Whitecaps fail to ride the Rapids

Two of the many truisms of football are that returning players always do well against their old club, and whenever a coach says his team need a break, and then they get said break, the team return playing worse.

And both were in evidence during the Whitecaps 2-2 tie with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening at BC Place.

Nicolas Mezquida was involved in both Colorado goals and Kei Kamara scored the second.

Both returnees were helped by the fact that the Vancouver players spent the first thirty minutes of the game clearly still daydreaming about whatever vacation they had just been one.

Perhaps to a lovingly restored old farmhouse in Tuscany? Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of modern life to be a true break, but close enough to a small village where, in the morning, they could walk to pick up some fresh bread and maybe some Pecorino if the mood so takes them?

Then, in the evening, a relaxing stroll to that charming cafe whose ever changing chalkboard menu only ever features three simple dishes but with each one being perfection.

Hard to blame the players for the lack of excitement at playing Colorado if that is the case!

In the end though they finally woke up from said daydream and get the two goal back through a Montero penalty kick and a Reyna free kick.

And there is the rub of course.

For all their attacking intent they still failed to generate a goal from open play and still failed to create one genuine clear cut opportunity.

From a  tactical perspective Ali Adnan has taken on the Alphonso Davies role of “Just give it to him and hope he does something” and if anything hurt the Whitecaps with regard to absentees it was being forced to switch from 5-3-2 (which allows Adnan more opportunities to get forward) to 4-3-3 (which places the onus on the players who are paid to score goal to score goals).

And yes, we can go on about those absentees due to the Gold Cup etc. but the attacking line was about as close to the first choice as it could be and the oft mooted new signing (s) can’t come soon enough if this team is going to make any realistic run at the post season.

Realistically though, if you’re chasing the pack and yet still can’t beat Colorado at home, then you are not going to be making the playoffs anyway and the upcoming series of road games could well be the final nail in that particular coffin.

But this was always a long term project. Overturning the years of disjointed and on the fly squad building which left a group of players who were ill fitted to each other and whose salary hit often felt more like a guerrilla art project than it did to any logical evaluation of their worth.

Oh, and Zac MacMath did nothing to move Max Crepeau away from first choice status.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-3, Nerwinski-4.5, Adnan-6*, Godoy-5.5, Rose-5, Erice-4.5, Felipe-4, In-Beom-5, Venuto-3.5, Reyna-5, Montero-5 (Sutter-3)

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps fail to Carpe Diem

From yesterday but with a fun fact about the Romans and extra thoughts on the team.

The ancient Romans had a word (maybe the modern Romans do too I don’t know) anyway, the word was “Discrimen”, and it referred to the world’s first pizza delivery service which ultimately failed because the app kept crashing. Or was it the chariots that kept crashing? Contemporary reports are unclear.

Wait. That doesn’t seem right. Let’s try again.

While the Romans may not have had a food delivery service, they did have the equivalent of fast food takeout. 

Busy Romans would stop at one of the many reasonably priced “Thermopolia” to grab lunch during their busy workday.

Baked cheese slathered in honey? Take that BC Place!

Reasonably priced? Take that BC Place!

The ancient Romans had a word (maybe the modern Romans do too I don’t know) anyway, the word was “Discrimen”, and it referred to a singular moment when the achievement of an entire lifetime might hang in the balance.

A crisis point where the prospect of glorious success or heartbreaking failure seems to carry equal weight.

The Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 tie with Toronto FC on Friday evening at BC Place might not have reached such epic levels of import but it might be the game that breaks rather than makes their season.

The Whitecaps were awful for the first eighty-five minutes. Devoid of energy or imagination or any realistic attacking intent.

It does sometimes feel as though it would be easier to get a rabid cat into a travel box full of citrus fruit than it would be to get a Vancouver player into the opposition penalty box.

This has to be a specific instruction from the coach rather than the more appealing notion that some ancient curse will forever follow the Whitecaps and their midfield until the end of time.

