Vancouver Whitecaps: Still Pointless

From yesterday but now with added “Things that make you go H’mm?”

Imagine going to sleep at night with your loved one only to find that, come the morning, their left arm had been replaced with a different, if similar, left arm.

You would still love them right? Of course you would. You are not a monster.

Then, the following night, you wake up to find their right leg has been replaced by a different, if similar, right leg.

Still love them? Sure you do.

On the third night as you go to sleep….

Wait a minute! How the hell are you still sleeping? The love of your life is systematically having their limbs removed and replaced on a nightly basis and you’re still dropping off like a baby?

Call the police. Change the locks on your doors. At least have the decency to stay awake for ten minutes to watch over them after your head hits the pillow.

I’m starting to think you are a sociopath. Unless you are the one replacing the body parts? But why?

Anyway, long intro short. How many changes does it take before the one you love is no longer the one you love? The torso? The heart? The head?

This season kind of feels like a less disturbing version of that thought experiment for fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps, with the first two games as much a challenge of  thinking of this as the same team as it has been identifying new players and new tactics and systems.

But at least the 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon did just about enough to convince us that this was both still the same old Whitecaps and yet also something quite new.

Yordy Reyna continues to search for the consistency that would make him a genuine difference maker in the league, Jake Nerwinski can still get caught out of position with disastrous consequences and Fredy Montero still struggles to get into a game unless he has quality service.

Was the Nerwinski tackle a penalty kick? No. (And kudos to all the people who wanted VAR introduced to eliminate controversy from the game. Achievement unlocked.) But Nerwinski was caught out of position for the second week running and no matter how much Dos Santos defends him there can’t be many such mistakes left to make before Scott Sutter gets a start. 

On the “That’s new!” front, Hwang In-Beom demonstrates enough quality to provide hope as he develops in to the groove of MLS, Erik Godoy looks like a proper central defender and Max Crépeau has genuine presence in goal.

But a loss is still a loss and only the most optimistic of observers could watch that game and think that Doneil Henry will ever settle into the Marc Dos Santos style of passing out from the back or that the continuing inability to create chances from open play is a feature rather than a bug of the current system.

One of the eternal mysteries of the Vancouver Whitecaps is how impossible they find it to get a midfield player into the opposition penalty area on a regular basis. In-Beom and Rose should be ideally suited for this purpose but, once again, the absence of  anybody but Fredy Montero in the penalty area when the Whitecaps got forward was startling.

But the lack of offensive output wasn’t just down to In-Beom and Rose as the front three were worryingly static in sticking to their lanes. Everybody is still finding their way within the system to be sure but the ease with which the first two opponents have coped with Vancouver in open play is reason for concern.

Yet still they are better to watch than they were last season.

Failing bravely is a far more endearing quality than succeeding through fear, but such misty eyed romanticism can only last for so long and if, by the time they leave BC Place after their return visit, the Whitecaps are still struggling to find their way it may well be a long season indeed.

And it will be interesting to see how wedded Dos Santos is to his 4-3-3 setup because the arrival of Ardaiz in the second half gave the team a focus up front it previously lacked. That feels like the antithesis of how the new coach wants his team to play the game but results could dictate how long purity holds out over pragmatism.

For now though we can just shrug away the vagaries of  MLS and MLS officiating and dream of the sun dappled uplands the Dos Santos reign still holds promise of.

We will all get to those uplands some day.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crépeau-6*, Nerwinski-3.5, PC-4.5, Henry-4, Godoy-5.5, Erice-5, In-Beom-5.5, Rose-5, Reyna-5, Venuto-4.5, Montero-4 (Sutter–5, Ardaiz-5.5, Lass-5) 


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