The Vancouver Whitecaps played the majority of their 2-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers at Providence Park like eleven men who had never played together in a competitive game before.
Which, funnily enough, is exactly what they were.
Carl Robinson decided that the crucial final game of the regular season was the ideal opportunity to switch things up once again by making a number of changes in the midfield and up front.
Maybe it’s worth analyzing what they were and why they were tried but ultimately they were the actions of a coach who either doesn’t know what his first eleven is or one who thinks his players are so interchangeable it doesn’t matter who he puts on the team sheet.
“He doesn’t” and “it does” are probably the correct answers to those two queries and despite a flurry of attacks at the end of the game (it’s so easy to produce “a flurry of attacks” when you desperately have to, it’s so much harder to do so when it’s easier and safer to just sit back) the Whitecaps were outclassed and out passed.
Portland’s Caleb Porter may not be the most sophisticated footballing brain in the league but he does at least know how to set up a team to get the best out of his best players.
Robinson’s philosophy is always more concerned with stopping the opposition than freeing the talent in his own side.
Hard to say how dispiriting that must be for the players of genuine quality in the squad.
The coach can’t be blamed for how poor his players played overall I suppose with nobody (literally nobody) having an impressive game but he must have been most concerned with the performance of Stefan Marinovic who was arguably at fault for both of Portland’s goals.
Robinson can’t drop him now though because it’s not clear that David Ousted is mentally prepared to play again this season and it would be a stunning vote of no confidence in the player pencilled in to be the number one next year.
Who knows what eleven will be selected for the one off play in game against San Jose but one thing is for sure.
There’s no second chances after this one, no post game interviews that can insist that the character of the squad is strong and that they will bounce back.
It’s win or go home.
Perhaps that will bring the best out of a coach and a team that oh so frequently fails to deliver when it really matters?
But don’t get your hopes up on that.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Marinovic-4.5, Nerwinski-5, Harvey-5, Waston-5*, Parker-5, Ghazal-5, Nosa-5, Shea-4.5, Bolaños-4, Reyna-4.5, Ibini-4