Vancouver Whitecaps still on root to the playoffs (just)

Now with additional “tremors” from the following day.

The Vancouver Whitecaps beat San Jose 2-1 at BC Place on Saturday evening to earn the much needed (absolutely essential ) six points from their consecutive meetings with the worst team in MLS.

And it was a game they both completely dominated while simultaneously hanging on by the skin of their teeth at the end.

Weird.

At least Carl Robinson seems to have finally solved the mystery of what his best starting eleven actually is (not that it was much of a mystery for many who have watched the team this year).

Put Ghazal and Teibert in front of the back four and compensate for their lack of attacking threat by having Nerwinski and Levis move forward from the full back positions.

It worked perfectly in the first half and the Whitecaps should have led by more than one going in at the break.

There’s going to be an awful lot to dissect and discuss once this season finally fades away but one of the main points of contention will be Robinson’s use of his squad.

His persistence in playing Felipe in a defensive midfield role (a role which negates his offensive output and emphasises his defensive frailty) has led to a number of points being dropped (particularly at home) and that’s inevitably linked to his refusal to play Russell Teibert when the Canadian was clearly having the best season of his career.

It’s fairly clear that, in his heart of hearts, Robinson wants his team to set up with two genuine defensive midfielders but for much of this year he has half-heartedly turned that into just one and a half and so much has been lost.

But then we got the trademark flat start to the second half which allowed the Earthquakes to find a semblance of a footing in the game and for the longest time it looked as though Vancouver were going to blow a crucial three points.

It even got to the stage where Kendall Waston made a marauding run forward just to give his team and the crowd the lift they needed (and it says something about just how little import this coaching staff put in the value of the home crowd getting behind the team that Assistant Coach Martyn Pert was screaming at Waston to get back in defence while that run was being made).

The next home game sees the visit of the Seattle Sounders and many of us will still be traumatized by having to watch “that” playoff game at BC Place where the Whitecaps set out to kill the game from the first whistle and almost immediately negated a home crowd of 27,000.

From his many comments about the quality of his players it’s clear the coach doesn’t see them as a match for the Sounders (or anybody much at all really) but he must know that one of the most potent weapons an inferior side can have is to get the home crowd roaring them on.

He must know that right?

Yet it’s not inconceivable that Vancouver will follow another morale boosting (and supporter energizing) win against San Jose with a another performance that shows Seattle the kind of respect they can’t afford to be shown.

In the end it took the introduction of Nicolas Mezquida to find the second goal the Whitecaps so desperately needed and all seemed to be fair sailing until they conceded the obligatory scrappy goal at the death and somehow found themselves putting life and limb on the line to prevent the lacklustre Earthquakes from ruining the season for good.

It’s a two week break now before facing the ridiculously in form Seattle Sounders at BC Place in another “must win” game.

Another narrative that will be thoroughly dissected once this season finally fades away is the disciplinary issues the team have faced all year.

And that came back to bite them in a much more subtle way on Saturday evening as Yordy Reyna picked up a yellow card that means he is suspended for the Sounders game.

Reyna has been the best Whitecap during this good run of form (he may even be the reason for this good run of form) and he will be missed an awful lot in two weeks time.

Robinson could just go for a straight swap and start Mezquida, but the Uruguayan has always been at his best using his energy to wear out tired defenders later in the game.

So that means either a change of formation (which isn’t really Robinson’s forte) or probably playing Felipe in the number ten role.

He’s a very different kind of player to Reyna but his passing should at least enable him to link up with Kamara, Davies and Techera without having to worry too much about his defensive duties.

In truth the other results from the weekend mean the Whitecaps are going to have to pull up both their socks and trees to squeak into sixth place which, when it’s written down like that, is a sad indictment of what might have been for the whole year.

But at least we might finally have some fun on the way to the inevitable despair.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-5, Nerwinski-5.5, Waston-5.5, Maund-5, Levis-6*, Ghazal-5.5, Teibert-5.5, Reyna-6, Davies-5, Techera-4.5, Kamara-5 (Mezquida-5)

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