In an attempt to get to the heart of what is really going wrong with the Vancouver Whitecaps I recently conducted a thought experiment in which I imagined myself being suddenly transposed into the body of the club’s Sporting Director Axel Schuster for a day.
I present to you now the unedited notes from this fascinating experiment.
I wake up in a strange bedroom. Where am I? What is happening? I climb out of bed and struggle to find the door. I must complete my ablutions, but the first door I find leads only to a sauna room. It’s an option I suppose, but surely there must be a bathroom somewhere?
Success! Ablutions completed I find a switch and the burst of light almost blinds me, until my eyes focus and see a giant poster of the Whitecaps Sporting Director Axel Schuster.
But wait. This isn’t a poster, it’s a mirror! I reach out to my reflection as my reflection reaches back. It too, seemingly searching for answers in a world thrown off the axis.
Dazed with confusion I stumble out of the bathroom to find myself in a large and brightly lit kitchen. A woman is speaking to me in German and I understand every word. I even reply to her in German.
“Good morning Axel.” She smiles. “Ready for your morning coffee?”
“Who are you?” I ask, my voice faltering. “Who am I?”
She laughs. “Oh Axel, always with the jokes. But you will be late for work.” Her head nods toward a painting of the Whitecaps office in Gastown which, upon closer inspection, looks to be dotted with what seem to be freshly made holes, almost as if somebody had been throwing darts at it.
Slowly my mind begins to get a grip on the situation. I’m not just imagining that I am Axel Schuster. I am Axel Schuster!
I gulp down the coffee and rush to the bedroom to dress. Who knows how much time I have to use my skills to save the Whitecaps?
I survive the slightly fraught drive to the office (I am still getting used to living in this strange body and my feet slam down hard on the brake and gas pedal repeatedly, causing the vehicle to lurch alarmingly). But eventually I walk uncertainly into the Whitecaps office to be met by a smiling receptionist.
“Good morning Axel.” She says.
“Good morning.” I reply in my charmingly clipped English. “Could you tell me where my office is please?”
She laughs delightedly. “Oh Axel.” She smiles. “Is this another one of your jokes?”
I sigh and say that yes of course it is and walk into the corridor, the walls of which are covered with posters of the current Whitecaps team and which, upon closer inspection, look to be dotted with what seem to be freshly made holes, almost as if somebody had been throwing darts at them.
Finally I spot a door with my name on it and enter.
The office is small but functional and I’m delighted to see that the computer unlocks using facial recognition technology. “This will be interesting.” I whisper to myself but, before I can explore further, there is a knock on the door and coach Marc dos Santos enters without waiting for permission to enter.
“You wanted to see me?” He says, taking a seat.
He laughs and points a finger at me. “Is this another one of your jokes Axel?” He asks.
“Yes that’s right.” I say and then suddenly realize that right here and right now is my chance to get to the heart of the matter.
“I wanted to discuss the performances in the three games against Toronto and Montreal.” I say sternly.
He shrugs. “I will admit that they weren’t all that great, but there was definite improvement in the third game.”
“Good grief man!” I exclaim “You can’t be using two games just to build up to a third game that is slightly better and think that’s acceptable.”
He looks at the floor.
An idea comes to me and I type furiously at my keyboard and turn the screen to face the coach.
Have you tried reading this blog?” I say pointing at the latest missive from Soccer Shorts. “It’s full of great ideas.”
Dos Santos looks confused. “But you read it once when you arrived here and said that it seemed to have been written by a moron.”
“I am sure I didn’t say that.”
“Yes you did. You said it failed to achieve even the level of pseudo-intellectualism and that a five year old who had never seen a game of soccer could do a better job of analyzing the game.”
I slump back in my chair.
“And then you said…”
I stop him there. “Yes, yes, yes that is all very interesting, but he makes some very good points about how you don’t really seem to have any tactics to speak of.”
“I do!” He protests vehemently.
“Well, when we take a goal kick we always aim for Ali Adnan because he’s good at heading the ball.”
“Not specifically.” He mumbles, looking back to the floor. “But I’ve definitely asked the players to play better.”
I lean forward. “I just think that picking a system, sticking with it and then coaching the players to play that way every day might have better long term benefits than constantly trying to remedy the problems of the last game with more changes.”
He nods and says nothing.
Just then I am aware of a swirl of colour rushing through my brain, a kaleidoscopic vortex of tones and hues that seem to both sooth and terrify me in equal measure.
“Are you okay Axel? Is this another one of your jokes?”
The words are muffled and distant. Almost as if they have arrived from a completley different dimension.
Am I being called away so soon? Is my work here already done? Have I saved the Whitecaps?
I am plunged into darkness.
After what feels like an eternity I wake up in another strange room. Where am I now? Who am I now?
I struggle out of bed and find a light switch. The brightness dazzles me and I see the walls are festooned with yellowing copies of the Vancouver soccer pages which, upon closer inspection, look to be dotted with what seem to be freshly made holes, almost as if somebody had been throwing darts at them.
I turn to see a giant poster of Russell Teibert. But wait, this isn’t a poster…..