Vancouver Whitecaps: Definitely, Maybe

The current crop of Vancouver Whitecaps acquisitions and targets can be loosely lumped into the following categories.

Definitely might be good. Was good once but hasn’t been for a couple of seasons but maybe just needs a fresh start. Somebody once thought he was good but he never lived up to that potential.

There’s nothing wrong with trawling the databases and highlights for signings for a club that prides itself on not being among the bigger spenders in the league but, and this gets me an honorary degree in stating the bleeding obvious, bringing in so many players would be a challenge at the best of times.

But bringing in so many players with so much doubt swirling around their suitability is a huge ask.

Oh, and Marc Dos Santos also wants to completely revamp the style of play of the team so even the established players (“established” for the Whitecaps currently means they perhaps played a few games last season) will need to learn new ways of interacting with each other on the field (and off it too if the end of season media day was anything to go by).

So it’s all doom and gloom right? The Whitecaps will struggle to find their feet and scrape along near the bottom third of the Western Conference for the whole of the season?

Yes that’s correct. That’s exactly what will happen.

Wait? What? You want a more uplifting scenario on this greyish Sunday morning?

Okay then.

It’s not inconceivable that Dos Santos will knock it out of the park with all of his signings and everything turns out to be fine.

It’s also not inconceivable that he’s a good enough coach to meld the team together no matter what the weaknesses are and that the “established” players will be refreshed by his style of playing after toiling under the yoke of the previous incumbent.

It`s also not inconceivable that MLS will continue to be a forgiving enough league to allow a slow, find your feet, kind of start to not completely derail the season.

It`s also not inconceivable (and this is the Soccer Shorts hot prediction for the season ahead!) that opponents will be so discombobulated by facing a Whitecaps team they know little about and barely even recognize that Vancouver will hit the ground running, get off to a great start and that momentum will be enough to surf them to a spot somewhere near the bottom end of the playoff spectrum.

That would count as a huge win for both Dos Santos and the club.

And it would certainly be a vindication for the ruthless off-season purge of the playing proletariat that went on (there are those who would argue that lustration rather than purge was the way to go but we are where we are from a regime change point of view).

To summarize then.

Things could be worse!

 

Soccer Shorts: New and Improved!

As the Major League Soccer season rubs the sleep from its eyes and blinks tentatively into the bright new dawn of 2019 the Product and Design team at Soccer Shorts have had no such rest and are now set to unveil a whole swathe of exciting innovations for the 2019 campaign.

“Such as what?” I hear you ask. Well, I will tell you.

Exclusive insider rumours and gossip!!!- Tired of getting all your Whitecaps information from a series of random dudes on Twitter? Fret no more! The Soccer Shorts Espionage and Infiltration team has spent the offseason embedding themselves in every level of the Whitecaps organization.

Want to know what Greg Anderson has for breakfast? Want to know what Marc Dos Santos really thinks of Doneil Henry? Those and many more details will be revealed throughout the season.

Stats! Stats! Stats!- The modern game is all about the numbers and the Soccer Shorts Numbers and Algorithmic department has been honing a revolutionary new way of analysing the game.

Impressed that some sites give you the numbers in real time? Stop being impressed immediately!

The Soccer Shorts Real Time Plus Five (SSRTPF) system will now give you the stats five minutes before they happen.

There`s now no need to concentrate on the game at all! Just follow along on our website and we will let you know when to glance up at the action. More phone time for you!

New and improved ratings system!- The Soccer Shorts player ratings are already recognized as the gold standard throughout the industry but the Soccer Shorts Athletic Evaluation team have improved on perfection!

This season there will be no need to question the ratings at all because they will be scientifically correct. Criticize the Soccer Shorts player ratings and you are outing yourself as an idiot!

New Premium Service!- Don’t worry. If you`re too poor to afford the Premium Service you will still see much of the great content you already get on this site.

But for those of you who are willing to do some actual work you will gain access to possibly the most exciting sports coverage in the world!

Simply send your credit card details to our secure (ish) site and we will then reveal just what these exciting innovations are.

What have you got to lose?

You pick the team! That`s right! The Whitecaps have sensationally agreed to allow Soccer Shorts and its readers to select one player per game by means of a Twitter vote!

Starting with the goalkeeper we will work our way through every position on the field. Want to throw Marc Dos Santos a curveball by playing Yordy Reyna in central defence? Now you can!

More details will be released nearer the time but Dos Santos has already described this innovation as “interesting”.