Fair enough that Marc Dos Santos wants his team to lure teams forward and then hit them on the break, but if teams refuse to be lured there has to be a Plan B, and right now that looks to be hitting long balls forward in the hope that Fredy Montero can feed off the scraps or that Lucas Venuto’s speed will somehow pay off.

Plan C is Ali Adnan.

But the late entry of Yordy Reyna injected some life into the game and, with just five minutes to go, he won the penalty which Fredy Montero converted.

But if you thought the Whitecaps were awful before they scored, wait until you hear about what they were like after they scored.

Because they weren’t just not interested in pushing for the second killer goal, oh no, they weren’t even interested in keeping the ball for longer than it takes to hoof it aimlessly up the field.

And they dropped so deep that at times Max Crepeau was the furthest forward for any potential counter attacking option.

The problem with getting a result from that kind of “backs to the wall, hope our luck holds” scenario (Which the Whitecaps have done this season) is that it starts to feel like a plan, when it really isn’t.

Like knowing the dice are loaded against you, but thinking that the one time you beat the house was a portent and not an aberration.

It’s just about reasonable to give the players a pass on this given their recent schedule ,but it also comes down to mentality.

The Whitecap shave shown a ton of resilience over recent weeks, battling to get points they often had no right to get.

But what they haven’t shown is the toughness of mentality when taking the lead.

The last two home games have seen the Whitecaps gain the advantage and then resort to clinging on to said advantage instead of building on it. Or even trying to build on it.

Right now they are conflating conservatism and courage and they are wrong.

But if we have to take anything away from that game it’s that the midfield is in drastic need of an upgrade. Mainly because there isn’t one to speak of, just an auxiliary defence that occasionally glances at the halfway line with the kind of rueful smile usually reserved for a man who knows that his love will forever remain unrequited.

There will be upgrades to come. Please let there be upgrades to come! And even Julius Caesar must have picked the wrong Centurions at some time or another.

The good news is that more than one team has galloped into the playoffs, and even an MLS Cup, after a crucial mid-season acquisition or two.

The bad news is that the Whitecaps are unlikely to splash enough cash to get that kind of player. So what we have to hope for is two (hopefully three) upgrades that turn this team into one that’s good enough to be better than having to scrap for points in every single game.

And also keeping Ali Adnan of course.

“We’re down to our last one hundred and ten men so what can I do?”

Or sent them out in the wrong formation.

“We probably shouldn’t have gone with the Testudo on home soil, but I’m not sure we have the soldiers to utilize the Wedge effectively.”

But Marc Dos Santos must know his team are at a tipping point right now. Their very own “Discrimen” that will determine their fate for this season and maybe even beyond.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6*, Sutter-5, Adnan-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Rose-5.5, Cornelius-5, Erice-4.5, Teibert-3, In-Beom-3, Venuto-5, Montero-5, (Reyna-5.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps enjoy the green, green turf of home

There was a moment somewhere around the seventieth minute of the 2-1 victory over FC Dallas at BC Place when every single Vancouver Whitecaps player ran into a mental, physical and metaphorical brick wall.

Even Russell Teibert, a man whose sole purpose on the planet is to run around a lot on a football field, seemed to be wearing footwear fashioned from hollowed out neutron stars.

Yet somehow they managed to survive and earn a three points which must feel like a long cool soak in a saltwater swimming pool after weeks of crisscrossing the continent like that Bluetooth mouse I once ordered from Amazon.

I mean, if you’re sending something from California to Vancouver why does it have to go through Raleigh-Durham first? It makes no sense! And was it compatible once it arrived? It was not!

Thankfully the Whitecaps players do seem to be compatible with each other or, at the very least, they seem to have developed a collective cussedness that turns adversity into points.

And they really needed that cussedness for the final five minutes on Saturday as Dallas pushed for what would probably have been a deserved equalizer.

Yet Vancouver hung on and now have a whole five days to prepare for the home game against Toronto FC.

Positives from the game?

