Now with italicised hindsight from the day after.
There are times when the whole world can seem slightly off kilter. After a particularly vivid fever dream perhaps, the sudden death of a loved one that throws clarity on what was previously blurred or maybe the ingestion of industrial amounts of hallucinogenic drugs.
One other such time is when watching a game of Major League Soccer immediately after a World Cup game.
And this isn’t a “Hey! The MLS is bad” take. Every league in the world would lose some of its lustre when compared to the behemoth that is the World Cup. For where is the vibrancy? Whither the national narratives being shaped in the moment and the sheer heartbreak and joy with almost every goal?
But still, watching the Whitecaps lumber their way around the field against Philadelphia was unedifying to say the least.
After the game Carl Robinson had this to say
“We looked two miles off. We did not look like we were fit enough. I know that is a little bit harsh, but we looked like we were tired.”
Hard to say if this is just another example of the coach throwing shade at his players in an attempt to deflect from his own failings, but whatever the interpretation it’s a somewhat shocking admission.
His contention seems to be that the Whitecaps, as a group, came back from a two-week break in too poor a physical condition to compete.
No point in saying that lessons need to be learned from this because we’ll hear that same familiar refrain again and again from within the club for the next week.
And now back to the original post.
If you follow the Vancouver Whitecaps on Social Media you’ll be well aware they went into the game against the Philadelphia Union looking to extend a six game unbeaten run.
If you follow the actual results of the team you’ll know those six games included some pretty poor ties at home and two wins against teams who were in disastrous form.
So a loss in Philadelphia wasn’t that unexpected an outcome.
What was slightly more alarming was the manner of the loss.
The Whitecaps began as though they were still on vacation, or maybe still watching the World Cup, as they stood back to admire the Union’s baffling ability to pass the ball to each other and occasionally make the effort to win it back when they didn’t have it.
Somehow though Vancouver went into the break only one goal down and, for a brief spell, the introduction of Mezquida and Mutch looked to inject some life into the team.
Then it all fell apart again.
Three more goals conceded including two penalties and two red cards are surely indicative of something far more rotten in the state of the team than simply not being able to get back up to speed after a two-week lay off or the trauma of a cross-country flight.
The whole performance stank of a group who either felt the recent decent run of form meant the pressure was off or didn’t have the will to step up to the plate after a relaxing break.
And the decision to name an unchanged eleven for the first time this season was certainly interesting since that eleven was previously being held to a 1-1 tie at home by ten men Orlando until changes were made.
It’s almost as though Carl Robinson had looked at the result of that game rather than the reason for the result and watching the way his side played in Philadelphia certainly upped the irony factor of having spent the last week observing him dole out advice to World Cup managers on the need for early substitutions and the importance of going for the win and not sitting back.
Given the chance of reciprocity some of those managers may well have offered him the advice that continuing to play Brek Shea as a left back was inviting this kind of result and perhaps they would also have wondered why he continues to oversee a group of players who lose their heads (both tactically and emotionally) as soon as things go against them?
On to the Canada Day game at BC Place against Colorado.
But the Whitecaps are going to have to do more than beat the likes of the Rapids to convince anybody they are genuine playoff contenders and any pre World Cup break optimism has been well and truly discarded.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Rowe-4, Nerwisnki-4, Shea-3, Aja-4, Henry-5*, Felipe-4, Ghazal-4, Davies-4, Techera-4, Reyna-3, Kamara-3.5 (Mutch-5, Mezquida-5)