Vancouver Whitecaps 2021 Player Ratings: The Defence

Now that a wild ride of a season has ended for the Vancouver Whitecaps it’s time to take a deep breath, use the benefit of hindsight and pass unflinching judgment on each and every player.

But where shall we start? We shall start at the beginning and keep going until we get to the end.

Max Crepeau– This was comfortably Crepeau’s best season for the Whitecaps. Mainly because he was less savey and more catchy. Or, for those who are not au fait with the more technical terms of the goalkeeping trade, he’s developed into a more mature and therefore less noticeable goalkeeper. His distribution could still be better but perhaps that will come in time too?

Season rating-7

Thomas Hasal- Hasal played just enough games to have an opinion formed about him and yet not enough to give that opinion any value. When he did play he lacked the confidence he displayed last season and he now needs to be somewhere where he will play on a regular basis.

Season rating-4.5

Bruno Gaspar- There were times in his early appearances when Gaspar looked disinterested in playing football of any kind. He was reluctant to get forward and equally reticent to track back. That left him a tough task to win over the fans and he probably never quite did that. He definitely got better as he acclimatized to MLS, but good enough to earn another season? No.

Season rating-4.5

Javain Brown- The surprise hit of the summer. Brown came into the team and did exactly what Sartini wanted him to do by getting forward as often as he could. Brown wasn’t perfect in every game, especially from a defensive point of view, but the Whitecaps were a worse team when he wasn’t playing. Give this man a pay rise!

Season rating-6.5

Cristián Gutiérrez– Would have been a similar summary to Brown, but injuries hit his season deep. Still, Gutiérrez is well suited to the wing back role and has quality in his crosses and set-pieces. It’s a big season for him next year, not least in terms of maintaining full fitness.

Season rating-5.5

Marcus Godinho– Barely played but did start the playoff game against Kansas for some reason. He’s not terrible defensively, but Godinho is not a good attacking full back and so it’s hard to see where he will fit in the long term.

Season rating-3.5

Jake Nerwinski– Until Sartini was appointed coach, Nerwinski was heading down the road marked “Yesterday’s full back”, with his lack of pace and lack of quality in his final ball marking him down as a remnant of a previous age. But Sartini’s decision to play him in the central defensive role revitalized his career and Nerwinski proved himself to be perfectly competent, with even the odd foray up the field added to his repertoire.

Season rating-5.5

Ranko Veselinovic- Veselinovic got better the more he played, although neither Dos Santos or Sartini seemed to fully trust him. Nevertheless, with a full post-season of playing in a three man defence Veselinovoic could (should) be a regular starter next season.

Season rating-5.5

Erik Godoy- If Godoy could stay fit he’d be the most important player on the Whitecaps squad. A solid defender who reads the game well and can pass the ball. But he can’t stay fit it seems which makes balancing his contribution a tough ask for any coach. Keep him for the minutes he can play or opt for a more reliable option?

Season rating-5

Andy Rose- Beloved by coaches for the experience he brings to the defence, Rose has proven himself to be better in theory than in practice. There certainly seemed to be no discernible improvement when he was in the team and his penchant for overestimating his ability to hit a forty yard pass to feet can become wearisome. Should not be in the playing squad next season.

Season rating-3.5

Florian Jungwirth- Seemingly brought in for his leadership as much as his play on the field, Jungwirth did indeed prove to be “good in the locker room”. He was also pretty good in games too, providing a touch of physicality the other Vancouver central defenders lacked. He’s been signed for another year and rightfully so.

Season rating-6

What a lot of defenders the Whitecaps have!

But the objective in the off season has to be making sure there is quality cover in the wing back role and adding at least one more central defender to the roster, mainly to avoid either Baldisimo or Metcalfe having to play there ever again.

Next time out we judge the midfield!

Vancouver Whitecaps face the final curtain.

And so it ends.

The 3-1 defeat at Kansas City ended the Whitecaps 2021 season with perhaps more of a whimper than a bang.

The chosen starting eleven seemed to be a case of Vanni Sartini being a little too Vanni Sartini, with Godhino and Gaspar as wing backs and Andy Rose in central defence.

Rose was fine, although the defence looked capable of being breached whenever the hosts broke forward with the ball, but Gaspar and Godinho offered nothing of quality going forward and Vancouver were subsequently toothless in attack.

