Vancouver Whitecaps eschew the path to glory

In their last three games the Vancouver Whitecaps have lost 5-1 to LAFC, tied 0-0 with Cavalry FC and lost 3-0 to Sporting Kansas City.

Each one of those is a bad result in its own individually tortuous way, but perhaps the most painful thing of all is that in every one of those games the opposition have played as a team and the Whitecaps have played like, well, not a team.

The defence has no meaningful connection to the midfield, the midfield exists more as a performance art project than a functioning entity on a soccer field and the forward line is comprised of Yordy Reyna chasing everything down in a vain attempt at relevance.

In retrospect it feels as though that last minute goal they conceded in Seattle way back when broke this team.

Broke its belief in its own system and broke its belief in its own sense of progress (On a side note it also broke my TV remote control as I slammed it against the couch in frustration. A moment I now think of as an homage to the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film “2001: A Space Odyssey” rather than the hapless act of somebody who needs to get some perspective on life).

Anyway, against Kansas Marc Dos Santos tried to reboot things by bringing in a PC and a Mac.

The former was a desperate attempt to turn the life sapping enervation of watching Felipe and Russell Teibert (sometimes both!) turn every possible forward pass into its direct opposite and it didn’t work.

PC wasn’t quite as unaware of the notion of ball progression as his forebears, but his contribution was negligible at best and certainly offered nothing in terms of creating chances.

The Mac decision was a tad more controversial.

Max Crepeau has been the Whitecaps best player this season, so to leave him out of a game the team simply had to win to even pretend the playoffs were still a possibility was odd.

In his post game presser Dos Santos claimed that the idea to start MacMath was based on the upcoming tough schedule, but he really did need to put out his best team for the Kansas game and his decision backfired spectacularly.

MacMath made a few decent saves, but was clearly at fault for the second Kansas goal that well and truly doused the flame of any possible Vancouver comeback.

The coach also gave young Theo Bair his first MLS start and while Bair did well initially it was obvious by as early as the sixtieth minute that he wasn’t going to change the game.

Which begs the question as to why Ardaiz wasn’t used until the eighty-ninth minute.

Whatever the reason the Uruguayan can surely now be consigned to another of those Whitecaps signings that make us all scratch our heads and ask “You know, that guy they had on loan for a season, he was a young DP, but never really played? What was his name?”

In defence of Dos Santos he doesn’t have too many players who can change games right now and some of his decisions were probably down to a sense of simply tinkering around the edges in the hope that something might work rather than the wholesale changes he must know are needed.

Yet being outplayed is one thing and being outspent is another, but the Whitecaps are now beginning to be outworked in games and that can’t be allowed to stand.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-4, Nerwinski-5, Adnan-5,5, Godoy-5, Rose-4.5, Henry-5, Erice-4.5, PC-4, In-Beom-4.5, Bair-4.5, Reyna-5.5*

 

Vancouver Whitecaps hold their horses

Editor: I need five hundred words on Cavalry against the Whitecaps. Stat!

Me: Wait, do you want words or stats?

Editor: Stop using stupid jokes to up your word count. Give me the copy now.

Me: The copy of what?

Editor: Your resignation letter if you don’t do it sharpish.

Me: But nothing happened.

Editor: Something must have happened!

Me: But it didn’t. Literally nothing happened throughout the whole game.

Editor: We don’t pay you the big bucks to come up with nothing. Think man!

Me: Well, there was horse.

Editor: Yes, yes, yes! That’s good, an animal. People love reading about animals.

Me: It got a bit lively.

Editor: During the game?

Me: No, before. During the anthem.

Editor: Wait! So this horse disrespected the Canadian national anthem?

Me: Well….

Editor: You’re saying it disrespected the anthem and looked as though it were about to charge into the spectators?

Me: That’s not really how it….

Editor: Sounds like a pre-planned attack. How many other horses were there?

Me: Quite a few. The team name is Cavalry so it’s sort of their thing.

Editor: So a group of horses gathered at an iconic Canadian sporting venue and were only thwarted from making an all out assault on the spectators thanks to the heroic actions of a single rider?

Me: I mean…

Editor: Try and get a quote from a Government official. Ask them what plans they have in place to stop this increasingly dangerous equine menace.

Me: I don’t think that’s necessary or the appropriate reaction to what was really an incredibly minor incident.

Editor: It’s either that or write abut the game?

Me: I’ll get right on it.

Editor: Good man! I always said you were the finest of the lot of us.

Me: Wait a minute.

Editor: What now?

Me: I don’t have an editor.

Editor: Don’t be ridiculous man. I’m right here.

Me: No you aren’t.

Editor: Yes I am.

Me: No you aren’t.

Editor: Yes I am.

Me: No you aren’t.

Editor: Look, I see what you’re doing here. You’re just using up your word count by repeating the same phrases over and over and over and over and and over and over.