These are just a few examples of how Soccer Shorts will be the only site you need for your Vancouver Whitecaps coverage in 2019.

Delete the links to any other sites immediately! Now! Do it now!

Thank you.

Stay tuned!

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: We Know We Are, We’re Sure We Are

An expensive and poorly assembled squad of players that needs whittling down and re imagining to suit the needs of a new coach, an ultra rich owner who wants things run according to a strict financial diktat and a general sense that the club has been drifting aimlessly toward the rocks with nobody positioned on deck to spot the impending crash.

The Netflix documentary series “Sunderland ‘Til I Die” should probably carry some kind of trigger warning for supporters of the Vancouver Whitecaps or, at the very least, details of a phone number to call “if you have been affected by the issues raised in this program”.

Not that the circumstances are exactly the same of course.

The Whitecaps aren’t faced with the prospect of crippling relegation after relegation and they’re not quite living in the same cutthroat, dog eat dog, financially insane system as Sunderland inhabit but the series does give a chilling insight into how difficult it is to turn a club around once it has set sail on the wrong course.

And that’s why (no matter how welcome it might sound) the pledge by Marc Dos Santos that he will build “a model or identity for Vancouver” amounts to little or nothing.

Actually, let’s rewind that for a moment because I don’t think we’ve really taken into account how weird it is that the Whitecaps don’t already have a “model” or “identity”.

After seven years in MLS Dos Santos doesn’t think the model needs to change, he thinks there actually needs to be one established.

It’s hard to know how that can happen.

Either it’s failed to get on the agenda for countless Front Office meetings because nobody even considered it a requirement or it has made it to the agenda and subsequently been voted down.

“Those in favour of instituting a consistent working practice?” (No hands raised).

“Those against?” (Carried unanimously).

So Dos Santos needs to accept that he is facing a near impossible task if he wants to change the root and branch of the club because the root and branch of the club is planted firmly in the “whichever way the wind blows” philosophy of management.

Appoint somebody, let them take the praise and the blame and then move on to whoever is next and give them the freedom to do whatever they want in an endless cycle of diminishing returns and badly spent cash and goodwill.

Good football and good results will paper over the cracks for a while (and the signs are at least positive that Dos Santos has an intelligently thought through idea of how to achieve both of those) but “Sunderland ‘Til I Die” is a litany of good people being shackled by a bad environment and, while Vancouver aren’t quite at the irredeemable stage just yet, next season does feel like the last chance to get things right before there’s just no turning back at all.

Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part Four)

We’re finally there!

The last look back at a season that made most of us want to turn away. But at least after Parts One, Two and Three we can turn to the most successful aspect of the whole campaign.

The forward line.

Kei Kamara- Here’s a theory. If Vancouver had only signed Kamara and nobody else during the off season they would have made the playoffs.

Imagine it. No Juarez, Felipe or Mutch to distract Carl Robinson from his one and only love of bunkering in and using a target man? That might well have worked.

But even in the mess of a tactical minefield he was unleashed in to Kamara played well, and yet perhaps his most important contribution was his mentoring of Alphonso Davies.

Because convincing the Bayern bound kid to simply enjoy his football certainly didn’t feel like something anybody else within the locker room was capable of doing.

For a player who arrived with a reputation of being something of a trouble maker Kamara turned out to be the sanest person in the room.

Season rating-6.5

Yordy Reyna- The Peruvian began the year under all kinds of clouds and it wasn’t until the season was in full swing that Reyna followed suit.

But once he did get going he proved himself to be a crucial, unpredictable element to the Whitecaps attack.

He’s a diamond  in the rough for sure, but put a couple of really good players around him and Reyna could be a genuine force in MLS.

Season Rating-6

Brek Shea- If Kendall Waston personifies the early stages of Carl Robinson’s reign and Efrain Juarez personifies its end then Brek Shea personifies the club as a whole.

Coming in on a trade simply because they wanted to get rid of somebody else and earning an extension simply because somebody forgot about a clause in his contract Shea is the DP that nobody wanted.

Not even the occasional flash of quality can mitigate the disaster his signing has been and it will be fascinating to see where he ends up next (and how much he is paid).

Season rating-3

Cristian Techera- Techera is the very definition of flattering to deceive given that he’s capable of putting up stats that make you think “Hmm, he actually had a good season”.

But it’s clear he only plays well when he really wants to play and drifts out of games far too easily.

His ability to put in a good delivery from a set piece was always his saving grace but he won’t be back.