Both goals for sure. For the first Ali Adnan caressed and pushed his way between two Dallas defenders before trying one of those right foot curlers he has tried in every game thus far.

And this time it worked, as the ball arced deliciously over the outstretched hand of the Dallas goalkeeper whose name I can’t be bothered to look up.

And you know who else couldn’t be bothered to look up?

Fredy Montero, as he created the second goal for Lucas Venuto with the sweetest of back-heels that allowed the Brazilian to calmly side foot home for what turned out to be the winning goal.

The other highlight was the performance of Hwang In-Beom.

The South Korean has looked out of sorts in recent weeks but this was a return to the player we saw in his early days on the team. Always wanting to get on the ball and always looking for the quick pass.

Time will tell if this is the beginning of a resurgence or if In-Beom is just a young player who struggles for consistency.

And how useful a signing does Andy Rose look right now?

He’s better suited to the midfield, but his ability to also play at the back has given Marc Dos Santos the chance to play three at the back in the last two games and thus get a goal in each one from his wing-backs.

The worst is certainly over in terms of travel for this team and, in a way, this is when the real work begins.

Because this is when the Whitecaps need to push on and establish that they are more than just a bunch of scrappy kids who never give up.

Over the next few weeks and months we need to see them develop into a coherent football team.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

Crepeau-=6, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-7*, Godoy-6.5, Rose-6, Cornelius-5.5, Erice-6, Teibert-5.5, In-Beom-6.5, Venuto-6, Montero-6 (PC-6).

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: New York Two-Two

It’s hard to give an effective assessment of a team as injury battered as the Vancouver Whitecaps are and who face a travel schedule that would make the average amphetamine fueled rock band think “Hmm, this is a tad wearisome.”

But for the second time in what feels like about three hours the Whitecaps went to one of the toughest stadiums in MLS and came away with a well earned point.

Although the first half certainly didn’t feel as though it was going to go that way, as Vancouver played mostly on or within their own six yard line while somehow managing to come away with a 1-1 tie at the whistle.

Whether it was Marc Dos Santos’ plan to defend for the first half and then play a more attacking style in the second, or whether he was just watched that first forty-five minutes and just thought “Hmm, this is a tad wearisome” is hard to say, but the introduction of Montero for Levis meant his side kept possession so much more effectively and even began to look like the better team.

Even an Andy Rose own goal didn’t stop them in their stride and when the VAR gods decided that their whims would be favouring the Whitecaps this time around Fredy Montero slotted home for a well earned point.

It could have been more right at the death had In-Beom raised his head instead of aimlessly shooting when Felipe was wide open but, all in all, this is clearly a group of players who believe in what their coach is selling them and are willing to play for him no matter how dire the circumstance.

Special shout out to Joaquin Ardaiz who proved that he can play football after all and was excellent as both the hold up and link up forward and to Scott Sutter who got forward to give the Whitecaps the lead and who looks more than suited to the wing back role.

And also to referee Victor Rivas. The second “new” match official the Whitecaps have had in consecutive games and the second who seemed to understand the game far more than the familiar and established names.

At least some hope that in the future we won’t be watching an MLS match official and spend the whole game thinking “Hmm, this is a tad wearisome.”

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings

Macmath-5, Sutter-6, Godoy-6, Rose-5.5, Cornelius-5.5, Adnan-6, Felipe-5, Erice-5.5, Levis-4.5, PC-4.5, Ardaiz-6* (Montero-6, In-Beom-4, Venuto-5) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: What’s in a Name?

Often times when I am out taking the air upon the streets of Vancouver a stranger will stop me and say,

“I am fully aware that the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings system is undeniably the most accurate and objective player ratings system in the world. But I wonder if you would be so kind as to introduce a ratings system that is a little more simplistic for people like me who don’t have your intellectual depth?”

I smile at them and, after I’ve asked them if I can borrow twenty dollars for my car (parked just around the corner) which has unfortunately run out of gas on the way to a really important hospital appointment, I tell them that such a system is indeed in the works.

