Vancouver Whitecaps Defend Deep and Prosper

From yesterday but now with some stuff about the actual game.

Back in the nineteenth century the French astronomer Urbain Le Verrier discovered the planet Vulcan.

Or rather, he posited the idea of the planet Vulcan as the only way to explain the slight variations in Mercury’s orbit. Sir Isaac Newton had conclusively explained how the Universe worked and so, theorized Le Verrier, that meant there had to be another object close to Mercury to tug at its trajectory.

And some people saw it and recorded their sightings.

It wasn’t easy to see because it was so close to another, much larger, planet and the observer frequently had to deal with the light of the sun overshadowing everything.

It also wasn’t easy to see because it didn’t exist.

It made sense that it did, but it didn’t.

Eventually Einstein came along and explained the Theory of Relativity in what we can only assume was a rather smug and tedious PowerPoint presentation and the planet Vulcan was cast aside, never to be seen in either science or popular culture ever again.

I don’t want to get into the whole Zvolenszky, Koťátko, Goodman debate about abstract artifacts at this point (mainly because I don’t understand a word of it) but, in a strange way, Le Verrier did more than “discover” Vulcan. He “created” it (even though that creation was both mistaken and inadvertent).

So what is the moral of the story?

Making shit up can still lead to a viable career? Perhaps. But really it’s that the way the world seems doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it really is.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Wait? What? You want something about the Whitecaps 1-0 victory over Portland at BC Place on Friday evening and you want it to somehow segue in to a planet that doesn’t exist?

Well let’s see.

For about twenty five minutes in the first half Marc Dos Santos somehow managed to convince his players that there was a new way of seeing the world. That the curvature of Time and Space were more than just theoretical notions and that they could have real world applications.

And during that period the Whitecaps battered Portland with one touch football, outside of the boot passes and frequent forays in to the opposition penalty area.

Vancouver scored one goal during that time but it could have been more.

Crucial to that good spell was the performance of Hwang In-Beom, who dictated play from the middle of the park in a way we haven’t seen from him before. Equally crucial to the drop in quality in the second half was the play of Hwang In-Beom, who produced twenty minutes of terrible football before being unceremoniously withdrawn.

Inconsistency is the price you pay for taking a punt on youth over experience I suppose.

But the very fact that it wasn’t more seemed to sow the seeds of doubt and players raised in the more pragmatic world of Newtonion  football began to revert to type.

To sit too deep, to clear the ball rather than work it out of defence and confuse defending in numbers with good defending.

Somehow they got away with it (largely down to a stellar performance from Max Crepeau) and they were probably owed that result given the way some games have gone this season, but the second half performance was not a recipe for long term success.

The performance of Fredy Montero also should’t go unremarked upon.

It’s hard to know whether his game has improved over the last two weeks because he got some much needed rest or because he’s finally getting at least glimpses of the service he requires.

But whatever the reason, to see both his work rate and ability to stay calm (maybe even become calmer?) as the ball dropped to his feet in the penalty area was a refreshing change from the mainly “I’ll hit this as hard as I can and hope it works” school of finishing we have seen from other Whitecaps forwards in similar situations.

But those opening salvos did at least hint at the possibility of what this Dos Santos team could become with a little more coaching and a little more quality.

And suddenly, somehow, the playoffs are no longer simply a hypothetical planet we believe in because that’s how we want the universe to be.

And suddenly, somehow, the pull we feel toward them might actually be real.

The three home games in May will be crucial in determining their final fate. Pick up points in those and remain in the hunt before bringing in more quality and it’s game on.

Fade to seven, eight or nine points adrift before any further additions can be made and we are very much into “rebuilding for next season” territory.

And I’m not sure the Whitecaps have that much leeway with some sections of the fan base.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-7*, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-6.5, Henry-6, Godoy-6, Erice-6, Teibert-6, In-Beom-5, Bangoura-5,5, Venuto-5, Montero-7 (Rose-5.5).

