Vancouver Whitecaps: Thank goodness it’s nearly all over

It has been one step back, one step forward and then one more step back for the Vancouver Whitecaps this season.

And Saturday’s 3-1 loss to San Jose was one of the more dispiriting backward lurches.

After a spell of five games where Vancouver looked to have found at least a modicum of coherence they played this game as though the very concept of passing the ball to another member of their own team was the athletic equivalent of explaining the existence of the  u=5/2 state in the fractional quantum Hall effect.

It wasn’t a surprise they were pushed back against a home team who were rebounding from being humiliated in LA earlier in the week and it wasn’t a surprise they were out possessed.

But what was surprising was just how deep they sat and just how poor they were in virtually every aspect of the game (we are betting without Max Crepeau here of course).

Marc Dos Santos’ post game interview summed the tactical nuances of the game up perfectly. San Jose were by far the better team and that’s that.

So where does this leave the Dos Santos project right now?

Worryingly it means it is in urgent need of another overhaul and, given the Whitecaps recruitment policy is to mostly take punts on untried players, they are going to have to hit the mark with almost all their transfer gambles in the off season.

How many players are we talking about?

Well, we can probably keep the defence as is (although an upgrade at right back would be nice if not the most pressing priority).

In the midfield only Hwang In-Beom should be starting next season as Russell Teibert and Andy Rose once again disappeared into oblivion in San Jose, offering neither defensive cover nor attacking support.

And, up front, only Yordy Reyna (with Theo Bair as a bench player) should be back.

That leaves four positions (ideally five) to be filled for 2020 and these can’t be players who make up the numbers; they have to be players of genuine quality who can play football in the manner that just about everybody else in MLS is doing right now.

For the last four years (probably five) the Whitecaps have been staring at the “Important updates are available. Please restart your organization” button and asking the world to remind them again in four months.

Now they suddenly discover the rest of the league has moved to an entirely new operating system run by expensively recruited IT teams while they still rely on family members to try and install the whole thing with a disc they bought at that that pop up stall in the mall.

At least the off season will be “interesting” in an apocryphal Chinese curse kind of way.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-7*, Nerwinski-3, Adnan-3, Henry-3, Cornelius-3, Teibert-2, Rose-2, In-Beom-3, Montero-2, Bair-3, Reyna-4

Vancouver Whitecaps are a marvel against DC

On Friday the Vancouver Whitecaps sent shock waves through the sporting world by SENSATIONALLY announcing they were DEFINITELY THINKING about putting together a job description in an effort to ALMOST CERTAINLY recruit a new Sporting Director.

This radical change would be stasis by addition however, because EVERYBODY ELSE involved in the running of the club would stay exactly where they were.

With the sole exception of Bobby Lenarduzzi who would move from the somewhat vague role of Club President to the somewhat vague role of Club Liaison.

It’s a little known fact that “Liaison” is a word that, by law, can only be used in conjunction with the phrase “Internal and external stakeholders”.

With all this off the field excitement it’s no wonder a larger than expected crowd turned up at BC Place to watch the Whitecaps take on DC United

And, fortunately, they were treated to both a Whitecaps win and a thoroughly entertaining game.

Marc Dos Santos kept his team unchanged from the defeat in Portland and, once they had overcome their initial consternation at being on the same pitch as Wayne Rooney, and also realized that keeping the ball on the floor was much a better idea than hitting high balls to DC’s towering defenders they began to create chances.

With Yordy Reyna once again being the standout player.

One of the glimmers of hope for next season is that Dos Santos has both identified the best position for Reyna and coaxed consistent performances from him.

Having a coach who can improve players is crucial to way the Whitecaps see their path to success.

The same goes for Hwang In-Beom too.

It took the coach time to discover his best role but now the South Korean is putting in consistently impressive performances from his deeper lying role.

The biggest concern going into this game was that the presence of Russell Teibert and Felipe in opposition would somehow cause the Universe to collapse in on itself and we would all be left trapped in an infinitesimal ball of anti-matter with the concepts of Time and Space no longer applying.

Luckily that didn’t happen, with both players having perfectly decent games and Teibert even turning with the ball toward the opposition area and playing the pass to Reyna to create the winning goal.

It’s felt like a long time since the Whitecaps produced an enjoyable game for the home crowd to savour (because it is a long time) but if they can play with the same fervour and willingness to take chances for the rest of the year then the whole season won’t be a complete washout.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-5.5, Godoy-6, Cornelius-6, Teibert-6, In-Beom-6.5, Rose-5.5, Montero-5, Bair-5, Reyna-7*  (Henry-6)








Vancouver Whitecaps find fun from nowhere

From yesterday but now with additional unseasonal periods of rain.

