Now with additional réflexions from the day after.
If a person were forced to select Carl Robinson’s least appealing trait as a coach than that fellow could do worse than select his propensity to view the limitations of his squad as a safety net rather than a challenge to be overcome.
After the game on Wednesday Robinson was of the opinion that his team “went after” the away goal in Montreal which we can accurately describe as more than a slight gilding of the lily.
He also thought the team worked “extremely hard” which is basically covering the lily in molten gold until it crumples beneath the weight of its own sadness and withers and dies.
Robinson has never seen his team suffer a loss that couldn’t be put down to the lack of relative quality of the players he manages, or the travel or the squad rotation or something or something or something.
And he seems fine with that.
The post match shrugs and smiles befit the aura of a man comfortable in the knowledge that extracting more than the sum of said squad parts isn’t really within his remit.
And boy did we see that in full effect in the 1-0 loss to the Montreal Impact in the first leg of the Voyaguer’s Cup.
This time around it will no doubt be squad rotation that gets brought to the fore as the reason for yet another tepid display.
But here’s the thing.
If you’re going to keep rotating your first eleven then you’d better figure out a way to make that rotation work and not just use it as one more punchline at the end of another “You know me, I don’t make excuses but…” post game quote.
And sooner or later the coach is going to have to accept that the team needs somebody in front of the defence to protect them. Giving up goal after goal from the edge of the box isn’t a coincidence. It’s happens because the Whitecaps have nobody to close down the shooter because they’ve all either dropped too deep or haven’t tracked back.
As things stand Vancouver would be better off planting a fence post at the outer edge of the “D” to at least give opposition players some obstruction to think about before lining up a shot.
So what were the standout features from the loss?
Anthony Blondell seemed set on trolling those of us who have argued he deserves a decent run in the team by giving a display shot though with appalling first touches and decision-making.
Maybe he just needs more minutes? Maybe he’s run out of hope? Maybe he was just trying too hard?
Whatever the reason he was fortunate to even appear for the second half (although he didn’t improve at all).
You know who will never be accused of working too hard?
Yes, spot on.
Whatever we may think of Shea’s salary in Vancouver to see a senior player display that level of disinterest and sheer carelessness speaks volumes as to why the team consistently fail in the character stakes.
It wasn’t just Shea who played badly of course and by the end of the second half most Whitecaps fans were probably reduced to exclaiming “Oh, is he still on the field?” whenever one of their players touched the ball.
Robinson tried to turn the game around by bringing on Hurtado, Franklin and Ibini but to no avail and………….
Yes, the competition the club really, really care about was subjected to that level of tactical wizardry.
So it seems Robinson has thrown all his eggs into the playoff basket (probably because of an edict from on high?) so this Saturday’s game against Seattle gains even more importance than it did before.
The Sounders have been terrible for much of this season but they have shown the odd glimpse of life in recent weeks.
For those of us who already feel the post-season schedule is one that will be unencumbered by actual games of football for the Whitecaps it will be a game filled more with macabre curiosity than genuine hope.
But at least feeling macabre curiosity is better than the studied disinterest this team currently seems determined to engender into their fanbase.
In the end the Whitecaps were astonishingly lucky to escape with just a one goal defeat but let’s not pretend it was anything more than another nail to the heart of whatever hope any of us have of anything getting remotely better in either the short or long-term.
But why would it get better when the only net anybody seems genuinely interested in is that metaphorical safety net of just about acceptable mediocrity?
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Marinovic-5.5*, Nerwinski-5, Maund-4.5, Ghazal-5, Levis-5, Teibert-4.5, Norman-4.5, Techera-3.5, Shea-3, Mezquida-5, Blondell-2.5