Look, we all know that the Whitecaps could take four points from the next two road games and suddenly be sitting pretty in the Wester Conference standings. That’s just how MLS works.
But the performance against Minnesota outlined that the problems the team faces are still larger than the solutions they have.
Let’s set aside the fact that in the post game interviews everybody involved thought that trading half chances in a home game against a team on the same points is a “good performance” (it’s adequate at best) and focus instead on the more obvious deficiency.
The central midfield.
Because although the arrival of Andres Cubas has helped alleviate the issues faced in that area his absence for the second half on Friday evening exposed the flaws with startling clarity.
It was a throwback to earlier in the season as we were once again treated to the sight of opponents strolling through the centre of the pitch while the Whitecaps midfield looked on with bemused alarm.
But let’s first look at what the options are when Cubas is on the the field?
Russell Teibert- there’s something quite endearing about the way that Teibert has refused to grow as a player in his time as a Whitecap. Admittedly he has added the first time pass into a wide channel to his repertoire of late but that feels more like a new line of code in his programming than any inherent understanding of what is happening on the field.
Mostly he continues to revert to the simplest backwards directed pass available no matter how many colleagues are free ahead of him or how much pressure this pass puts on the poor player receiving the benighted ball.
One assumes that Sartini keeps playing Teibert due to his work rate and earnest demeanour. But it’s tough to watch this kind of play week after week.
Leonard Owusu- Owusu has had games where he seems able to dominate the midfield and be just what the doctor ordered for the Whitecaps. But he has had many more games where he has no real influence at all and far too many games where he has been downright dangerous to the health of the team’s defensive solidity.
A swing and a miss when it comes to the recruitment team here (ditto the above for currently out on loan Janio Bikel).
Ciao Alexandre- there seemed to be an online backslash to Alexandre when he did finally make a couple of brief appearances earlier this season. That’s probably down to his stock rising so highly when he was absent that many had come to see him as the miracle cure to what ails the team.
But while it’s still impossible to make any kind of definitive assessment about how useful Alexandre would be, it is possible to say that he is not the kind of player that Sartini wants to see in his midfield anyway.
Making his availability more of a moot point than it has often seemed to be.
Michael Baldisimo- neither is Baldisimo the kind of player that Sartini wants in his midfield. At least not the Baldisimo that exists in real life. The coach wants Baldisimo to be a deep lying playmaker who can also defend but Baldisimo is not that and the Whitecaps don’t have the luxury of time to turn him into that.
His whole tenure in Vancouver feels like a waste of talent that would be better suited to a club that wants the skill set he has.
Sebastian Berhalter- another player blighted by injury but one that may at least partly fit the profile that both the coach and the supporters want. A defensive midfielder who can at least hit a forward pass, it’s tempting (wildly disillusioned?) to think that Berhalter could develop into a very decent MLS midfielder playing alongside and learning from Cubas.
The options when Cubas isn’t on the field?
Revert to a back four with three in midfield and ask Florian Jungwirth to stand in front of the central defenders and to not, under any circumstances, venture forward. Nobody wants to see the German haplessly chasing an opponent the full length of the field ever again.
It’s true that none of the above is an inspiring set of circumstances.
But a fit Cubas at least renders the situation sustainable until the team can figure out how to find a better partner for him.
An unfit Cubas however is a recipe for a situation that is farcical (but not comical).