Neither could they find a way to get Ryan Gauld into the game as Owusu and Teibert were out played and anonymous in midfield.

Once Dajome was moved to the wing back role the Whitecaps looked to offer more of a threat but, by then, it was too late.

But no sense to dwell on the disappointment of this one defeat and look instead at the overall tenor of the season because, for once, the Whitecaps losing in the playoffs doesn’t feel like the end of something. It feels like the beginning.

There’s already the nucleus of a good team there, but the off season acquisitions will be crucial.

They need to be better in the centre of the pitch next season and they need one more (maybe two) genuine attacking wing backs to offset the possibility of injuries demolishing the teams preferred style of play as well as another central defender.

They also need to replace Cavallini with a better player.

All this presumes that Vanni Sartini returns as coach of course, but that must surely be a given.

He may have got it wrong in this particular game, but he’s changed the mentality of the players and the quality of the football in a manner that seemed inconceivable during the early summer.

It all starts again in February so the Whitecaps will be back before we know it.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-4, Gaspar-3, Godinho-4, Rose-4.5, Nerwinski-4.5, Jungwirth-4, Teibert-2, Owusu-3, Gauld-4.5, Dajome-4.5*, White-4 (Godoy4.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: A new world struggles to be born

Heat domes, bomb cyclones, tornadoes and the Vancouver Whitecaps making the playoffs.

Things just get stranger and stranger.

The Whitecaps clinched the much coveted berth with a 1-1 tie against the Seattle Sounders on Sunday afternoon and now travel to Kansas in the next stage of their adventure.

Almost more impressive than that feat however was the way Vancouver approached the game.

We have all lived through the Whitecaps facing a Cascadian rival at home in a crucial game and immediately retreating into their shell. Playing with fear and a hope for the best attitude that admits defeat from the get go.

But, under Sartini, they are a different animal.

They attacked from the first whistle and didn’t allow the inevitable Fredy Montero goal to distract them from their purpose.

Sartini’s decision to play the same system no matter who was available has turned out to be the foundation for the resurgence of the team.

Okay we got to see Baldisimo as a central defender and Metcalfe as a wing back. But the message it sent to the players was that they were going to play their own way and if they lost then so be it. But no more emphasis on how good the opposition were and simply setting up to nullify them.

Sartini is the first Vancouver MLS coach (since Teitur Thordarson) to not go into every game with an inherent sense of inferiority.

He’s also the first coach since Teitur Thordarson to connect with the supporters.

Tom Soehn was an executive in a coach’s tracksuit, Martin Rennie was too out of his depth to think of such things, Carl Robinson didn’t think anybody in British Columbia understood the game as well as he did and felt such statecraft beneath him and Marc Dos Santos was too trapped in the purgatory of the way he wanted his team to play and the way it actually played.

No doubt Sartini’s willingness to connect with the fanbase is down to his personality, but it’s also a savvy PR move on his part.

A club with the need for as much positivity as it can get will find it immensely difficult to remove the most positive figure in the organization.

But would it be the right move from a purely footballing point of view?

It’s possible that Sartini is riding the wave of optimism the players have felt since returning to BC Place and it’s possible that once the fresh scent of change wears off they stop buying whatever he is selling them. It’s also possible that the addition of Ryan Gauld has been enough to propel the team on such a good run. And it’s possible that it could all end in tears and heartbreak before we know it.

But there seems to be more substance to Sartini’s coaching than merely good will and good quotes. He’s got the players to pass and move (it’s an indication of how poor the Whitecaps have been that passing and moving is seen as a major innovation) and suddenly the player on the ball has an option to pass to rather than staring down the blind alley of nothingness that induces the hopeful punt forward.

And do we really think Dos Santos would have used Gauld as anything other than a get out of jail free card from the regular backs to the wall defensive showpiece?

It would be a brave decision by the Whitecaps to replace Sartini and the role would perhaps be something of a poisoned chalice for the new incumbent to drink from.

For now though it’s on to Kansas with the knowledge that the Whitecaps will approach the game in the way it should be approached. An opportunity to be grabbed rather than an ordeal to be survived.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6, Brown-6, Gutierrez-6, Jungwirth-6, Nerwinski-6, Veselnovic-6, Teibert-5.5, Owusu-5.5, Gauld-6.5*, Dajome-5, White-4.5 (Bikel-3)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Lariats of Fire

I suppose it was always going to come down to the final game against Seattle.