Me: (Sniggers)

Editor: What’s happening? Why am I repeating the same phrases over and over again? Tell me! Why am I repeating the same phrases over and over again?

Me: Because you aren’t real.

Editor: Nonsense!

Me: It’s true. I can make you say anything I want you to say.

Editor: Absolute rubbish. You can make me say anything you want me to say. Wait! What was that? Why did I say that?

Me: I made you say it. I control everything about you.

Editor: This is most disturbing. But what a great story. Forget the game and the horses! We will run with “Imaginary editor demands player ratings for a game that everybody who watched it will already have forgotten”.

Me: That’s better.

Editor: You really are great you know? Stop making me say things! You are so wonderful. Stop it at once and give me those player ratings!

Me: Okay, okay. Calm down

Editor: So sorry about that honey bun. Stop this now and remove me from this godforsaken reality immediately!!

Me: Done.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6*, Sutter-5, Adnan-5.5, Godoy-5, Henry-4.5, Cornelius-4.5, Felipe-4, Teibert-4, Rose-4, Reyna-5, Montero-3.5 (PC-4.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Déjà vu all over again

From yesterday but now with additional free shots on goal.

Six one! Six bloody one!

When Marc Dos Santos took over from Carl Robinson at the end of 2018 most of us hoped there would be both a change of style and a change of attitude from the Vancouver Whitecaps.

And, to be fair, the style change has been evident.

They are more tactically flexible, they look to play out from the back and they are no longer as reliant on the hoofed clearance as the go to attacking option.

But the big problem is that they’re still shit.

Is that a tad too harsh? No. Next question! 

But there have at least been moments when the team show glimpses of how Dos Santos wants them to play but that’s all they are; thirty second clips that show up on Twitter every now and again.

And perhaps the most surprising failure has been how poorly the Whitecaps press without the ball, because pressing doesn’t take technical skill as such, it’s about organization and playing as a team and that should be possible to achieve on a much more consistent level by this stage of the season.

And Saturday’s 6-1 defeat to LAFC simply emphasized that undeniable fact.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with losing to LAFC on the road of course; they are easily the best team in MLS right now (and probably the best team MLS has ever seen) but the manner of the defeat was dispiriting.

An early Yordy Reyna goal did nothing to convince Vancouver they had a chance in the game and the following eternity of minutes were filled with endless LAFC attacks while the Whitecaps just got deeper and deeper.

All season there has been an emphasis from the coach that his team have never really been beaten by a large margin. As though losing by a single goal is some kind of achievement. In retrospect, a beat down like this has been coming simply because the Whitecaps have been inviting it by celebrating marginal failures.

And during all that time not one single Whitecaps player wanted to keep the ball. No matter how they received it or where they received it, the first thought was always to get rid of that pesky little round thing that had somehow landed at their feet as quickly as possible.

And that has to be a coaching issue.

It has to be down to how the players are being told to play because not every team in MLS plays that way.

Even the teams as bad (there aren’t many, but work with me here) as the Whitecaps play with some semblance of control. Some semblance of believing that they can break down a defence with something more than an opposition error or a freak moment of quality.

But not Vancouver.

They just continue to play scared.

Scared of losing, scared of trying to win, scared of conceding and scared of trying to make the plays that create chances.

Only Adnan and Reyna have been playing with any kind of confidence in their own ability going forward, with Montero and Ardaiz both being busts in their own different ways.

And the idiotic red card Montero picked up in LA might actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise and compel Dos Santos to think long term about life without a player who has (this time around) been a waste of a Designated Player spot and salary.

The only hope now is that this deserved shellacking will be the wake up call they need.

After all, they aren’t going to make the playoffs and they aren’t going to get better if they continue with this mindset.

So let’s fervently hope this trouncing allows (forces) Dos Santos to throw off the shackles of restraint and that he allows (forces) his players to attempt to play football with some style, some courage.

Because, right now, this is just as bad as it was under Carl Robinson (but with better post-game interviews).

And they are far better!  

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-3, Nerwinski-3, Levis-3, Godoy-3, Rose-2.5, Henry-3, Teibert-3, Erice-3, In-Beom-2.5, Venuto-2.5, Reyna-4* (Montero-1)

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps are toast

It’s easy to get carried away about the import of individual games, or even individual moments within those games.

But the late goal that consigned the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 1-0 defeat in Seattle on Saturday evening felt as though it were dripping with significance.

If the Whitecaps had held on for another road point they could well have looked back at the recent run of games with a degree of satisfaction. Not happiness, but at least satisfaction.

But, as it stands, they still sit outside the playoff places. They have played more games than any of their rivals. They have the worst Point Per Game record in the Western Conference.

That, deep into added time goal, was likely the one that caused the house of cards to tumble, the straw that broke the ecosystem.

