It’s hard to know if the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Friday evening was a genuinely entertaining game or if it’s just a case of it simply being better than the turgid fare previously on offer.
Whatever the case the Whitecaps won and that should at least be something to build on.
So let’s ignore (for now) Carl Robinson’s increasingly bizarre compulsion to talk down the quality of his players and look at what went right.
Yes! A look at the Whitecaps that accentuates the positive!
(Apart from those previous digs about turgid football and Carl Robinson obviously. And there will be a few negative side comments to come as well but other than that….)
Jordon Mutch and Nicolas Mezquida both did well in the number ten role.
Robinson is never really going to be happy with a creative player in that position so having someone who will harry the opposition and still operate with an attack minded focus works well.
It also worked well in Columbus which was probably Vancouver’s best performance of the season so far.
But if Mutch’s injury keeps him out for a period of time then Mezquida doesn’t have the overall quality to fill the role on a full time basis and Reyna currently has neither the form or discipline to do it either.
And from what we’ve seen of Felipe he isn’t a player who can build his game around pressing.
Which leaves a problem.
Could Blondell play there? Probably but it would limit his ability to get behind a defence. Teibert? To a degree I guess but it would seem cruel to move him out of the central midfield during a period in which he’s playing some of his best football.
Hurtado? No. Juarez? That seems a stretch.
Spolier Alert! I’m not going to come up with a satisfactory answer here because I don’t think there is one. But chances are we’ll see either Reyna or Blondell trying to make a silk purse from the sow’s ear of tactical rigidity.
There was more good news with the performance of Aly Ghazal.
The Egyptian isn’t an obvious “look how much I care” kind of guy but his reaction to having his bouncing shot saved and his collapse to the turf when the final whistle went spoke louder than words.
Far too many people within the club are all too eager to talk the talk and far too few ever really manage to walk the walk.
Having Ghazal once again become a regular in the middle of the field should help with that.
And let’s not forget how well the two new fullbacks played.
Neither Franklin nor Levis looked out of place and the only shame is they are fighting for a place with a young player in the form of Jake Nerwinski.
Could it be that the Whitecaps should have put more faith in youth much earlier on?
That constantly signing players who are “good in the locker room” simply results in high turnover and low morale?
And it could be that Robinson is far more comfortable communicating with young players who are willing to listen to their first coach than more experienced players who have other templates to compare against?
It’s certainly true that every mercurial player who has flown into Robinson’s orbit has been left looking saturnine sooner or later.
Not sure how that problem gets solved this season without the kind of wholesale starting eleven decisions that simply aren’t going to be made and, in the end, the club will once again pay the price for recruiting players based on availability rather than suitability.
That didn’t really end up being all that positive at all did it?