Marc Dos Santos spent his time as Whitecaps coach trying (and failing) to turn his team into one that successfully pressed the opposition.
Vanni Sartini seems to have solved that problem in just a few weeks.
It may be that (somewhat understandably) with all the time spent on travel and living away from home the players eventually began to switch of from whatever Dos Santos was selling them, or it may be that Sartini has established a foundation in how he wants the team to play and subsequent tweaks are easier to make because of that.
Vancouver weren’t great in the 3-0 win over the Earthquakes, but they were far better than they have traditionally been in such “must win” situations.
There was no sitting back and allowing the opposition to dictate the play, no tentativeness when going forward and no players standing static and watching a team mate desperately search for an option while in possession.
Ryan Gauld certainly helps in the latter of those traits.
His movement off the ball not only pulls the opposition out of their comfort zone but, like a powerful magnet in a field of iron filings, he drags the rest of the team into the required shapes and patterns.
But Gauld alone wouldn’t be enough.
Leonard Owusu produced his second consecutive performance at home where he dominated the midfield. Cristian Dajome was a constant threat from the left wing back position and Brian White was the Platonic ideal of a limited striker who gives his all and gets rewarded with goals just because he’s doing his job.
And are we at the stage where we can say that Jake Nerwinski is a decent central defender?
The data set is probably not complete on that one yet, but even playing on the left of the three Nerwinski looked like a solid option.
Again, that may be down to Sartini sticking to a system rather than changing it depending on who the opponent was. So much easier for players to come into a team, even in an unfamiliar role, if those around them understand their roles too.
But the biggest take away from Saturday evening is that there were periods during the game where the Whitecaps looked to be enjoying playing football. They’d stopped thinking about what they should be doing with the ball and were just doing it.
Amazing how a fresh coaching perspective can change things.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!
Crepeau-6, Gaspar-6, Dajome-6.5*, Rose-6, Jungwirth-6.5, Nerwisnki-6, Teibert-6, Owusu-6.5, Gauld-6.5, Caicedo-6, White-6.5