But the 1-1 tie with LAFC felt like a rehearsal for that game for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Because this game was the difference between the freedom of trying to get into the playoff places and the tension of clinching a playoff place.

And the early Dajome goal simply convinced Vancouver that hanging on to what they had for the rest of the game was a sensible tactic.

It wasn’t.

But, on the positive side, they were much better defensively in the second half. Less inclined to invite pressure and more inclined to keep the ball whenever they could.

It wasn’t pretty, but they worked for what they had and, in the end, just about deserved what they got.

Hopefully this game will have exorcised the playoff jitters from their collective consciousness and they can play the Sounders with a degree of freedom they lacked in Los Angeles.

The playoffs effectively start on Sunday afternoon.

Go big or go home.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6.5*, Gaspar-5, Brown-4.5, Nerwinski-4.5, Godoy-5, Jungwirth-5, Teibert-4.5, Owusu-5, Dajome-5.5, Gauld-5.5, White-5 (Guttierez-5.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Circling the heights

The Vancouver Whitecaps played the first half of the crucial end of season game against Minnesota United in exactly the way we have come to expect the Whitecaps to play such games.

They were tentative on the ball, more concerned with going backwards than going forwards and out played and out fought.

That they went into the lead at half time thanks to alumni Michael Boxall was a minor miracle. But it didn’t feel like a turning point, it felt like a pit stop on the trip to playoff despair.

Maybe that’s because I’m old enough to remember when a Vancouver coach would look at that one nil lead and think that either a) things were going fine so why change them? or b) now is the time to hunker down and hold on to that lead for as long as we can.

That didn’t happen this time however and the Whitecaps approached the second half with vigour, movement and some genuinely nice passing moves.

Thus it was not a surprise when Brain White slotted home after one of those slick moves and it was somewhat of surprise to see Minnesota grab a goal back with less than three minutes remaining.

Fortunately those minutes were the property of Lucas Cavallini, as he first picked up the ball in midfield and ran around in a circle before earning a time wasting foul and then held the ball in the corner to kill even more precious seconds.

But the biggest shout out of the day goes to Jake Nerwinski.

Nerwinski seemed to be heading for MLS oblivion once he lost his right back role to faster and more attack minded players. But he has slotted into central defence startlingly well and could well prove to be a valuable member of the squad for seasons to come.

Whatever happens now the Whitecaps will go into the final game of the season (at home to Seattle) with at least a chance of making the post-season. Who would have thunk it?

And who would have thunk that watching the Whitecaps could be a genuinely enjoyable experience?

What a world.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-5, Gaspar-5, Brown-6, Nerwinski-6.5*, Veselinovic-6, Jungwirth-5.5, Teibert-5, Owusu-5.5, Gauld-5.5, Dajome-4.5, White-5.5

Vancouver Whitecaps involved in a game of football

The Whitecaps 1-1 tie with the San Jose Earthquakes was one of those MLS road games.

The team never gelled. Passes were mostly either under hit or over hit and when they did reach their target the target couldn’t control the ball with the first touch.

So there’s two ways of looking at the result (actually there are a myriad of ways, but two will suffice for now).

This was either a point gained on a night when the out of town scoreboard favoured the Whitecaps and the team didn’t play well. Or it was a point lost as Sartini sent out his strongest starting eleven and will now probably have to rest at least a few for the crucial game at BC Place on Wednesday against Minnesota

The main positive of the evening was the performance of Bruno Gaspar who, for perhaps the first time in a Vancouver jersey, looked capable of being a starting full back.

His goal was the icing on the cake, but the substance was in his defensive play and his ability to get forward when needed.

Suddenly Brown and Gutierrez don’t look to be the automatic choices for the starting spots.

As for the rest of the players there weren’t so much negatives as just an absence of polarity. Neither here nor there. Just hustle and bustle with no real end product.

Only time will tell if this was a point gained or a point dropped but, for now, it’s best to just move on and never think of this game again.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Gaspar-6*-Dajome-4.5, Veselinovic-5, Godoy-5.5, Jungwirth-5-Teibert-4, Owusu-4.5, Gauld-5, Caicedo-3, White-4

Vancouver Whitecaps: A little bit very bad, a little bit very good

The Whitecaps season wasn’t dead when they went into the break in Portland two goals down and playing like they had never seen each other before in their lives, but it was definitely sitting on the couch and wondering if that pain in its left arm was something to really be concerned about.