As they hand over the money they thank me for my time and, on occasion, I feel a pang of sadness that I will never behold their sweet and innocent face again.

Oh sure, I could keep the scrap of paper they hand over with their contact details scribbled down so that I can pay them back. But is that what they really want?

Of course it isn’t!

But today they are about to be paid back in full! More than full really. If anything, they owe me another twenty dollars.

Because today is the launch of the exclusive Shouting A Player’s Name During A Game Index (SPANDAGI for ease of reference).

Oh and by the way, the “P” and the “A” have been transposed there for reasons too scientifically complicated to explain.

What SPANDAGI does is take the ruthlessly efficient mathematical model at the heart of the current Soccer Shorts Player Ratings and throw in a soupcon of personalization.

It’s ideal for the shallower among you.

So how does it work?

Frequently during a game I will shout valuable instructions to a player. “Pass it!”, “Shoot!”, “Move!” and so on. But over time I have observed that the name I attach to these pearls of wisdom is very much indicative of how the player is performing both within the game and over the season.

That’s what SPANDAGI is. It judges a player by the name I call them.

Simple but unerringly accurate.

So let’s take a look at where the current Whitecaps stand in the SPANDAGI Index.

Max Crepeau- “Max”. The goalkeeper has gone from “Throw it out quicker err, whatever your name is.” to “Throw it out quicker Max.” A substantial rise in the standings.

Jake Nerwinski- “Jake”. Maybe down to familiarity more than than content with his play, but “Just hit one decent cross please Jake!” speaks well of his position in the index.

Ali Adnan- “Ali”. “Have a run at them Ali.” shows how remarkably well the Iraqi defender has slotted into the team.

Doneil Henry- “Henry”. Perhaps because shouting “Don’t get a red card here Doneil.” sounds a tad like a bad Folk ditty, but it’s still indicative that the central defender has work to do.

Erik Godoy- Never see him and so never shout anything.

Jon Erice- “Erice“. Partly in deference to his role as captain and partly because calling a Spaniard “Jon” is wrong. “So it will always be “Sort them out here Erice.”

Russell Teibert- “Teibert”. Or occasionally simply “Teib…”. As in “Okay, don’t pass the ball backwards this time Teib….oh forget it”.

Hwang In-Beom- “In-Beom”. “Just get forward In-Beom.” rolls off the tongue really.

Lass Bangoura- “Lass”. Purely for the comedic effect of sounding like a Yorkshire sheep farmer speaking to his faithful dog. “Come on Lass, have a run.”

Lucas Venuto- “Venuto”. The winger has done nowhere near enough to earn first name status. So “Better final ball this time Venuto.” it will be.

Fredy Montero- “Fredy”. Began the season firmly in the “Montero” range but has since moved to “Fredy” with a few good performances. “Stop hitting high balls to Fredy.” is the most useful phrase here.

Felipe- “Felipe”. In an attempt to pad his SPANDAGI stats the Brazilian has chosen to go by one name only so “Please don’t let Felipe take any more set-pieces.” it has to be.

Yordy Reyna- “Yordy”. The Peruvian has followed a similar trajectory to Montero in many ways, transitioning from “Reyna” to “Yordy” as the season has gone on. It will be interesting to see how his injury lay off affects his standing. But, for now, it remains “You should have finished that Yordy.”

PC-“PC”. As with Felipe we are left with little choice. So the best hope right now is that the winger has footwear issues and “You need to reboot your PC!” can be yelled at the coaching staff.

The rest of the squad haven’t really had enough playing time to fully make their mark on the SPANDAGI index (although I do have a special name for Joaquin Ardaiz) but I think we can all agree that that this is a quantum leap forward in our understanding of what I like to call “The Beautiful Game.”

You are very welcome.

Vancouver Whitecaps play quite badly

Well that was awful.

Kansas is never an easy place to play but the Whitecaps made it even harder with their performance on Saturday evening.