Season Rating- 4

Anthony Blondell- Blondell began the season with some promise but then immediately fell off a metaphorical cliff.

Hard to know if that’s down to his own failings, the failings of the coaching staff or some other extraneous factor but it’s not impossible to imagine him having a decent season next year if he stays (it’s not easy, but it’s not impossible).

Season rating-3

Erik Hurtado- We know what we get with Hurtado. Lots of effort, plenty of speed and a lack of any real quality.

It’s possible that Dos Santos will like his hustle for his pressing game but it might be time for Hurtado to move on.

Season Rating- 4.5

Nicolas Mezquida- We know what we get with Mezquida. Lots of effort, moments of quality and a lack of any real speed.

It’s possible that Dos Santos will like his hustle for his pressing game but it might be time for Mezquida to move on.

Season rating- 4.5

Alphonso Davies- Saving the best until last at least.

This season Davies went from being a young player with potential to being an actual player.

He lit up a number of games with his pace and his skill and provided almost all the moments of genuine joy for the fans watching the team.

He still had days when he tried to do too much or selected the wrong pass but playing with (and against) better players in Germany should move his game up to another level at least.

He will be missed for sure but he leaves with everybody in and around the club wishing him nothing but the best (and that won’t be true of all the departures in the off season).

Season rating- 7

Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part Three)

New coach Marc Dos Santos will probably need to set aside at least a couple of months if he wants a quick chat with all the central midfielders his new club currently have on their books but, in lieu of such wasted days, he could simply check out the following blog post which rates his putative midfield charges on their 2018 performance.

He should also feel free to check out parts One and Two as well.

You’re welcome Marc!

Aly Ghazal- The Egyptian looked most comfortable when asked to play as the lone defensive midfielder toward the end of the season. He still retains the bizarre habit of hitting one absolutely horrendous pass in every game (Ghazal seems to look up, see an opponent in isolation and pass the ball directly toward him).

Every Vancouver player’s future now rests upon the tactical whims of Dos Santos but the biggest hit against Ghazal is the hit he takes on the salary cap.

He’s a decent player, but not decent enough to allow him to adversely impact the overall recruitment strategy.

Season rating- 5.5

Efrain Juarez- If Kendall Waston is the player to epitomise the beginning of the Carl Robinson era then Juarez is the player to epitomise the end.

Seemingly signed because he’d played in a World Cup and with the understanding he would play in the centre of the pitch rather than his more familiar full back Juarez was the Platonic ideal of a player brought in for a lot of money and with little thought.

His biggest contributions were picking up unneccessary red cards and advising other players where to be positioned while hopelessly out of position himself.

He did have  a good game in the 2-1 win in Colorado though.

Season rating-2

Felipe Martins- What a strange season it was for Felipe (for all of us really).

The player best suited to feed the attacking front three of Kamara, Davies and Reyna was positioned deeper and deeper as the year went on until his transformation into a not very good defensive midfielder was complete.

In the end he lost his place and, once again, the Whitecaps saw a big pre-season signing contributing nothing to the team. He may though be one player who is suited to finding a place under the new regime.

Season rating-5.5

Jordon Mutch- When he did play the Englishman showed a degree of quality missing for so much of the season but that “when” is the telling tale because Mutch never looked capable of stringing a consistent run of games together.

His loan move was a chance worth taking once but the Whitecaps should take a pass on any further extension.

Season rating- 4.5

Russell Teibert- This was Teibert’s best season in a Whitecaps shirt. He was the most consistent central midfielder in the team and when moved forward by Craig Dalrymple at the end of the year he even demonstrated an eye for goal.

His end of season interviews though felt more like a campaign to be made captain for 2019 than they did an attempt to heal wounds or solve problems.

Just as in his overall play Teibert tends to favour the clichéd over the innovative or refreshing and the thought of listening to his post game interviews for a whole season is spiritually debilitating.

If Dos Santos is being candid about the style of play he wants to install it’s hard to see Teibert slotting in without a major overhaul of his play and Teibert’s role is likely to revert back to the valuable bench player he undoubtedly is.

Season rating-6.5

Next time out it’s a look at what was (mostly) the best part of the season; the forwards.

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: Rating the players (Part Two)

Last time out we took a look at the goalkeeper and fullbacks so now it’s the turn of the central defenders to receive their end of term report.

Spoiler Alert! The Whitecaps defence was terrible all year so none of these are going to be great.

