Vancouver Whitecaps: Oh Henry!

Now with added pensées from the day after.

In the end the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-2 tie with Toronto FC in the first leg of the Voyageur’s Cup Final resembled nothing so much as a badly written HBO series which relies on unbelievable narrative twists, clichéd characters and the kind of cliffhanger of an ending that even the most jaded hack would turn their nose up at.

It was also a game of two halves.

The first half lived up to the expectation of everybody who has seen a Carl Robinson team navigate a first leg game against a bitter rival.

Pay them too much respect, kill any home crowd atmosphere and sit back tamely in the hope of snatching something from a mistake.

That worked well when an errant handball gave Kei Kamara the chance to score from the spot but fell apart almost immediately when Toronto equalized after the Whitecaps seemed to still be mentally celebrating the goal.

We seemed to be heading to the end of the half with the visitors havinf to play in third gear at most and the Whitecaps baffled by the thought of how to break them down but then Felipe mis-controlled the ball in midfield, lunged into a tackle he probably shouldn’t have lunged in to and was awarded a red card he probably shouldn’t have been awarded.

Have we reached the stage where we are going to have to say that Felipe really isn’t bringing anything to this team?

His defensive work is average at best and it’s hard to think back to a time when he played anything approaching an incisive pass,

There’s a big difference between keeping possession and killing any attacking intent.

Whether that’s down to the player himself or his instructions is a moot point at this stage but his salary means he needs to be so much more than a second rate Russell Teibert.

Then two things seemed to happen in the second half.

Toronto lost concentration seemingly safe in the knowledge the game was as good as won and the Whitecaps played with a verve and intensity that was so clearly missing in the first period.

It wasn’t even a surprise when Erik Hurtado latched on to a Russell Teibert through ball to slot home the goal that gave the home side a 2-1 lead.

Sadly it also wasn’t that much of a surprise when Doneil Henry headed beyond his own goalkeeper with what was effectively the last kick of the game to give Toronto a 2-2 tie they both did and didn’t deserve.

In the end the Whitecaps paid the price for giving away possession too cheaply in the final seconds, opting to put the onus on Marinovic to clear when taking the ball into the attacking corner was a distinct possibility but they also paid the price for another example of how often individual errors are destroying much of the overall good teamwork this season.

I guess the fact this goal was a brilliantly realized throwback to “that” Will Johnson goal (with the additional comedic element of it being an own goal) deserves some kind of  slow clap directed toward the scriptwriters.

Oh, and what if they had played with their second half intensity from the very get go?

This is perhaps even more infuriating in retrospect. The only times this team show character is when the odds are against them. But that’s kind of easy. True character would be beginning with the intention of  making the game as tough as possible for a TFC side who were happy to coast for as much as possible. 

Where does this result leave the Whitecaps in terms of winning the Cup?

Second favourites for sure but definitely not out of it.

But, once again, there are huge questions around Robinson’s unwillingness (maybe inability) to send out a team to try to take a first leg game by the scruff of the neck when he has the chance.

But, once again, the officiating will no doubt distract from the fundamental flaws in this team that aren’t going to go away anytime soon.

It certainly did in the the coach’s post-game question and answer session and that’s fine up to a point. But if, behind closed doors, he really thinks the Whitecaps played well in the first half and the only thing that cost them the win was the officiating then there’s no hope of any kind of meaningful progress.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player ratings.

Marinovic-5, Nerwisnki-5.5, de Jong -5.5, Waston-6.5*, Henry-5, Teibert-5.5, Felipe-4.5, Reyna-5, Techera-5, Davies-6, Kamara-5 (Ghazal-5, Hurtado-5.5)


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