Vancouver Whitecaps: Can’t See the Wood

Shinrinyoku is a Japanese phrase meaning “taking in the forest atmosphere” or, if you want to charge people an exorbitant amount of money for a one day experience, “Forest Bathing”.

It’s really just referring to the restorative qualities of being in nature. That combined sense of permanence and impermanence, growth and decay that in some inexplicable way is strangely reassuring.

And it might not be a bad idea for the next Whitecaps in-game promotion to offer fans a free Shinrinyoku experience for every time a cross in to the box finds a solitary striker being marked by at least four defenders given how frustrating that sight has become.

Better still, they could plant a tree for every errant pass and solve the problem of climate change in ninety minutes.

It’s not just that the 1-0 defeat to ten men Minnesota was bad (I’m even willing to listen to arguments that it was fair to mediocre) it’s simply that it reaffirmed everything we know to be wrong with this team.

Can’t break down a deep-lying defence? Check.

A coach who can’t react to a change in the game state? Check.

Mental indiscipline? Check.

Inability to pass and move? Check.

Post-game interviews speaking of “regrouping”? Check.

One of the more bizarre aspects of Carl Robinson’s media appearances has become that before a game he’s all too willing to talk down his team whereas after a game he’s all too willing to say how well they played.

This week’s iteration began with him asserting they were at the same level as Minnesota (an injury ravaged expansion side from last season) and ended with him opining that his team were “excellent” (while simultaneously throwing individual players under the bus).

Without being in the locker room it’s hard to know how the players feel about this plethora of mixed messages but they’re infuriating to hear as a fan of the team.

On the pitch Nicolas Mezquida once again confirmed he’s a valuable substitute rather than a starter, Anthony Blondell showed enough to indicate he can offer a lot more than simply being a big presence up front and Yordy Reyna at least displayed some liveliness even if he was hardly ever given the option of a teammate showing for him or creating space.

And then we have Felipe.

Robinson seems to like him as a defensive midfielder but in the second half the Brazilian did move forward more and yet still created little of value with seven passes in to the Minnesota penalty area of which only one landed successfully.

Not for the first time we see a player with the ability to create something being hampered by tactics purposefully designed to limit creativity.

Oh well.

The Whitecaps now have two home games in which they will probably do just enough to prevent the level of criticism reaching an unbearable level but the depressing reality is that they won’t play well in those games because that’s not what they are set up to do.

At the start of this campaign Robinson said this was the best squad of players he has had at the club and he’s right.

There’s so much more potential contained there than being reduced to scratching around for half-chances and knock downs against one of the worst teams in MLS.

Maybe we should all just go hug a tree?

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