So if you had to name the one player the Whitecaps won’t be able to do without during the playoffs who would it be?
Take your time.
Not that much time!
Whatever player you named I’m guessing that you gave both the right and the wrong answer.
“But how can that be?” you ask, while simultaneously wondering when the hell I will get to the point.
Well impatient reader it can be because there are multiple right answers or, more specifically, there’s only one right answer but with multiple right answers contained within it.
And of those multiple right answers one is divided in half and the other has a question mark hanging over it.
This is quite the mystery isn’t it!
But fear not because I feel this is the right time to reveal the answer to the riddle for the simple reason that I have now padded the opening of this piece enough to give the whole thing the illusion of substance.
So, to put it briefly, the Whitecaps don’t have one player who has to be play for them to be a success they have four and, in addition to that, they have half a player in the form of two and one other player who we can’t quite be sure of yet.
Was that brief? It felt brief when I started out but then seemed to take on a life of its own as I went on.
To the bullet points!
Fredy Montero has to play- When the only other options are Hurtado or Ibini/Shea playing out of position it’s clear the Colombian is integral to the team.
He’s the best goalscorer, the best at holding up play and the best at linking up play so without him they are nothing.
Yordy Reyna has to play- Without Reyna the Whitecaps lack any kind of creative spark, but with Reyna there’s always the chance of something happening.
There’s the whiff of Luis Suarez about the Peruvian given that he always seems to be involved in the game for good or for ill and he’s become the straw that stirs the Whitecaps attacking drink and his absence from the postseason would be the final one (straw).
Kendall Waston has to play- Waston has bounced back from a poor season in 2016 to become an essential component this.
Tim Parker has been showing signs of defensive anxiety lately so having the big Costa Rican alongside him is essential if the surprisingly porous Whitecaps defence wants to avoid the kind of first leg defeat that would make any second leg a heartbreaking formality.
Jake Nerwinski has to play- Who would have seen this one coming at the start of the year? It’s not that Nerwinski has been so stellar, it’s just that his counterpart Sheanon Williams has seen his form fall off a cliff.
The left back position has a couple of acceptable options in Harvey and de Jong but the right back role is down to one man or nothing.
One of Cristian Techera or Christian Bolaños has to play- This is the “half” an essential player we spoke of earlier (well I spoke of it, you probably just skipped straight to the bullet points).
I’m coming around to thinking that these two may be the best wide options from the start anyway but they are certainly the best set-piece takers in the team.
And given that set-pieces have so often been the life blood for Vancouver this year having somebody on the field who can be relied upon for good delivery is a must.
Aly Ghazal must play?- And now to the ? player.
We just haven’t seen enough of Ghazal to definitively say that he has to start but we have seen enough to know that he’s the only player who seems to enjoy playing in the purely defensive midfield role.
Jacobson, Teibert, Tchani and de Jong can all do it to some extent, but having Ghazal in front of the back four certainly feels like a reassuring necessity right now.
The good news with all this is that (injuries aside) all of the above probably will be starting come the first game of the post-season.
The bad news is that having half your team as essential starters really does make a coach worryingly at risk to the vagaries of the soccer gods.
Start praying to them now!