Well at least we know one thing for sure after the Vancouver Whitecaps scoreless draw with the LA Galaxy on Saturday evening.
Carl Robinson hasn’t changed.
Give him an opposition decimated by injuries, suspensions and international call ups, throw in the most abundant collection of attacking talent he’s had at his disposal since he became coach of the club and he will still send out a team whose only chance of scoring a goal is from a set-piece or an opponent error.
But maybe in a world of increasing unpredictability we should all be grateful that the Whitecaps have a man in charge who steadfastly refuses to learn from the lessons of the past and continues to make the same mistakes over and over again?
It’s reassuring in a way.
Robinson can’t have been surprised that LA would sit deep and try to stifle the game and yet he still sent out a team designed to feed off the scraps of Kei Kamara knock downs.
The only problem with that approach (apart from the obvious one that it was never going to work) is that Kamara was operating in less than splendid isolation and any balls he did win in the air tended to result in Cristian Techera desperately scrambling to get beyond two or three Galaxy defenders.
Felipe’s role was a bit of a mystery too.
He was sitting deep, presumably with the intention of acting as the deep-lying play maker, but given his only option was almost always the long ball to Kamara it’s hard to imagine exactly how that plan was going to come to any kind of fruition.
Or it could just be that he was asked to sit deep because he looks a little bit like Russell Teibert? And that reason probably makes just as much sense.
Elsewhere Yordy Reyna looks bereft of confidence, Efrain Juarez continues to be great entertainment in his ongoing battle to reeducate MLS referees on the finer points of the game and José Aja showed glimpses of his capability to bring the ball out from the back.
But it’s dispiriting to leave BC Place and hear so many people remark on how little they enjoyed the game and while it may not be in Carl Robinson’s remit to make entertainment his primary concern it should be in his remit to get his side to play with more imagination and wit than anything we saw from them in this game.
There must have been at least one or two Whitecaps players walking back to the locker room at the final whistle and thinking “Footballing brain the size of a planet and I’m asked to play hopeful long balls to an isolated forward”.
We interrupt this blog for bonus thoughts from the day after.
Was moving Davies to left back the right call? Well, it kind of worked in Atlanta since he provided an attacking threat even from deep.
But the Galaxy weren’t playing the same way as Atlanta and, given that Brek Shea is a player who thrives when given space to run in to, his introduction was odd in a game in which there was no space to run in to.
And let’s hope that just “moving Alphonso to a different position” doesn’t become the default replacement for any actual tactical acuity.
Hard to know what it was about that performance to make the coaching staff think no changes were warranted until the seventy-fifth minute but even when the changes came they merited something more innovative than just putting another big man up front.
Switch to three at the back and use Davies and Nerwinski as attacking wing backs? Get Felipe to play as an actual number ten? Pass and move?
Speaking of coaching, Saturday’s game between New England and NYCFC featured a genuinely interesting tactical battle between one team who wanted to play out from the back and another who were employing the high press.
One more sign that MLS is moving on when it comes to coaching.
That’s something we’ve yet to see from Robinson in any meaningul way and Sigi Schmid must have relished getting bonus sessions at the gym simply because he was able to dust off his 2015 game plan on how to stop the Whitecaps at home.
And back to your regular blog.
Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings!
Marinovic-5, Nerwinski-5*, de Jong-5, Maund-5, Aja-5, Felipe-4.5, Juarez-5, Techera-5, Davies-5, Reyna-4.5 Kamara-5