So (now that the dust of disappointment has settled) what did we really learn from the Whitecaps defeat to the Rapids on Sunday evening?
We were too happy- In retrospect, many of us viewed the first two games through the rose tinted spectacles of results rather than performance. The Whitecaps were fine in those games, but that’s all.
But they weren’t the seeds of recovery we thought they were. Two set pieces and a penalty kick do not a foundation make and the law of averages came back to bite the team on Sunday.
Lessons to be learned- In his post-game presser Marc Dos Santos admitted that his team needed to be better at breaking down a defence that sits deep.
Yes they do.
But they’ve needed to be better at that for the last fifty-nine centuries. One assumes they are working on this defect in training, but it constantly seems to be a source of deep bafflement to everybody on the team that hitting hopeful long balls from the back isn’t the infallible master plan they seemingly think it is.
Dos Santos also said that perhaps his players started slowly because the pressure of getting to seven points may have got to them. It’s certainly easy to see how reaching such vertiginous heights would freeze even the best of footballers.
Let Cavallini be Cavallini- The Canadian forward is good at getting on the end of crosses (high or low) and annoying opposition defenders to within an inch of a red card.
He’s not good at running forward with the ball for anything more than a few steps. Let Dajome and Caicedo do the running forward with the ball. They can then kick it across to where Cavallini is standing and he can try to head or kick it into the net.
They need a number ten– I’m instinctively anti the number ten role. Especially in MLS. Yes, yes, yes it will get results, but it’s such a reductive way of running a team and leaves you always one bad injury away from disaster.
It was my (seemingly forlorn) hope that the Whitecaps could build a team. A squad of players who slotted together in a system that made the reliance on the mercurial talents of an individual the redundant dream of a bygone MLS age.
But no, the only way they will flourish is by adding that one player who can make things happen for the others. A golden talisman for the leaden footed support act to rally around.
There is hope- Well, I say “hope” but really it’s an acknowledgment that they probably have enough to squeak into the playoffs.
Good set-pieces will get you points and the eventual return of Erik Godoy should make both the defence better and the midfield more willing to get forward (That “should” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in that sentence).
But will they be more than that? A team that genuinely believes the top four is within their reach? A team that doesn’t fail to perform the moment even the most minor of achievements is within their grasp?
That looks a lot less likely than some of us thought it was just one short week ago.