And Marc Dos Santos can’t really complain about the result.

The first half was even, with two teams who who were depleted by International call ups making it look as though it would take a mistake to break the deadlock.

But in the second half Seattle pressed forward. Had a goal disallowed because VAR decided that if you looked at an incident twenty times in slow motion that it might just be a foul and, in return, the Whitecaps displayed all the shortcomings that have condemned them to a season of death by a thousand ties.

Their only realistic attacking threats all year have come from Yordy Reyna, Ali Adnan, Lucas Venuto playing as a substitute or set-pieces.

And so it proved again.

I could copy and paste every previous blog outlining that Hwang In-Beom is offering nothing going forward or that whoever starts between Russell Teibert or Felipe somehow manage to reduce the Whitecaps expected goal number, but there will be plenty of chances to do that again for sure.

But perhaps the biggest issue right now is Fredy Montero.

If Dos Santos had his time back would he still let Kei Kamara go and bring Montero in?

He could certainly argue that Kamara doesn’t fit his style of play, but it’s hard to see how this iteration of Montero does either.

Too slow of pace to truly press and seemingly now too slow of thought to turn the crumbs of chances he gets into a even a slice of bread let alone a loaf (for this analogy to work you have to imagine that a slice of bread represents a shot on target and a loaf represents a goal and, yes, it is a tad laboured).

A still effective in MLS Kamara may well have earned the Whitecaps three or four more points and given Dos Santos’ rebuilding project a little more leeway.

Perhaps the upcoming transfer window will bring in the catalyst to transform the season, but this no longer feels like a team in need of just one or two pieces to kick start them.

It feels like a team in need of an overhaul, at least in terms of how it is set up to attack and, at most, in terms of why players who should be core to the project aren’t performing anywhere near the level they should be.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-6*, Nerwinski-5, Godoy-5, Rose-5, Adnan-5.5, Erice-5, Felipe-4., In-Beom-4.5, PC-4, Reyna-5.5, Montero-3.5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps show their Personality in Texas

How you feel about the Vancouver Whitecaps after the 2-2 tie with FC Dallas on a hot evening in Texas will tell you exactly what your personality type is and, using the exclusive Soccer Shorts “Personality Profile Producer”, you can now find out which one you are below.

So have a read and let me know how you fare.

(Please don’t reply to this question, I genuinely have no interest whatsoever.)

A Pixie Sprinkled with Sunbeams- You believe that Lucas Venuto’s late equalizer proves that Marc Dos Santos has produced a squad of players that can get a result no matter how tough the circumstance.

Even Gold Cup absentees, sweltering heat and playing an opponent in the peak of form can’t prevent Vancouver from continuing their unbeaten run.

The Whitecaps are now ideally set to make a run for the playoffs and a genuine tilt at the MLS Cup.

A Reindeer Doused in Tepid Water- You believe that this game highlights the positives of this current team but, in the back of your mind, you can’t help but think there were still enough warning signs that this team isn’t quite at the level you want it to be.

Why does In-Beom continue to offer no attacking threat of any worth? Is relying on Ali Adnan really sustainable beyond the end of June? And Felipe? What of Felipe?

But still you see that Yordy Reyna is back to the best of his form and the return of Crepeau and Henry in particular will make the team so much stronger for the run in.

A Baby Elephant Trapped in a Duvet made of Pine Leaves- You believe that this game offered more reason for negativity than positives. Sure, a point in Dallas is great but that can’t hide the fact that Fredy Montero is not the Fredy Montero of old and no amount of padding his stats with penalty kicks can hide that.

It also looks increasingly unlikely that Ali Adnan will stay and the midfield is still a black hole when it comes to goal scoring and you know that Crepeau and Henry can’t continue with their stellar form for the remainder of the season.

You haven’t given up all hope because you know that MLS can be a funny old league, but you are definitely not basing your vacation plans around any potential playoff games.

An Overturned Turtle splashed with the tears of Dolphins- For you the season is already over. You knew when Dos Santos arrived that his brand of “I want to play football and talk about tactics” would never suit MLS and you feel you are proved more right as the weeks go by.

What is the point in trying to play out of the back when one of those doing the palying is Jake Nerwinski? Or hitting teams on the break when Montero can’t run? Or play possession football when the team can’t pass.

In your world that late Venuto goal simply establishes that sitting deep and bringing on a fast player at the end is the best way to play every game of football.

The only pleasure you have left in life is sitting back and watching the inevitable demise of an empire built on shifting sand.

So which personality type are you?

(As I said, I really don’t care. Please do not reply.)

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

MacMath-5.5, Sutter-4.5, Adnan-6, McDonough-4.5, Rose-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Erice-6*, Felipe-5.5, In-Beom-5, Reyna-5.5, Montero-3 (Venuto-5.5, Levis-5, Nerwisnki-4.5) 

 

 

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)