Following the Vancouver Whitecaps fantastic 2-1 win in Portland on Saturday evening we heard little from Carl Robinson other than his refrain on how that game proved the character of his squad could not be questioned.
But those of us who have watched the team all season still had our doubts.
Because when this Vancouver team implodes it really implodes. Be it in terms of discipline or be it in terms of structure and, in the second leg of the Voyageur’s Cup Final against Toronto FC, it was the latter failing which came to the fore.
A 5-2 defeat (7-4 on aggregate) may even have been somewhat flattering for a team who never really looked like scoring until they were four goals down (it’s oh so easy to be “brave” when all hope is lost) and who looked like conceding every time they gave up a set-piece in the second half.
Perhaps Robinson’s dismal record in two-legged ties is down to his sole tactic of trying to snatch a win from a scrappy goal here and there and that really isn’t sustainable over 180 minutes against good teams?
Or perhaps by the time the second leg rolls around the opposition coach has had time to work out how to beat that one trick pony of a tactic anyway?
Not that the Whitecaps began this game badly. They contained Toronto for a while and even made the occasional foray forward themselves but once Altidore gave the home side the lead the jig was up.
The Whitecaps didn’t have a Plan A (subsection 1) let alone a Plan B.
But going in 2-0 down at half time wasn’t a complete disaster. Shore things up at the start of the second, sneak a goal on the break and TFC may well become anxious.
Except that didn’t happen.
Toronto came out determined to kill the game straight away and the Whitecaps came out as though they had been ranking the flavours of Voodoo donuts in the locker room and, before you could say “overpriced tourist catnip” they were four goals to the bad and done.
The arrival of Mezquida, Shea and Hurtado livened things up just enough to give Toronto pause for concern but to no avail.
So it’s back to the League campaign now and no doubt a series of “gritty” performances that either do just enough to earn a top six spot before bowing out with a whimper in the playoffs or fail to do enough and make the only tangible result of this season the sale of their best player.
Nobody can look at this club right now and believe it’s going in the right direction.
Backroom staff leaving, promising young players getting little or no meaningful playing time, a player acquisition policy that has no coherence and a coach with severely limited tactical acumen.
If change is to be done then it would be well to be done quickly (before whatever it is that’s rotten can no longer be revived).
Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.
Marinovic-4, Nerwisnki-4.4, Waston-4, Henry-3, de Jong-4, Teibert-5.5, Ghazal-5, Reyna-4, Techera-3.5, Davies-4.5, Kamara-5.5 (Mezquida-5.5, Hurtado-6*, Shea-5.5)