If the Vancouver Whitecaps aren’t going to make the playoffs this season (They’re not) then at least let them continue not making the playoffs in the manner of their 3-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Saturday evening.

This wasn’t the Whitecaps of a few weeks ago; all half-hearted effort and tactical ineptitude.

This was a team who had some idea about what they were doing and even believed in that idea.

And a large part of that turnaround has been down to Hwang In-Beom.

The South Korean began his tenure in Vancouver brightly, but then seemed overwhelmed by the physical excesses of MLS and underwhelmed by the technical abilities of some of his teammates.

Nobody can argue the Whitecaps don’t need new players, but these recent performances of In-Beom have highlighted just how shallow the team are in midfield, with neither Teibert nor Rose offering anything of value other than work rate.

Give In-Beom two effective players alongside him and Vancouver become a different team.

But, of late, he has been a player reborn.

Maybe it’s to do with him getting used to the league or maybe it’s because he’s being played in a much deeper position? But he suddenly looks like a genuine difference maker.

He wants the ball, he takes time on the ball when he can and he moves the ball quickly when he needs to and (And this is a revelation for a Whitecaps midfielder) he’s always looking for the forward pass, always twisting his body shape to the opposition goal rather than his own.

That must make life so much more fulfilling for somebody like Yordy Reyna who is constantly making runs to unsettle the opposition defence, just that knowledge that the player on the ball is aware of those runs and has the ability to find him must make the Peruivan’s heart sing.

As with In-Beom the Peruvian is in desperate need of quality alongside him. There was a moment in the second half when Reyna chased and won yet another forward pass and stood with the ball knowing he would have no support.

Then he was astonished to see that Theo Bair had made a run into the box and was available for a pass.

It almost resulted in a goal, but Reyna’s surprise was indicative of what a lone furrow he has been ploughing all season.

Elsewhere Theo Bair scored a magnificent goal but still looked as though he has a lot to learn with the ball at his feet.

Once Ali Adnan went off injured both Jake Nerwinsky and Brett Levis got into good positions but couldn’t cross the ball effectively and Fredy Montero continued to not really care when the ball wasn’t at his feet and to want to take his ball away when another teammate wanted to take a set-piece.

Is this too harsh on Montero? Maybe we’re in the same kind of subconscious reinforcement that occurs everytime Teibert passes the ball backwards?

But, at the very least, Montero does not look like a captain on the field.

Oh and the Whitecaps continued their policy (It has to be a deliberate policy right?) of allowing opponents to shoot at will from just outside the box and it failed them miserably.

But this is all a huge improvement on what has gone before and the Whitecaps have now played two consecutive games of football that were enjoyable to watch.

Heady days indeed!

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-5, Nerwinski-5, Godoy-6, Cornelius-6, Adnan-5, In-Beom-6.5*, Teibert-5, Rose-4.5, Bair-5.5, Montero-3.5, Reyna-6 (Levis-4.5)


Vancouver Whitecaps are happy. Hope you’re happy too?

Nobody could look at the tie in Minnesota and the win in Cincinnati and think that all was suddenly well in the world of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

But what they could do, if they really tried, was to think that the task of rebuilding this team wasn’t quite so insurmountable as it appeared during the summer horribilis we have all endured.

Certainly the defence seems to have found its coherence again (And is Derek Cornelius the unsung hero of the team this year? Never first choice in central defence but never looking out of place) and even the midfield is finding a semblance of substance.

More than substance really.

Hwang In-Beom has found his role playing deep in a manner that both allows him to see the game in front of him and removes him from the sterner challenges of the centre of the park.

And both Teibert and Felipe have been so much more effective than at any time previous.

It’s hard to imagine either of them being regular starters next season, but to see them combine for the winning goal was both enjoyable and somehow slightly hilarious (especially as Teibert still managed to turn an assist into a backwards pass).

But, oh dear, the forward line.

Theo Bair is still not an MLS player on any showing he has given thus far and Fredy Montero is a shadow of the player he once was.

Whether that is attitude or aptitude is up for debate, but easy passes are over hit and when the ball arrives at his feet in the penalty area he has become a kind of Darren Mattocks tribute act; all hasty first touches and wrong decisions.

There was a time when the game slowed down for Montero when he received the ball in a dangerous position. Now it just feels as though it’s him that has slowed down in every area of his play.

And then there’s Joaquin Ardaiz.

Marc Dos Santos has been critical of the Uruguayan’s attitude almost since he arrived in Vancouver and maybe it’s that attitude that has made his teammates mistrust him and so avoid giving him the ball, or maybe he’s just disconnected from them in other ways?

Whatever the answer there seems little point in playing Ardaiz at this stage of the season unless a warm body is needed for some reason.

