaps and their constant ability to defy both our expectations and their own limitations is a thing of wonder.
Just three more regular season games to go before we get to the point where bouncing back from a bad defeat is no longer an option.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Marinovic-6.5*, Nerwisnki-6, Harvey-6, Waston-5.5, Parker-6, de Jong-6, Ghazal-6, Shea-5, Davies-5, Mezquida-6, Hurtado-6