Vancouver Whitecaps Season Review: The Midfield (Part Two)

There are some couples who only manage to stay together because they are constantly “doing something”.

Renovating the kitchen, building a new deck or turning that small space at the back of the house into an “office slash craft room”.

Because as long as they’re “doing something” they never have to stop and think about the mind-numbing pointlessness of their everyday existence. Never have to question the very fabric of their relationship.

Although I wonder what fabric one would use for the throw cushions in an “office slash craft room”? Why not take a chance and choose a Japanese print from Etsuko Furuya’s Echino line?

It’s bold, but no so bold that it overpowers the space entirely.

Anyway, the early indications are that the Vancouver Whitecaps are very definitely going to be “doing something” when it comes to player movements this off-season, probably in the hope that both they and us will be distracted from the crushing inevitability of another season in which not being able to fault the effort of the players is a high point.

So before a whole bunch of them depart on their merry way let’s begin part the second of our look back at the midfield class of 2017.

Christian Bolaños- Bolaños is the most cultured player in the Whitecaps squad (possibly by some distance) and he’s the only one who looks genuinely comfortable on the ball at all times.

But this season his influence and attitude was a notch down from his impressive debut year.

Put that down to the distractions of World Cup qualifying, a series of injuries or just not fitting into the system the team is playing but whatever the reason if Carl Robinson decides to bring Bolaños back it has to be with an idea of how he will be played in a far more effective role.

It’s telling however that for all the negativity Bolaños was still joint leader on the team in assists for 2017.

Season rating- 5.5

Cristian Techera- The other team leader in assists Techera very much had a bounce back year in 2017.

His set-piece delivery was a crucial factor and he was the only player consistently able to provide quality service to Fredy Montero from open play.

Techera’s form dropped at the tail end of the season but a positive year for him all things considered.

Season rating-6.5

Brek Shea- Shea is about as one-dimensional a footballer as it’s possible to be. He runs hard in the direction he’s facing and offers no nuance or intelligence in his game at all.

On the positive side he proved to be quite a useful substitute during road games, but the impression that he loves what he gets from the game rather than the game itself still lingers.

It’s hard to imagine he will be back in 2018 given his contribution and his salary and his final outing as a bizarre substitute at left-back in Seattle was a fitting tribute to a player who never once looked like finding a permanent role in the team.

Season rating- 4

Bernie Ibini- Ibini’s season felt a lot like Shea’s but with a far more positive spin. An effective substitute who did at least look like he knew what he was doing when he came onto the field and even offered glimpses of quality.

Yet he still lacked the ability to make an impact on a regular basis and “a useful player to have in the squad” might be the best thing we can say about him.

Every squad needs that kind of player of course so perhaps that faint praise isn’t the damning it first appears to be, but the overall impression of Ibini is that he would have been a good signing for an MLS team in 2014 but fortunately/unforunately the league has moved on since then.

Season rating-5 

Alphonso Davies- Maybe now that Davies has turned seventeen he will begin to be analyzed as a footballer rather than simply as a young phenom? Seventeen isn’t that young to be playing professional soccer and next season will be a huge one for Davies in terms of how he grows as a player.

Right now his pace and power cover up his less than perfect first touch and his somewhat perplexing inability to fully slot into the pattern of the team.

Those failings aren’t helped by the sense of expectation that greets his arrival in any game at BC Place and it would be nice if the club toned down the whole “we want to protect Davies while simultaneously mentioning him at every opportunity” vibe.

The best thing next year would be for Davies to be treated like every other player on the squad and incessant media narrative be damned.

Season rating- 5.5 

Nosa Igiebor- We haven’t seen enough of Nosa to make a definitive decision about his qualities but we have seen enough to know that he arrived being touted as a box to box midfielder before being played in a far more defensive role.

His pedigree is undoubtedly good but let’s hope he doesn’t turn out to be yet another attacking threat immolated on the bonfire of Carl Robinson’s defensive vanities.

Season rating-5.5

 

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