We can safely sum up the start that the Vancouver Whitecaps have made to the new season as “not ideal”.
Sure the games have been against tough opponents and injuries to key players have taken their toll. But it’s never a good sign when excuses are being deployed this early in the campaign and the window for getting things right has been reduced greatly by the single point earned from the first four games.
So let’s take a look at where some of the the issues are and by “take a look at where some of the issues are” I mean “name names and throw individuals under the bus”.
Vanni Sartini- It’s possible that Sartini’s success last season was down to a combination of a change being as good as a rest for the players and a healthy dose of good fortune. But he also built that success on having a specific way of playing and sticking to it no matter who was available to fill the role.
This led to some odd decisions but it provided the Whitecaps with the degree of certainty they had lacked under Dos Santos. No more adapting to the opposition game in and game out. This is how we play and this how we will play.
Suddenly however the coach has been beset by the urge to switch things up. Inverted wing-backs to help bolster the midfield. One man or two men up front or one man and two men behind the striker.
The certainty is gone and the team are, once again, testing their tactics afresh in each new game.
The injuries to Gauld and White have no doubt had an impact on these decisions but Sartini now feels like a man who is over thinking things because he has a position to protect rather than a man who is doing what he believes in because there is nothing to lose.
Time to get back to what worked.
Cristian Dajome- It’s arguable that Dajome has been Vancouver’s most important player over the last two seasons. Always raising his game when the team were in trouble and chipping in with the occasional crucial goal.
This season though he feels like a man out of place.
Getting the best out of Dajome means giving him space to run into and the only way that’s possible right now is in the wing-back role. That lessens his impact even if he’s on the right, but the inverted wing-back role effectively kills it.
The long term solution to these positions should be Brown and Gutierrez which leaves Dajome looking like a stop gap even if he does prosper.
He probably works best as a wide player in a front three, but see above re Sartini avoiding moving things around to accommodate individual players. But playing Dajome as the lone forward when White isn’t available wouldn’t be a terrible idea.
Lucas Cavallini- It can’t be often that Cavallini is compared to Cristiano Ronaldo but he does pose a similar problem to the Whitecaps as Ronaldo poses to Manchester United.
A big name signing who is totally unsuitable to the tactical ethos the team are/were trying to build.
Cavallini can press the opposition defenders but not for a sustained period of time which effectively defeats the point.
He’s also proved himself incapable of sticking to any kind of tactical plan. Where Brian White works hard and “stays in his lane” Cavallini works hard and wanders over fields and meadows to chase the ball and, more often than not, finds himself in the ideal position to cross the ball to the place where he should have been all the time.
He’s a kind of Bizarro World goal poacher. A player who frequently places himself in the position where he is least likely to score while simultaneously getting in the way of everybody else.
Russell Teibert- The weird thing is that Teibert himself isn’t the problem. He’s a functional midfielder who should be doing a job as a useful player to bring off the bench or use in the games when the first choice midfield need a rest.
The problem is that the Whitecaps have somehow failed to find a better central midfielder than him despite having the whole world to search and over a decade to locate this seemingly enigmatic creature.
No team can win anything, or even just do okay, if the midfield offers nothing of value other than earnest looks and futile hustle.
If that problem isn’t solved then all else is in vain.