It wasn’t Carl Robinson appreciation night at BC Place on Saturday evening, but it could well have been.
Because the Welsh maestro would surely have appreciated a Whitecaps team that showed little or no creativity, allowed the visiting team to dominate the game and yet still come away with all three points thanks to a long throw routine and a last minute penalty kick.
That’s how you succeed in MLS!
In the end it was the substitutes who stole this game for Vancouver. A little bit of quality from Ryan Gauld and a little bid of savvy from Luis Martins to draw the challenge that won the PK and the game was theirs.
But it was also Cody Cropper making a couple of good saves and projecting the sense that the game isn’t going to run away from him when things go wrong in the way they have tended to do for Thomas Hasal.
And so, poor performance against Salt Lake aside, the Whitecaps enter the international break in a much better position than seemed possible at the start of May. Within touching distance of the playoffs and the possibility of a full strength squad once they resume in a couple of weeks.
That availability of players is one thing that will determine the success or failure for the rest of the season. The other is Sartini himself.
There’s still a sense that the coach has a need to look for problems to solve even when no such problem exists. A tactical tweak here, a positional adjustment there that do as much to unbalance the team as they do to improve it.
The good news is that the last two games have offered a blueprint for stability.
Play a defensive minded midfielder in the front of the defence (not Baldisimo!) and play two central forwards that have a licence to roam.
Andres Cubas will be able to slot in for Jungwirth (who has shown that “running around a lot” isn’t necessarily the hallmark of an effective defensive midfielder) and if White and Cavallini can figure out how to play together consistently then Gauld should have more freedom to play behind them and create space for others.
A back three of Godoy, Veselinovic and Blackmon with plenty of options at wing back and you have the making of a perfectly competent MLS team.
Sartini has done wonders for the overall “vibe” of this team. Has he now got the restraint to allow them to be the thing they are meant to be?
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!
Cropper-6.5*, Raposo-3.5, Gutierrez-5, Veselinovic-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Nerwinski-5.5, Berhalter-5.5, Jungwirth-5.5, Owusu-4.5, White-4.5, Caicedo-4 (Gauld-6, Martins-5)