Vancouver Whitecaps: Time is not on their side

One of the great things about soccer is that even games of a low standard can be gloriously entertaining. Penalty box skirmishes, hilarious defending and professional athletes looking as physically coherent as drunken schoolchildren trying to trap an otter in an oil drum.

The Whitecaps recent victory in Colorado just about fits in to that category but what, if anything, can we extrapolate from that game?

Jake Nerwinski might be improving- Nerwinski started the season as a one man mishap factory, conceding penalty kicks on a regular basis and often looking as though he were still trying to figure out the precise dimensions of a football field.

But in the last few games he has looked far more reliable. Not great, but reliable enough for Whitecaps supporters to not catch their collective breath when he approaches an opponent in the penalty area.

He still doesn’t get forward enough and his delivery when he does get forward is still lacking in quality but he’s not the “first name on the team sheet to be worried about” anymore.

And maybe his game will grow even more the longer he plays opposite Ali Adnan?

Signing the Iraqi left back to a long term deal has to be the Whitecaps number one priority at the moment.

Does Erik Godoy exist?- Seriously. His name is always there in the lineup. He always gets a decent score in the gold standard of player ratings system. And yet we never see him from the first whistle to the last.

Have the Whitecaps circumvented the salary cap system by signing a ghost? A human riddle in shadow form?

That certainly doesn’t sound like the kind of thing they would do.

So we can only conclude that Godoy is just a very good central defender.

Weird.

Signing the the Argentinian to a long term deal has to be the Whitecaps number one priority at the moment.

The midfield is still a huge issue. Even at 2-0 up the Whitecaps were leaving huge gaps in the centre of the park for Colorado to run in to.

That’s partly down to Hwang In-Beom being completely unsuited to playing a deep role. The South Korean is too easily bullied off the ball and doesn’t seem to possess the vision to play the killer pass Vancouver all too often rely on.

But put him near the opposition penalty area and suddenly his speed of movement and one touch football is much more likely to produce results.

And Russell Teibert and Felipe are Russell Teibert and Felipe and there’s not much more we can say about that without falling into a pit of deep indifference.

Maybe Andy Rose will turn out to be key that unlocks the box that keeps the answers to all these questions within it?

But he probably won’t.

Signing the right midfielder has to be the Whitecaps number one priority at the moment.

Front three set? The Montero, Bangoura and Venuto combination was easily the most effective that Marc Dos Santos has yet put out.

Replacing Reyna’s pace in the middle with all out pace out wide allowed Fredy Montero to play his natural game of either dropping deep or sniffing out an opportunity.

But the Whitecaps will need more guile when they play teams who are more than happy to sit deep at BC Place.

Signing the right creative player who can open up tight defences has to be the Whitecaps number one priority at the moment.

 

Vancouver Whitecaps play an instant classic

Well, it finally happened.

The Vancouver Whitecaps finally got to play a team who could somehow mess things up even more than they could.

But what a series of punches and counter punches it was.

THWACK! The Colorado Rapids defend terribly to allow Fredy Montero through on goal. He slots home calmly.

CLUNK! The Rapids defend terribly once more to allow Montero to set Lucas Venuto up to score from one yard out.

BLONK! With the Whitecaps looking comfortable Montero concedes a needless penalty kick. Former Whitecap Kei Kamara scores.

BLAPP! Montero pushes Brett Levis into Axel Sjoberg to concede another needless penalty kick. Kei Kamara scores again.

KERPLUNK! With the Rapids suddenly in control Diego Rubio slaps Doneil Henry in the face to earn a clear and stupid red card. Colorado are down to ten men.

FERSHAP! Lass Bangoura scores a well taken goal to give the Whitecaps an unlikely 3-2  lead. Joy on the Whitecaps bench is unconfined. But….VAR overturns the goal for offside and the score remains 2-2.

BFTIDJKD! Andy Rose latches on to a loose ball in the box to give the Whitecaps an unlikely 3-2 lead. Joy on the Whitecaps bench is very much confined until the goal is definitely given.

JERZOW! After six minutes of stoppage time the referee blows the final whistle and the Whitecaps receive a much needed three points.

