Where the playoffs were lost

As another chapter closes on the “Story of the Vancouver Whitecaps” (Good luck editing that manuscript!) let’s reminisce over all the myriad ways that fate and fallibility combined to prevent the team from progressing to the post-season (Memo to self: “Fate and Fallibility” should be the title of the novel the Jane Austen Society are trying to prevent me from publishing).

So where did it all go wrong?

The off-season- Axel Schuster’s conclusion that the good run at the end of 2021 was indicative of the promise of something better rather than the death throes of a wounded animal cost the club dearly. With no major improvements to the squad they were immediately on the back foot (literally and metaphorically) trying to capture the lightning in a bottle of the previous season’s run in rather than building on something new. Throw in the unexpected departure of Max Crepeau and it was uphill all the way.

The start to the season- But, as Prefab Sprout so rightly said, “If it’s uphill all the way, you should be used to it by now” but the Whitecaps clearly aren’t used to it and, instead of treating the early games as necessary evils in which to grind out results, Vanni Sartini treated them as necessary goods. Adopting a startlingly relaxed attitude to games that, even though they were mostly against Eastern Conference opponents, still offered the somewhat valuable reward of real world points. It was a game of catch up after that.

Cuts, contusions, covid and concussions- And that was just Ryan Gauld! There’s no doubt that Vancouver suffered from a seemingly endless array of ailments in the opening months and the weakening of an already weak squad did little to help their cause.

Coaching errors- The inverted wing-backs, the inability to play a functioning midfield until the arrive of Cubas, running Schopf out for game after game for no apparent reason, an unwillingness to give creative players the leeway that run of the mill players were given, changing the back three personnel for game after game. All contributed to the team never really finding their “personality” until the final run in.

The Canadian Championship- Winning it will probably keep Sartini in his job, but the focus on the cup undoubtedly cost them points in the league. A price worth paying in this case but with Champions League football and Leagues Cup games next season they will need to learn how to juggle their personnel far more efficiently if they are to take a run at the fabled “Quintuple” (MLS Cup, Supporter’s Shield, Canadian Championship, Champion’s League and Leagues Cup). Chances are that they will fall short of this mark.

The good news about all this doom and gloom is that the majority of the harm was self-inflicted (“It’s good news! You weren’t the victim of a sniper attack because it turns out that you somehow managed to shoot yourself in the back of the head”) and, if the Whitecaps learn from their mistakes (LOL) there’s the making of a team that can be more worried about where in the playoff positions they finish rather than if they get there at all.

In the coming weeks we’ll assess each players individual contribution to the campaign.

But, for now, the moving finger has writ and moved on from the Vancouver Whitecaps 2022 season.

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