From yesterday but now with additional adequacy.
It’s probably crept up on most of us but the Vancouver Whitecaps seem to have transformed into a decent MLS team.
Not a great one by any means, but certainly one that can defend well, control a midfield and fire in enough shots to keep the gods of xG happy.
And the fact that they’re unafraid to move the ball forward, even when on the road, also makes them a a decent team to watch.
How did this happen?
Well, three in midfield has certainly made the biggest difference. No longer having vast open swathes of pitch for the opposition to run into must make defending easier. And Sartini’s revolutionary tactic of allowing the defence to get to know each other rather than swapping and switching players and systems on a whim has definitely produced more solidity.
The arrival of Takaoka shouldn’t be underestimated either. Sure he’s good with his feet and makes a save or two, but he also exudes an air of calm that must be reassuring to play in front of.
There are still issues going forward but Gressel and Ahmed both have a yearning to progress the ball which makes the whole team more dangerous to play against.
And the way they progress the ball helps the team too. Gressel has never seen a ball he doesn’t want to either fire at goal as though he’s trying to make it explode or whip into the area with a first time hit. While Ahmed favours keeping the ball at his feet and trying to beat a man or two. They complement each other nicely.
The haters will probably focus on the White miss in the second half but, right now, it feels as though the biggest difference maker would be Ryan Gauld being involved in games for the full ninety minutes.
The Scot once again flickered and then faded in the 0-0 tie with Austin on Saturday evening
Simon Becher has also been promoted to starting duties too quickly it seems and the presence of Vite would create more clear cut chances in the long run.
But these are fairly minor complaints compared to what has gone before for this club.
A few games ago it felt as though Sartini was living game by game. But he’s managed to find a starting eleven that mostly works while also having players on the bench who can fill in nicely. He’s safe for a few more games at least.
If they keep trying to do the right things then the right things will eventually happen.
Could it be possible that we are entering a period of unprecedented competency and stability in the world of the Whitecaps?
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!
Takaoka-6, Brown-5.5, Veselnovi-6, Blackmon-6, Martins-5, Cubas-6.5*, Ahmed-5.5, Gressel-5.5, Gauld-4.5, Becher-4, White-5 (Vite-4)