Vancouver Whitecaps: First Steps, still with Mallett

Anyone who has attended the Imagine Van Gogh exhibition currently showing at the Vancouver Convention Centre can’t help but be impressed by the sheer visual wonder of seeing the artist’s greatest works swirling and moving around them in a wave of colour and form.

And, once the initial motion induced nausea subsides, the mind turns to the magnified minutiae of the paintings. How each, seemingly random, brushstroke compounds with those around it to create a coherent and knowable whole.

And perhaps our visitor will also consider the connection between those brushstrokes and a game of football?

For, if you think about it for long enough, isn’t each pass within a game the corollary of a swipe of an artist’s brush? Each one adding to the whole until, at the final whistle, we see the picture in all its glory or despair.

That might be stretching it somewhat, but the tickets to that Van Gogh thing were quite expensive so I’m going to bleed as much value out of them as I can.

But it’s fair to say that while the Whitecaps performance in the 2-2 tie with Toronto wasn’t a work of art, it was at least a sketch of something that could go on to be more.

Gutiérrez once again looked like the definition of a modern full back, Dájome and Caicedo both have the first instinct to move the ball forward rather than stop and ponder their options and that instinct brings Cavallini into games far more than if he occupied the traditional “Island of No Possession” that has been the natural habitat of Whitecaps strikers over the years.

There are still fault lines of course.

Nerwinski again looked like the very definition of an MLS full back, the centre of defence was an accident waiting to happen throughout the game with Veselinovic in particular always hungry to give the ball away and Crepeau displayed questionable positional sense unless the ball was flying directly toward him from an opposition shot.

But when was the last time the Whitecaps got a point away from home and we all thought “Ugh, that’s two points dropped”?

What we’ve seen in the first two games or, more specifically, the second half of each of the first two games is a team that isn’t solely relying on sitting deep and hitting the opposition on the break (although they leaned on that a little too much in the last ten minutes on Saturday) but wants to create chances with their own play rather than relying on the flaws of others.

A contrarian may point out that the Whitecaps haven’t scored from open play in either of these games, but the contrarian can be quiet for now because they aren’t looking at the picture as a whole.

Or, more specifically, they are concluding that the picture is finished when there are still unused tubes of paint on the artist’s palette (that’s another dollar off the ticket price right there).

For Vancouver still have players to either return or introduce for the first time and, when we look back at the season, it’s possible we’ll conclude that the best thing to happen to this team was to be shorthanded in the early games.

That’s meant players already familiar with each other have started games and provided a level of cohesion that the influx of new faces may not have done.

What’s more, those new faces can now be introduced into a team that plays a functioning system (a first for any recent arrival to the Whitecaps).

In short, there are many reasons to be optimistic about the direction of this team.

It’s only a two game sample size and the wheels can fall off faster than a razor blade through an earlobe, but at least a decent outline has been penciled into the notebook.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crépeau-4, Nerwinski-5, Gutiérrez-6.5*, Rose-5,  Veselinovic, 4, Bikel-5.5, Baldisimo, 5,  Caicedo, 5.5, Teibert-6, Dájome-6, Cavallini-6

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