While on vacation a couple of days ago I was sitting quietly beside the (socially distanced) pool when I suddenly became aware of a commotion in the corner.
There was a squirrel in the hot tub!
“He’s swimming!” Shouted the children, their cherubic faces aglow with delight and wonder at a Disney cartoon come to life before their very eyes. “He’s drowning!” Shouted the adults, their gaunt faces pulled taut across their skulls as the year added yet one more horror to the seemingly endless litany.
I stepped forward to explain the situation.
“You are all wrong.” I said, invoking my default opening to any group of strangers I happen to meet.
“For this animal is neither swimming nor drowning.” I explained calmly. “He is merely representing, through the medium of interpretative dance, the current mindset of the average Vancouver Whitecaps fan.”
The assembled group nodded quietly, thanked me for my assistance and returned to their various activities; attempting to play volley ball in a pool the size of a bathtub, staring with hostility at the couple who had snagged the sun loungers that provided both sun and shade and emitting shrill screams for no apparent reason at random intervals.
I glanced back at the squirrel and, as he sank beneath the scalding bubbles for the final time, I fancied I saw a look of quiet satisfaction flicker across his tiny rodent face at the thought of a metaphor well represented.
For reader, that squirrel was right.
How do we assess what just occurred in Florida from a Whitecaps perspective? A brave battle against the odds? Or just more grist to the mill of unease?
It is, of course, too soon to say from the overall perspective but, for individuals, there were clear winners and clear losers.
In the loss column we have Theo Bair and Ryan Raposo. Neither will likely get a better chance to gain valuable minutes in meaningful games and, while both did get the minutes, neither made best use of them.
Raposo was an ethereal presence whenever he was on the field and Bair flattered to deceive in the role of central striker. Always threatening to hold the ball up and offer respite to his beleaguered defence, but never quite getting the job done (this probably makes Lucas Cavallini a default winner by his much missed presence).
Another big loser was Hwang In-Beom. There’s no player it would be more satisfying to see succeed than In-Beom (and no player the team needed more than somebody who could create something out of nothing, or provide quality chances to the strikers) but I’m not sure we are ever going to see that from the South Korean. Certainly not with any level of consistency.
The winners include Tomas Hasal of course. A third string goalkeeper who made some good saves and rode some good luck to become the feel good story of the tournament for the Whitecaps.
None of this makes him ready for the starting spot on a regular basis, but it may well mean he is mentioned in conversations for roles that, prior to Florida, his name would not even have been an afterthought.
Veselinovic and Cornelius come out well too. Both demonstrating the value of having defenders who think that defending is something to be done at all times and not just an optional choice depending on the game state (the loser here is Khmiri).
And perhaps the most surprising winner of all is coach Marc Dos Santos.
By the end of the tournament there was the sense that he could get the players to buy in to whatever tactic he was selling and use that buy in to get results above the pay grade of the players at his disposal.
That is a huge turnaround from the feelings after the first two games.
We’ve still yet to see any proof that Dos Santos can achieve results over the longer term and we’ve still yet to see if he can make Vancouver anything more than a backs to the wall, hope to get a result against the odds, playing for the playoff line kind of team.
But he left Florida with his stock a little higher and who knows when we will get to judge either him, or the players, again?
Belated Soccer Shorts ratings for the Kansas game!
Hasal-6, Nerwinski-5.5, Cornelius-6*, Veselinovic-6, Owusu-5, Teibert-6, Adnan-6, Dajome-5.5, In-Beom-5.5, Bair-5