From last night but now with additional catharsis.
So here’s the theory.
The Whitecaps, as a group of players, are neither tactically smart enough nor mentally strong enough to raise their game to the levels they are capable of unless they are facing some kind of backs to the wall scenario
Ask them to battle for a point in Portland and they’re fine, ask them to fight back from a goal down and they’ll give it a go.
But ask them to take the initiative in a home game against an Eastern Conference team and they fall to pieces.
This “taking the initiative” things is such an incomprehensible riddle to solve. I can only think of the second half against LAFC as a time when the Whitecaps genuinely went at an opponent at BC Place this season. Not just trading chances or outperforming them in xG, but actually riding the crest of their own momentum.
And so it was against Chicago on Saturday evening as the Whitecaps were out played, out thought and out fought for all but twenty minutes of the second half.
Time and time again lazy passes were played, runs weren’t made and opponents were left to roam free.
If this was a one off display of incompetence and disinterest then fine. But throw in the games against Minnesota, Seattle and Columbus (and pretty much any first half for the rest of the season) and there’s a pattern of, well let’s call it what is , “unprofessionalism”.
Is that too harsh? I don’t think so. If you allow an opponent to work harder than you and don’t learn from that at the first attempt then that’s unprofessional. How many times have we heard Sartini tell his team that they need to focus for the full ninety minutes? Yet still they continually fail to do just that.
There are some groups of players who would see the coach’s decision to rest regular first team starters ahead of a Cup Final as a chance to prove a point.
The Whitecaps just saw it as a chance to sleep walk through the game and resort to complaining to the official when the opposition did what any half-decent football team would do on the road.
Why are they so mentally brittle?
Partly it has to be down to the coaching staff. A stronger coach would definitely have made changes before half-time in this game and there never seem to be any real consequences for playing this badly. Just more praise after the inevitable bounce back performance.
First team places certainly don’t seem to be assigned based on first team performances. How dispiriting must it be for a bench player to see Russell Teibert be virtually undroppable? Or to see Cristian Dajome get as many minutes as he has given his tanking form this year? Doing well in training seems to be the only metric used when naming the first eleven.
But it also has to be an issue with the players themselves.
There doesn’t seem to be any sense of accountability within the squad when they do play so poorly. Just enthusiastic hand claps and cliched words of regret in the post game media appointment.
That’s exactly what we got. But this time they will definitely learn from their unacceptable performance it seems.
Winning the Canadian Championship on Tuesday evening will be a huge boost for the club, but even that won’t take away from the fact that this squad takes what it can get and simply isn’t prepared to go the extra mile to get more.
If Sartini doesn’t win on Tuesday and the Whitecaps fail to make the playoffs it’s hard to see how he keeps his job. But there have been too many games he has treated as free passes this year. Early season road game against an Eastern Conference opponent? Meh. Game before a Canadian Cup contest? Meh.
Almost no team in the world can afford to turn their competitive spirit on and off at will and this team most definitely can’t.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!
Boehmer-3, Gressel-2, Godinho-2, Jungwirth-1, Nerwinski-2, Brown-1.5, Cubas-4.5, Owusu-1.5, Vite-1.5, Dajome-1.5, Cavallini-2.5 (Gauld-4.5*, Teibert-3, Blackmon-2)