Better to give Theo the opportunity to demonstrate that he can become better than hope Joaquin rises like a phoenix from the ashes of a season that is already dead.

New signings and the return of Yordy Reyna will make the forward line better (it could not be worse) and although this season will still go down as possibly (probably) the worst in the Whitecaps MLS era there are at least signs that the foundations Dos Santos has to build on are sitting somewhere near sea level rather than deep in the depths of despair that seemed to be the case a couple of weeks ago.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-5,5, Cornelius-6, Godoy-6, Adnan-6, In-Beom-6*, Teibert-6, Felipe-6, Bair-3, Montero-3, Ardaiz-2 





Vancouver Whitecaps give it all they got

From yesterday but now with some MLS quality additions.

We’re grading on a curve here, but the Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 tie in Minnesota was one of the more accomplished performances of the season and a vast improvement on anything else they have done since May.

Marc dos Santos mixed things up by trying the Christmas Tree formation and, miracle of miracles, it actually worked.

This formation is very much not the one that Dos Santos has said he wants to play long term, but needs must when the devil drives and if  it somehow instills a sense of belief into the team for the remainder of the year and leaves the off  season more about adding to the squad than rebuilding shattered confidence then it will do.

All season the Whitecaps midfield has existed in a state of purgatory; neither able to offer attacking assistance to the forwards nor defensive cover for the defenders.

And anybody who saw the names of Felipe, In-Beom and Teibert announced as starters will have been left in little doubt that a transition to a footballing nirvana was not likely any time soon.

And yet.

All three played with a level of simplicity and effectiveness we haven’t seen all season. That’s probably down to the fact that, in this game, they had options when they  were on the ball and weren’t forced to play either a one in a hundred chance pass forward or a simple pass back that just leads the team nowhere.

It’s amazing how much easier the game can be when players do the basics right.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the Whitecaps dressing room over recent weeks because it’s clear that something happened to completely alter the DNA of the team. Dos Santos is quick to claim the Gold Cup for the loss of focus but the issue seems to have run deeper than that. The next big test will be when they concede a goal. Do they revert to the shambolic indifference of recent weeks or are they back to being made of something stronger?

The Whitecaps even offered the possibility they might score a goal with Fredy Montero looking livelier than he has in months, and Yordy Reyna always being willing to run at the opposition defence with the ball at his feet.

Theo Bair still looks out of place in the starting eleven however, but maybe time and confidence are all he needs?

The three main areas in which Vancouver need to upgrade their squad are a forward who can produce more than Montero, a midfielder who likes to get into the box and score goals and a right back who can attack in a manner similar to Ali Adnan. Those three changes wouldn’t make them unbeatable, but they would make them a decent MLS side.

None of this means all is well in the world of Whitecaps of course.

This club still has more issues than Vogue, but everybody needed at least a hint that the on field problems weren’t irredeemable beyond repair and the hope now has to be that Dos Santos can use the next two road games to establish a playing system that works and thereby convince his players to fully buy into it.

Oh to have been a spider on the wall of the Whitecaps locker room in recent weeks. Not least because there’s a nice juicy fly in there, but also to see how the coaching staff dealt with the way the players switched off from what they were being told. Dos Santos gives the impression that his coaching style is based on talking and listening to players rather than hammering them in to how he wants them to play. Is this the first time in his career that a group of players have needed to be hammered and not heard? Whatever the truth of that it’s clearly a learning curve he needs to get through.

The season is over in terms of achieving anything of note, but at least we might be able to see the hint of the outline of the shadow of a blueprint of what we can possibly, perhaps, maybe expect next season.

That’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got and it’s more than we had before this game.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-5, Adnan-6, Henry-5, Cornelius-6, In-Beom-6, Felipe-6*, Teibert-5.5, Bair-4.5, Reyna-5.5, Montero-5.5 (Godoy-6)




Vancouver Whitecaps go down the rabbit hole

Perhaps the real tragedy of the Vancouver Whitecaps being eliminated from the Canadian Championship by Cavalry FC is that I had planned to write quite a funny blog if they had won.

Not hilarious. But just amusing enough to convey the impression that I was putting some thought into the thing.

But instead of that, we get this.

More darkness.

Just vast, unending darkness stretching into the eternal void of night.

And what else is there to say?

Vancouver were outworked (and outplayed!) by a team that is theoretically inferior to them and almost nobody at BC Place was surprised by that.

And if the players don’t even have enough professional pride to put in a performance in a game like that then what hope is there?

And if the coach can’t instill enough professional pride into his team to put in a performance in a game like that then what hope is there?

Those are rhetorical questions by the way, because there is no hope while the people who run this club continue to do so.

Because they clearly have no professional pride either.

