Vancouver Whitecaps waiting for the end of the world

Well, maybe not the end of the world but definitely the end of the regular season because right now Carl Robinson and his players are caught in the limbo of knowing that they’ve already done enough to make the playoffs but still have three games to get through before all the post season hoopla begins in earnest.

It might even be to the coach’s advantage that he has a few players missing due to international duty for Saturday’s visit to the New York Red Bulls because he can at least keep things fresh by throwing in a few who are on the fringes of the first eleven before hopefully using the San Jose and Portland games to really hone his thoughts on who he starts from that point on.

And that’s important because although these playoffs may not be career defining for Robinson they could well define how he is ultimately regarded by Whitecaps fans once he leaves the organisation.

That’s because in his previous post season test he messed up royally.

He opted to go ultra defensive in the first leg when facing a Timbers team on minimal rest (Gershon Koffie at number ten!) and the resultant 0-0 in Portland was promptly undone as soon as the Timbers got a tie killing away goal in the return leg at BC Place.

And while it’s a truth universally acknowledged that nobody will relish facing Vancouver over two legs this time around they do still feel like a team who are more likely to lose a game by three or four goals than they are to win by that kind of margin.

So it will be interesting to see just how Robinson’s innate caution manifests itself.

He must know that an away goal in the first leg (this is assuming they do indeed get one of the top two spots in the West) would be huge for a team that is never happier than when waiting for the opposition to make a mistake.

But perhaps the biggest advantage he has over his options in 2015 is that this time around he’s in charge of a much deeper squad and while they may still be prey to the whims of form and injury the vast majority of those ready to go will have had the benefit of at least some rest during the slog of the regular season.

And speaking of analyzing the playing style of a particular coach (which we really weren’t but I’m too lazy to think of a cleverer segue) there seems to be another universally acknowledged truth that the coach only opts for the tactics he does because of the players he has.

That given his limited options he has no choice but to play low possession counterattacking football.

That argument is spurious of course because nobody really thinks that every coach in the world  would set up this group of players with two defensive midfielders and a lone striker.

The Whitecaps play the way they do because that’s how Carl Robinson wants them to play and that’s fine as long as the results keep coming, but let’s not pretend that the current squad is simply incapable of playing 4-3-3 or 4-1-3-2 for example.

A slightly more nuanced take on that argument is that the current system may not be the only way this team can play but it is certainly the best way for them to play and at least that argument has some merit given the current position in the standings.

But an advocate of the devil might say that the coach’s philosophy isn’t limited by the players he has but rather that a few of the players are limited by the coach they have.

The whole thing still doesn’t feel sustainable over a long period if we’re speaking in terms of seasons, but it definitely feels sustainable for the rest of this campaign and, right now, that’s all that really matters.

We can enjoy today for what it is and we don’t need to worry about tomorrow until tomorrow (or even the day after that).

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