Kendall Waston- Waston will go down as the defining player of the Carl Robinson era. Brought in to provide physicality and help shore up the defence (which he did) the Costa Rican seemed to mirror the mood of the coach more often than not.

And this season was no exception.

There was an uncertainty about Waston’s play for much of the year (no doubt exacerbated by having to play with a number of different central defensive partners) and his air of dominance dissipated to the occasional showing.and even his value on attacking set pieces only really came to the fore when he was given the added incentive of facing the returning Tim Parker.

Waston can be a surprisingly insular on field presence for a team captain and once Robinson was released it was clear his head was only part way in to the remaining games.

Chances are he won’t be back in 2019 and the fact that feels like less of a loss than it might have done a season ago tells us all we need to know about Waston’s play in 2018.

Season rating-4.5

Doneil Henry- The Whitecaps took a chance on the Canadian given his injury record and in some ways it paid off and in some ways it didn’t.

The only real injuries he suffered were self-inflicted (punching a locker room wall in frustration after conceding a late own goal to Toronto) and while that makes a great metaphor for the whole season it’s also a reminder that Henry retains a somewhat astonishing ability to produce a game changing mistake out of nowhere.

His physicality means he could be Waston’s heir apparent next year but the new coach will have to decide if the mostly good is good enough to outweigh the occasionally terrible.

Season rating-4.5

Aaron Maund- We can add Maund to the list of players who were left out of the team for an inexplicably lengthy stretch.

When he did play Maund was solid and unspectacular (no bad thing) and while he was certainly culpable on more than one goal that culpability wasn’t exclusively his.

In retrospect sticking with Maund may have given the Vancouver defence the continuity and cohesion it so desperately needed (although chances are that would never happen no matter who was in the line up).

He may be a decent back up at best but that probably makes him the best central defender of the season.

Season rating-5

Jose Aja- Aja arrived as the tentative replacement for Tim Parker and “tentative” probably best describes his play this season.

The theory of pairing Waston with a ball playing partner was theoretically a good one but in practice Aja’s passing wasn’t all that great and Robinson didn’t really want (or know how to get) his team to play in that way anyway.

By the end of the year Aja was mostly a presence in either the stands or the bench but when he did play his lack of physicality (and match sharpness to be fair) did little to persuade anybody that he should be back next season.

Season rating-4

Next time out we will take a look at the several dozen midfield players to have played in 2018

Ring, ring goes the bell

Imagine the scenario if you will.

The Principal of a school in British Columbia (let’s call him Mr Bobbio) discovers that one of his teachers (let’s call him Mr Carlio) has lost control of his classroom.

Most of the kids still love Mr Carlio but every week at least one of them turns up in Mr Bobbio’s office accused of committing some misdemeanor or another.

And the word in the staff room is that factions are starting to form among the kids and that Mr Carlio tends to favour one of these factions over the others and on at least one occasion this has spilled over into a fight in the schoolyard.

By now the parents of these children have started to ask questions about whether Mr Carlio is right for the job and wondering if Mr Bobbio should intervene.

“Pupil discipline is the responsibility of the teacher” says Mr Bobbio earnestly “and these matters will be dealt with internally”.

As the school year speeds by the situation gets no better. Grade averages begin to decline, divisions begin to magnify and Mr Carlio gets more and more sarcastic when parents question his authority.

“Have you seen the funding this school receives?” he asks with mock incredulity. “The kids at the school down the street are much more intelligent than your kids” he patiently explains when questioned about poor performance.

But not even the occasional round robin missive to parents from Mr Carlio’s Teaching Assistant (let’s call him Mr Stewio) telling them that this is the happiest classroom he has ever worked in can quell their anxiety and, with just five weeks to go before the crucial end of term tests, Mr Bobbio fires Mr Carlio and appoints a substitute teacher (let’s call him Mr Craigio) to take over.

Crazy situation eh?

A Principal of a school who knew, near the beginning of the term no less, that a teacher was failing in one of the most basic aspects of his job but allowed the situation to spiral out of control and didn’t for one moment think “Maybe I should intervene?” or “Maybe I should performance manage Mr Carlio to ensure the children receive the education they deserve and the grades they are capable of?” or “Maybe the taxes the parents pay to fund my salary compels me to take a more proactive role in running this school and to not just blame everything on the teachers?”

A shocking absence of responsibility and accountability that I think we can all agree would never happen in real life.

Anyway, next time out I’ll move away from writing about the education system in British Columbia and get back to writing about the Vancouver Whitecaps.