Turns out it was nothing to be worried about at all because they went on to win the game 3-2.

How did that happen?

Seriously, how did that happen?

It was mainly the introduction of Cristian Dajome for Javain Brown (after Brown played possibly the worst game of his career) because Dajome provided a degree of intent and spark that was badly missing in the first half.

But for those who believe that sport is a mix of Greek tragedy, high farce and some kind of bizarre twist on an allegorical Morality Play it really all changed the moment Lucas Cavallini was replaced by Brian White.

Not because Cavallini was particularly terrible (although he wasn’t great) but because the universe has decided that the Canadian striker must suffer the fate of watching his supposed understudy reap all the glory night after night after night.

The scoring began with a Caicedo run from his own half, was followed by Gaspar (Yes Gaspar!) pulling a seemingly lost ball back to White who (obviously) headed it into the corner and it ended with Dajome slotting home a penalty that he earned for himself.

Not even seven minutes of added time could derail the Whitecaps.

The previous results of the evening had left Vancouver seemingly adrift in the post-season race, but suddenly they find themselves in the playoff places and with more belief than a Ted Lasso episode written by Neil Diamond.

On to San Jose where we have no idea what will happen next.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-5, Brown-1, Godinho-4, Jungwirth-5, Nerwinski-4.5, Gutierrez-4.5, Teibert-3.5, Bikel-4.5, Caicedo-5, Gauld-4, Cavallini-3 (White-5, Gaspar-5.5, Dajome-6.5*)

Whitecaps win the Russell face off.

For the first half of the first half against Sporting Kansas City the Whitecaps were given a footballing lesson.

Out played, out pressed and out thought they somehow hung in there in the vain hope that a moment of quality from a player with the vision to arrive in the right place at the right time pulled them out of the mire.

But, before Russell Teibert added the second with a trademark rapier strike from the edge of the box, Ryan Gauld had pounced on a Brian White knockdown to give Vancouver the lead.

Up to (and following) his goal Teibert had his worst game of the season. Dawdling on the ball and misplacing any pass that wasn’t sent backwards (seemingly with the express intention of putting a teammate in trouble).

Oh well, the footballing gods can be fickle masters.

A two goal lead barely seemed credible and when Johnny Russell brought one back for Kansas before the break it felt like only a matter of time before the Whitecaps succumbed again.

But they didn’t,

To their credit they kept Kansas at arms length for the whole of the second half and only those invested in the result would have felt that the equalizer was coming.

The Whitecaps were certainly helped by having three actual central defenders playing in central defence, but they were also helped by the return of Javain Brown who, even playing on the left, offered the attacking threat that’s been lacking in his absence.

Given the way other results went this weekend a win felt as close to a necessity as it could be and the Whitecaps earned this one with a mix of old fashioned grit and new fashioned nous.

In the circumstances this might have been the most impressive win of the Santini era thus far.

Although “era” seems excessive for such a short amount of time. “Epoch”? Period?” “Span”?

Let’s go with “Span”.

Given the circumstances this might have been the most impressive win of the Santini span thus far.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6, Gaspar-5, Brown-6, Godoy-6*, Veselnovic-5.5, Jungwirth-6, Owusu-4.5, Teibert-4, Dajome-4, Gauld-5, Whire-5 (Bikel-5.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps reined in by Seattle

Now with additional meanderings.

It’s unclear if Vanni Sartini really likes Patrick Metcalfe or if he hates him so much he just wants to see him suffer.

Either way there doesn’t seem to be a positional problem the coach doesn’t think Metcalfe can’t solve.

And this week the Canadian was asked to channel his inner Chiellini and play in the centre of defence.

It didn’t work.

There’s nothing specifically wrong with asking a young player to ply his trade in different areas of the field. It may, ultimately, be beneficial to their development. But Metcalfe has yet to prove that he can thrive in MLS in his preferred position, let alone alternatives.

Not just because of Metcalfe however. The midfield offered little cover in the first twenty minutes and Thomas Hasal must have felt like a Candian watching the Ottoman horde approaching (Trojan watching the Greeks pour out of a horse?) as Seattle cut through the Whitecaps time and time and time again.