I’m not sure it’s possible to make any coherent analysis of that game (“No change there then.” Mumbles the reader with unnecessary bitterness).

But the quick takeaways.

Montero can still score goals and play a part this season.

Lass Bangoura looks better than both Venuto and PC in the wide role.

Andy Rose showed the value of having a midfielder who was happy to get into the box.

The Whitecaps continue to defend well while simultaneously being incredibly stupid at times.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-5, Henry-6, Godoy-6*, Erice-5.5, Teibert-4.5, In-Beom-5, Bangoura-6, Venuto-5, Montero-6 (Levis-4)

 

Vancouver Whitecaps and Eternal Recurrence

When my soul and spirit finally slip clear of this all too fragile bundle of flesh and bone and descend into the fiery pits of Hell, I’m confident that one of the main torments The Dark Lord has prepared for me will be to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps fail to beat the Philadelphia Union at BC Place over and over again.

But the joke will be on him because that is exactly what I have been doing since the Whitecaps joined Major League Soccer.

Or at least it feels that way.

A competent team arrives from the East Coast, sets up shop not to lose and the Whitecaps are all too happy to oblige.

Marc Dos Santos is totally within his rights to complain about the travel schedule his team is forced to face, but the inability to beat (or even impose themselves) on a side who face an equally debilitating flight is the very best way to kill of any hopes of a playoff place.

But are there any playoff hopes anyway?

This current squad certainly isn’t good enough for that, with the defence being the only area that can be assessed with any degree of satisfaction.

But the midfield and attack are far short of what is needed.

Hwang In-Beom stayed mysteriously deep on Saturday afternoon and he has still to solve the problem of playing against a side as physical as the Union.

And Russell Teibert unlocked a personal achievement by bearing down on goal, seeing the whites of the goalkeepers eyes and still managing to somehow pass the ball backwards.

This feels copied and pasted from every other game Vancouver have played, but they have to figure out a way to regularly get midfielders into dangerous positions when playing at home. And they have to have midfielders who can take advantage of those dangerous positions.

Up front Yordy Reyna was once again the standout player, but PC and Venuto showed that they are what they are; too direct and too lacking in guile to unlock a well martialed defence.

And Joaquin Ardaiz wasted another opportunity to impress, highlighted by him swinging and missing at a cross that was just begging to be hammered high into the net.

So no chance for the playoffs?

There will no doubt be additions come the summer and those additions may well be enough to turn this team into one more capable of bringing to life Dos Santos’ footballing philosophy.

But the job right now is to try and pick up enough points to make that hoped for improvement enough to squeeze into the top seven.

Not being able to beat the Philadelphia Union at home isn’t the way to go about that task.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-6,  Godoy-6, Henry-6.5*, Ardnan-5.5, Erice-5.5, In-Beom-5, Teibert-5, PC-5, Venuto-5.5, Reyna-6 (Ardaiz-4)

 

Vancouver Whitecaps don’t quite add up

Marc Dos Santos tried a new formula for the trip to Orlando on Saturday afternoon.

MacMath in goal, add one more central defender, subtract two wide players and play Fredy Montero alongside Yordy Reyna up front.

It almost worked.

But Orlando got a late deflected goal and the Whitecaps traveled back from Florida with nothing but a vague sense of pride in the amount of work they put in.

For sure the team have become defensively solid over the last few games but the still unsolvable equation of how to get the attack firing remains.

Reyna and Montero did work hard, but with players of that quality we need to be talking about so much more than their effort.

But the biggest problem remains the midfield.

In-Beom has shown he can get forward at times (and missed a glorious chance to put his team ahead in Orlando) but Teibert and Felipe were attacking black holes.

At least Teibert offers movement and a willingness to release the ball quickly, but Felipe always seems to need one touch too many or one second too long to weigh up his options and any potential forward momentum is lost.

And let’s not even speak of his continued inability to deliver a decent ball into the opposition penalty area.

And while we are not speaking of things let’s also not speak about the attempts to build from the back.