If they did they wouldn’t still be around after so many seasons of failing to follow up on promises, shirking the tough decisions in favour of an easy life and offering jam tomorrow when it came to investment.

It’s always the next transfer window that will be the best one to make a move for the Whitecaps, never this one.

And if this was anything even approaching a half competent organization changes would already have been made.

And if this was even a quarter competent organization changes would definitely be made after the debacle of a season we have witnessed so far.

But changes won’t come. We’ve been through this movie before and we know that.

The people responsible for what the Whitecaps have degenerated into will continue to  skulk in the shadows and ask us to “believe in the process” and throw up their hands in horror when anybody even dare question their commitment to the cause.

And then they sit back down and watch their (no, our) empire crumble into dust and don’t even have the decency to feel even a modicum of shame.

On the positive side the team can now concentrate on the league!

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-3, Nerwisnki-2, Adnan-2, Godoy-3, Henry-3, Rose-2, Felipe-2, In-Beom-4*, Bangoura-2, Reyna-4, Bair-3 (Venuto-3, Ardaiz-3)



Whitecaps lose: Something, something, blah, blah, blah

From yesterday but now with additional tactical naivety.

It’s hard to know which is worse.

Watching the Whitecaps lose when the players aren’t really giving their all, or watching them lose when they are.

They are each probably equally bad in their own specific way and Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to the San Jose earthquakes was another nail in the coffin of a season that is now more iron than pine.

At least the game started well, with Vancouver getting an early goal from a set-piece (of course  a set-piece) but then things began to form a familiar pattern.

For sure this team is mentally fragile as Dos Santos keeps saying, but they now seem to be so mentally fragile that scoring a goal affects them as badly as conceding one. They pressed and harried San Jose for the first few minutes and got their reward. What is it in their psyche that makes them think “Well that worked, but now let’s revert to the style of play that has failed us miserably over the last few weeks”?

I do not have the answer to this question.

San Jose pressed and the Whitecaps sat deep. San Jose pressed some more and the Whitecaps sat deeper still, until every cross was pinging around the six yard box and creating more mayhem than a group of pensioners with only five minutes left on the early bird special at an all you can eat buffet.

And so the San Jose goals came and the Whitecaps went in at the half with a one goal deficit.

But that wasn’t too bad.

They had made the Earthquakes work for their spoils and recent games had featured something of a revival for Vancouver in the second period, so we settled in for the rest of the game with hope (if not belief) in our hearts.

Our hearts were telling us lies.

The visitors dominated from the get go. Firing shots and winning corners at will and, by the end, the 3-1 scoreline flattered a home team who didn’t give up, but had nothing to offer to counter their opponents.

The best case scenario is that Dos Santos is indulging in the footballing equivalent of a sacrificial blood letting. Allowing the evil demons to escape BC Place through suffering and chaos and then appeasing the gods before a pre-season cleansing ceremony that allows this team to start afresh.

But that scenario is a long shot to be fair.

Random thoughts on the game?

Every time a San Jose player was in possession he had options to pass to and one of those options was almost always a forward ball.

When a Vancouver player was in possession they had nothing to aim for but a high and hopeful ball forward or a safe and simple back pass.

And that difference isn’t about the salary cap or signing a big name player. That’s about the very basics of the game.

But all too often the gap between the Whitecaps midfield and their forward line is almost a third of the pitch (more at times) and there’s no way a team can create meaningful chances playing in such a way and it’s baffling why such a simple issue hasn’t been addressed.

And while replacing Kei Kamara with Fredy Montero made some kind of sense at the start of the season, it’s now richly ironic that the Whitecaps have ended up playing in a fashion that would make the most of Kamara’s talents.

Just getting Hwang In-Beom to stand on the attacking side of the centre circle and never drift deeper would create more headaches for opposition defences than how he is currently being used.

Lass Bangoura looked like nothing more than a Dollarama Yordy Reyna, relying on pace to make up for his lack of first touch or overall awareness. Jake Nerwinski will never be an attacking full back and if Dos Santos wants the right side to mirror Ali Adnan then an upgrade is seriously needed.

Oh, and the substitutions made no sense.

Bringing on two tall central attackers and Felipe was very much the mark of a coach who is just hoping that something will work right now.

In many ways that was the most concerning aspect of the game. Perhaps the theory was to use Ardaiz and Bair to hold up the ball and for Felipe to help the midfield keep some kind of possession?

But in practice it was a mess.

Still, it was definitely an improvement on the Kansas game, so there is that.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-5.5, Nerwinski-3, Henry-4, Godoy-5, Adnan-5, Eriece-4.5, In-Beom-5, Teibert-4, bangours-3, Montero-4, Reyna-5.5* (Ardaiz-3.5, Felipe-3.5)