Can the Whitecaps just play every game away from BC Place?
The 2-1 win against the Columbus Crew looked like being a case of the all too familiar “Meh” in the first half as Vancouver were easily outplayed by the home team and trailed 1-0 thanks to a Stefan Marinovic error.
But in the second half it all changed.
Jordon Mutch began to play as a kind of hybrid defensive/offensive number ten and suddenly it was the Crew who looked the team bereft of ideas.
Brek Shea scored his customary goal on the road and Kei Kamara got the obligatory “player facing his old club” goal to win the game.
The Whitecaps even brushed aside a glorious Alphonso Davies strike that was (correctly) disallowed following a video review.
For most of the game Felipe continued his penchant for playing deep and offering little of creative value other than from set-pieces but when he moved forward to take up the Mutch role once the Englishman had been taken off it was he who delivered the cross for Kamara to head home.
We’re still in the baby steps period of the season right now but if Mutch and Felipe were both played in more advanced positions,with Ghazal sitting deep, then Vancouver may be able to find a way to consistently threaten opponents beyond the tried and trusted counter-attack or set-piece options.
On an individual basis Shea once again showed that he is a useful player when he has space to run into and Bernie Ibini showed why he will only really be a starter in games played on the East Coast.
But Jose Aja had another good game at the back and is easily the Whitecaps most accomplished defender when in possession, capable as he is of bringing the ball forward as well as being genuinely two footed.
But while Jake Nerwinski did nothing spectacularly wrong from a defensive point of view he remains far too anxious with the ball at his feet and really needs to gain some composure in possession if his game is going to reach another level.
And even with Columbus struggling to find any kind of form in the second forty-five there was still a huge imbalance in the way each team passed the ball but if (and this is a really big “if”) the midfield can find some kind of consistency of personnel and if Carl Robinson allows the likes of Mutch and Felipe a little bit more free rein in home games there is definitely the foundations of the making of a decent team hidden away in there somewhere.
It’s all too often one step forward and one step back with the Whitecaps however and next week’s game against Real Salt Lake probably won’t tell us much more than anything we know already.
But the return to BC Place feels like it will help define the season in some ways.
Can the Whitecaps somehow find a way to be creative and proactive at home?
That doesn’t feel like it’s too big of an ask given the players at Robinson’s disposal but it’s been the one question to have hindered this team for longer than has really been necessary.
For now though Robinson can tuck a well-earned three points underneath his scarf satisfied that his team produced what was easily the best forty-five minutes of their season so far.
We now interrupt this blog for some thoughts from the following day.
That Davies goal may have been disallowed but it demonstrated just how much he has developed as a player this season.
There’s no way he shows that level of composure last year and he’s now gone from a promising prospect who hoped things would happen when the ball was at his feet to a player who knows he can make those things happen.
He is, as they say, “like a new signing”.
Over the years Carl Robinson has been somewhat fascinated by the idea of how much difference any new signing could make to the locker room.
But this season more than one of those signings seem capable of making a difference on the field.
Kamara, Juarez and Felipe all bring a level of, let’s be kind and call it “experience”, that will make the Whitecaps a nightmare to both play against and to referee.
There’s still the potential for so many “Type A” personalities to spontaneously combust given the wrong conditions but for now it’s a heady mix of arrogance and know how.
It always looked as though the opening half-dozen games could be the toughest spell of the whole season for Vancouver given the travel and the opposition so to have picked up ten points with one of those games still to play is a significant achievement.
Let`s hope that achievement can be built on rather than used as a cushion for a poor run of form at the business end of the campaign.
We now return you to your regular blog.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Marinovic-4.5, Nerwinski-5, Waston-6, Aja-6, de Jong5.5, Felipe-5.5, Teibert-5, Mutch-6*, Ibini-5, Shea-5.5, Kamara-5.5 (Davies-6)