It’s nice that Dos Santos wants his defenders to be comfortable on the ball and play a series of short passes but if that series of short passes results in the ball eventually being returned to the goalkeeper who then hoofs it long to lose possession it all seems a bit futile.

I’m glad I didn’t mention it.

Still, Major League Soccer seasons aren’t decided by excessively long road trips to out of Conference rivals and the team now has a full week to prepare for the visit of the Philadelphia Union.

But Major League Soccer seasons are decided by being able to beat out of Conference rivals who have just endured an excessively long road trip and the Whitecaps need to figure out how to make the attacking pieces work or the still within reach playoffs will begin to fade into the distance.

Oh and one final thing.

It wasn’t immediately obvious from the television coverage but TSN analyst Paul Dolan was fairly livid with the brief substitute appearance of Joaquin Ardaiz, citing his complete lack of effort for a team that desperately needed to defend from the front.

Not a good look for the twenty year old.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-6, Sutter-5.5, Adnan-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Henry-5, Cornelius-5, Teibert-5, Felipe-4, In-Beom-5, Montero-5, Reyna-6*

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: And Breathe…

Finally!

The Vancouver Whitecaps earned their first win of the season versus LAFC at BC Place on Wednesday with an impressive, if tad nervy, 1-0 win.

The second half was a little too “every hand on deck in defence” for anybody’s genuine liking but there were enough positives about the whole performance to convince that this team is still very much a work in progress rather than regress.

The front three of Reyna , Venuto and PC provided far more movement than we have seen thus far this season and Reyna gave easily the most accomplished central striker performance of the campaign. Winning headers, holding up the ball and linking well with his teammates.

And the insertion of In-Beom for Felipe in the centre of midfield gave the forward three much needed support (and produced an actual goal form an actual midfielder).

Ali Adnan was great again at left back and Jake Nerwinski had his best game of the year at right back.

And while it may be too soon to say that Henry and Godoy are becoming a reliable central defensive pairing they do at least provide a degree of comfort for the anxious viewer. With Godoy in particular being the unsung hero. Henry may be all last ditch clearances and rash tackles but Godoy has an ability to simply ease through the game unnoticed.

And a word for Jon Erice too.

The captain was subbed with about ten minutes to go and immediately became an additional coach on the bench, constantly leaping up to direct teammates where to run and who to close down.

In fact, the animation of the whole bench gave an indication of just how important this win was for the team; a psychological barrier overcome for sure.

If we wanted to be critical (and of course we do) we could point out the lack of composure in possession as the pressure increased, but that desperate desire for the first three points can be taken as a mitigating factor in this instance

And, once again, more clinical finishing would have made the game far less stressful for all concerned.

But this performance felt like something to really build on and we can all finally exhale with relief at seeing Marc Dos Santos obtain his first victory as coach of the Caps

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-6.5, Godoy-6.5, Henry-5.5, Ereice-5.5, Teibert-5.5, In-Beom-5.5, PC-5.5, Venuto-5.5, Reyna-6.5* 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: Let’s talk about it

Yesterday I produced the notes from my regular Saturday morning trip to see my analyst. Today, with his permission, I’ve added his own contemporaneous notations.

Due to circumstances beyond my control there will be no review of the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 tie with the Chicago Fire on Friday evening.

So, instead, I’ve decided to post the notes from the regular Saturday morning trip to see my incredibly expensive analyst.

Analyst: And how are we feeling this morning?

(As if I need to ask. The patient is clearly in an agitated frame of mind. But what will it be this time? MLS officiating, the Whitecaps inability to get a midfielder into an attacking position or, please no, a return to his debilitating obsession with Robbo).

Me: Fine.

Analyst: Oh dear, what’s the matter now?

Me: VAR.

Analyst: (sighing heavily) What’s happened this time?

Me: Well, the Whitecaps were winning 1-0 with about five minutes to go when, out of nowhere, the referee or the VAR official or somebody gave Chicago a penalty out of nothing. Then I spent the rest of the evening arguing with people on Twitter about whether it was a PK, what “clear and obvious” really means and the definition of a “missed incident”.