They gave away a goal in the first half thanks to yet another series of unforced errors and even when Kansas went down to ten men early in the second half Vancouver failed to take advantage.

It’s a fairly basic tenet of playing against a team who are a man down that you need to pass and move, keep good possession and make the opponent work at chasing the ball.

Yet the Whitecaps did none of those things.

Stuck as they were in the kind of ponderous build up play that is just about acceptable on the road when facing a superior opponent, but serves no purpose whatsoever when there should be the scent of blood in the water.

So there was a kind of karmic suitability to Doneil Henry going down injured and being withdrawn almost immediately after Marc Dos Santos had made his third and final substitution of the game.

Fail to take advantage of that kind of opportunity and the Universe will happily kick you in the teeth.

It’s hard to say who played well.

But Russell Teibert battled for everything and Fredy Montero never gave up in the search for scraps of opportunities (but the fact that Montero was constantly dropping deep to pick up the ball gives a pretty good indication of how poor the service he received was).

Where the Whitecaps go from here is hard to say.

If they can’t create an offensive threat against a team as injury ravaged as Kansas City and when that team is also down to ten men then even the well worn excuses of of “It’s technically an expansion year” and “They will strengthen in the summer” lose what little patina of respectability they continue to have.

All in all this was arguably the most dispiriting performance of the season. A brutal reminder of the deficiencies of both the starting eleven and the squad as a whole.

And maybe this was even the first crack in the armour surrounding Dos Santos as a coach? He can only work with what he has for sure, but the continuing inability to create chances should have been at least partially solved on the training ground by now.

On, and as an addendum, Derek Cornelius smacked home a sweet left footed volley in the final minute to earn the Whitecaps a hugely creditable away point in Kansas.

All is well!

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player ratings.

Crepeau-5.5, Nerwinksi-5, Adnan-6, Henry-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Felipe-5, Teibert-6*, Rose-5.5, PC-4, Venuto-4, Montero-5.5 (Cornelius-5, In-Beom-4, Ardaiz-4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: Nothing to see here

So how do we judge a 1-0 defeat against the in form and reigning MLS Cup Champions?

Especially when that defeat was decided by yet another unnecessarily conceded penalty kick?

The answer to that is easy.

We judge it as harshly as humanly possible!

So what went wrong?

Well, that almost starts and ends with the midfield.

I could indulge my hypothesis that Jon Erice is the best Captain the MLS era Whitecaps have had in terms of on field tactical influence and that aspect of his game was certainly missed last night.

But the most baffling aspect of the Dos Santos era thus far is his persistence in playing Hwang In-Beom as a deep central midfielder.

The end result is becoming increasingly familiar, with the South Korean offering little in the way of attacking threat and eventually losing the physical battle with whichever opponent he is up against.

There also seemed to be a conscious decision to play Russell Teibert as a kind of auxiliary left winger which simply resulted in the vast majority of balls played wide to him being passed back toward the middle (and thus allowing Atlanta time to reorganize at their leisure).

And Erice’s replacement was Felipe.

And Felipe is one man stats machine designed to have people purr over the numbers while simultaneously slowing the team down (and thus allowing Atlanta time to reorganize at their leisure).

In short, the midfield offered little or no elements of concern to the Atlanta defence.

And while seeing Max Crepeau stand on his head while using his feet to juggle a seal which is simultaneously juggling a ball during every home game is great entertainment, it’s not a sustainable model to have the goalkeeper be Man of the Match for every home game.

Perhaps the only thing as entertaining as Crepeau is watching Ali Adnan become increasingly angry and frustrated every time a teammate doesn’t pass to him.

No word yet on if the Iraqi left back will remain in Vancouver, but he would be missed for his personality on the field as much his play.

In conclusion, this game is one we would all do well to simply forget.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-7.5, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-6, Godoy-6, henry-6, Felipe-4.5, Teibert-4.5, In-Beom-4.5, Bangoura-4.5, Venuto-4.5, Montero-5