It seems there are some who think Hasal’s performance last night was the sole cause of the defeat. That he definitively proved he was not capable of being an MLS goalkeeper. Is this some ingrained hockey way of thinking I wonder when it comes to goalies? Either way he only culpable for the final of the four goals and was, lest we forget, operating behind the worst defence the Whitecaps have fielded this season.

With the score at 2-0 Vancouver regained (gained?) some composure and went in at the break only 2-1 down thanks to the obligatory Brian White goal.

But the second half was a carbon copy (mirror image?) of the first with the Sounders dominating until they took a two goal lead and the Whitecaps finding good opportunities arising as their hosts sat back.

They are at least capable of creating these opportunities. And while Gauld and White are picking up the plaudits, Deiber Caicedo is gradually proving himself to be a very useful MLS player.

He still needs to work on his final pass/shot but there’s a lot of upside for a twenty-year old who has adapted so well to the league.

A fourth Seattle goal at the death capped a bad night for both the Whitecaps and Hasal in particular, but this game was always going to be one in which anything the Whitecaps took from it was a bonus.

The question is whether Sartini’s insistence on playing the same system regardless of who is available is the wisest.

He could have gone with four at the back and put a holding midfielder in front of the backline without completely destroying the cohesion but, to be fair, he has chosen to live or die by this method and so be it.

The final tally of points will determine if he was right.

Yet there is something refreshing about a Vancouver coach not basing their every selection on nullifying the strengths of the opposition and thus admitting their belief in their own weaknesses. “This is who we are and we live or die by that” is a brave, but admirable philosophy. And certainly one that has produced a team that is far more enjoyable to watch than any over the last few seasons.

On the positive side Vancouver still manage to look dangerous whenever they do get forward, but often lack that microsecond of composure that can make all the difference when a chance presents itself.

The next game against Kansas is a huge one.

Lose that and there will be the sense that the season has slipped away just when they seemed to have it in their grasp.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Hasal-3, Gaspar-3, Dajome-5, Nerwinski-4, Jungwirth-4, Metcalfe-3, Teibert-4.5, Owuwsu-4.5, Caicedo-5.5, Gauld-5.5*, White-4.5

Vancouver Whitecaps finally know the way to beat San Jose

Marc Dos Santos spent his time as Whitecaps coach trying (and failing) to turn his team into one that successfully pressed the opposition.

Vanni Sartini seems to have solved that problem in just a few weeks.

It may be that (somewhat understandably) with all the time spent on travel and living away from home the players eventually began to switch of from whatever Dos Santos was selling them, or it may be that Sartini has established a foundation in how he wants the team to play and subsequent tweaks are easier to make because of that.

Vancouver weren’t great in the 3-0 win over the Earthquakes, but they were far better than they have traditionally been in such “must win” situations.

There was no sitting back and allowing the opposition to dictate the play, no tentativeness when going forward and no players standing static and watching a team mate desperately search for an option while in possession.

Ryan Gauld certainly helps in the latter of those traits.

His movement off the ball not only pulls the opposition out of their comfort zone but, like a powerful magnet in a field of iron filings, he drags the rest of the team into the required shapes and patterns.

But Gauld alone wouldn’t be enough.

Leonard Owusu produced his second consecutive performance at home where he dominated the midfield. Cristian Dajome was a constant threat from the left wing back position and Brian White was the Platonic ideal of a limited striker who gives his all and gets rewarded with goals just because he’s doing his job.

And are we at the stage where we can say that Jake Nerwinski is a decent central defender?

The data set is probably not complete on that one yet, but even playing on the left of the three Nerwinski looked like a solid option.

Again, that may be down to Sartini sticking to a system rather than changing it depending on who the opponent was. So much easier for players to come into a team, even in an unfamiliar role, if those around them understand their roles too.

But the biggest take away from Saturday evening is that there were periods during the game where the Whitecaps looked to be enjoying playing football. They’d stopped thinking about what they should be doing with the ball and were just doing it.

Amazing how a fresh coaching perspective can change things.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Crepeau-6, Gaspar-6, Dajome-6.5*, Rose-6, Jungwirth-6.5, Nerwisnki-6, Teibert-6, Owusu-6.5, Gauld-6.5, Caicedo-6, White-6.5