Analyst: We’ve spoken about this kind of behaviour before haven’t we?

(I find his search for answers and clarity within the confines of the world of Social Media both touching and bizarre. Why will he never go to his nice place?).

Me: Yes, yes yes.

Analyst: And what are you supposed to do in those situations?

Me: Go to my nice place.

Analyst: So why didn’t you?

Me: It’s weird because the vagaries of normal refereeing decisions don’t bother me. “Part of the game” and all that. But every VAR decision that’s even a little bit contentious sends me into paroxysms of incandescent fury.

Analyst: Why do you think that is?

Me: Well, I don’t know if I told you but I was against VAR even before it was introduced…

Analyst: Yes you did mention it (Looks at notes). That was in sessions fifty eight through eighty three.

(And what tedium those sessions brought upon me. Hour after hour of “What if?” scenarios until the patient began to twist himself into knots of internal logic. I had hoped that the introduction of VAR would have eased these thoughts but instead it appears to have accelerated them).

Me: Right. So I think there’s a part of me that feels a kind of vindication. I just want to shout “I told you this would happen!” at everything and everybody. But I think it goes deeper than that really.

Analyst: How so?

Me: I think VAR represents just one more way in which we as a society are getting our priorities wrong and looking for all the wrong answers in all the wrong places. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it matters not one jot whether Doneil Henry handled the ball but we waste time and energy and resources on deciphering exactly that. But genuine miscarriages of justice that destroy people’s lives barely register with us at all.

Analyst: So you think VAR is as a symptom of a sick society?

Me: No, I think VAR is the cause.

Analyst: That’s insane.

Me: Should you be using words like that?

(I probably shouldn’t but who cares? He is insane if he thinks that. I think I will tell him so and see how he reacts).

Analyst: If you think video review has created all the ills in society then I’m perfectly entitled to use such a word.

Me: Fair point.

(That went better than I thought it would).

Analyst: So what about the rest of the game? Talk to me about that.

Me: Well that’s kind of the point. The Caps didn’t really deserve the win. They were pretty awful, didn’t really look like creating anything from open play and the midfield was, once again, bereft of any creativity. I mean, I don’t think Russell Teibert has ever seen a back pass he didn’t immediately fall head over heels in love with.

(And always he comes back to Teibert’s passing. My working theory is that it has come to represent the patient’s own inability to move forward in his life and so every backward pass made by Teibert is a sharp sting of recognition toward the patient’s own failures).

Analyst: What have we said before about Teibert’s passing?

Me: (sighing). To let it go, to accept it.

Analyst: And with acceptance comes?

Me: Tranquility.

Analyst: Very good. So who played well?

Me: Nobody really. I guess they were defensively sound, but only because they sat so deep. And I don’t get why In-Beom is being played out wide. Or rather I do get it but it isn’t working. Asking him to drift inside to become an occasional number ten is nice in theory but we need him there all the time offering some kind of attacking threat because right now the opposition defenders only have Fredy Montero to worry about and he’s nowhere near his best form.

(He’s right about Montero but he’s so wrong about In-Beom. He needs to be playing as a central box to box midfielder not as a creative number ten).

Analyst: Still, a point on the road isn’t bad is it?

Me: I guess not, but it still feels like one step forward and one step back right now.

Analyst: Oh well, let’s hope they do better against LAFC on Wednesday evening.

Me: Ha!

Analyst: Right. That’s your time up I’m afraid. I think we made progress today. I’m sensing that you’re beginning to come to terms with your mistrust of VAR and with that comes acceptance.

Me: I don’t want to accept it!

Analyst: Yeah well tough luck because your time is up. Goodbye. Oh, but just before you go.

Me: Yes?

Analyst: Could you give me the Soccer Shorts player ratings?

Me: Sure.

(Always fascinating to see the patient judge others far harsher than he ever judges himself. I will be surprised if Teibert even gets above four).

Crepeau- 6*, Sutter-5.5, Adnan-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Henry-5.5, Teibert-4, Felipe-4, Erice 4.5, Reyna-4, In-Beom-4, Montero-3.5