Vancouver Whitecaps enjoy the green, green turf of home

There was a moment somewhere around the seventieth minute of the 2-1 victory over FC Dallas at BC Place when every single Vancouver Whitecaps player ran into a mental, physical and metaphorical brick wall.

Even Russell Teibert, a man whose sole purpose on the planet is to run around a lot on a football field, seemed to be wearing footwear fashioned from hollowed out neutron stars.

Yet somehow they managed to survive and earn a three points which must feel like a long cool soak in a saltwater swimming pool after weeks of crisscrossing the continent like that Bluetooth mouse I once ordered from Amazon.

I mean, if you’re sending something from California to Vancouver why does it have to go through Raleigh-Durham first? It makes no sense! And was it compatible once it arrived? It was not!

Thankfully the Whitecaps players do seem to be compatible with each other or, at the very least, they seem to have developed a collective cussedness that turns adversity into points.

And they really needed that cussedness for the final five minutes on Saturday as Dallas pushed for what would probably have been a deserved equalizer.

Yet Vancouver hung on and now have a whole five days to prepare for the home game against Toronto FC.

Positives from the game?

Both goals for sure. For the first Ali Adnan caressed and pushed his way between two Dallas defenders before trying one of those right foot curlers he has tried in every game thus far.

And this time it worked, as the ball arced deliciously over the outstretched hand of the Dallas goalkeeper whose name I can’t be bothered to look up.

And you know who else couldn’t be bothered to look up?

Fredy Montero, as he created the second goal for Lucas Venuto with the sweetest of back-heels that allowed the Brazilian to calmly side foot home for what turned out to be the winning goal.

The other highlight was the performance of Hwang In-Beom.

The South Korean has looked out of sorts in recent weeks but this was a return to the player we saw in his early days on the team. Always wanting to get on the ball and always looking for the quick pass.

Time will tell if this is the beginning of a resurgence or if In-Beom is just a young player who struggles for consistency.

And how useful a signing does Andy Rose look right now?

He’s better suited to the midfield, but his ability to also play at the back has given Marc Dos Santos the chance to play three at the back in the last two games and thus get a goal in each one from his wing-backs.

The worst is certainly over in terms of travel for this team and, in a way, this is when the real work begins.

Because this is when the Whitecaps need to push on and establish that they are more than just a bunch of scrappy kids who never give up.

Over the next few weeks and months we need to see them develop into a coherent football team.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

Crepeau-=6, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-7*, Godoy-6.5, Rose-6, Cornelius-5.5, Erice-6, Teibert-5.5, In-Beom-6.5, Venuto-6, Montero-6 (PC-6).

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: New York Two-Two

It’s hard to give an effective assessment of a team as injury battered as the Vancouver Whitecaps are and who face a travel schedule that would make the average amphetamine fueled rock band think “Hmm, this is a tad wearisome.”

But for the second time in what feels like about three hours the Whitecaps went to one of the toughest stadiums in MLS and came away with a well earned point.

Although the first half certainly didn’t feel as though it was going to go that way, as Vancouver played mostly on or within their own six yard line while somehow managing to come away with a 1-1 tie at the whistle.

Whether it was Marc Dos Santos’ plan to defend for the first half and then play a more attacking style in the second, or whether he was just watched that first forty-five minutes and just thought “Hmm, this is a tad wearisome” is hard to say, but the introduction of Montero for Levis meant his side kept possession so much more effectively and even began to look like the better team.

Even an Andy Rose own goal didn’t stop them in their stride and when the VAR gods decided that their whims would be favouring the Whitecaps this time around Fredy Montero slotted home for a well earned point.

It could have been more right at the death had In-Beom raised his head instead of aimlessly shooting when Felipe was wide open but, all in all, this is clearly a group of players who believe in what their coach is selling them and are willing to play for him no matter how dire the circumstance.

Special shout out to Joaquin Ardaiz who proved that he can play football after all and was excellent as both the hold up and link up forward and to Scott Sutter who got forward to give the Whitecaps the lead and who looks more than suited to the wing back role.

And also to referee Victor Rivas. The second “new” match official the Whitecaps have had in consecutive games and the second who seemed to understand the game far more than the familiar and established names.

At least some hope that in the future we won’t be watching an MLS match official and spend the whole game thinking “Hmm, this is a tad wearisome.”

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings

Macmath-5, Sutter-6, Godoy-6, Rose-5.5, Cornelius-5.5, Adnan-6, Felipe-5, Erice-5.5, Levis-4.5, PC-4.5, Ardaiz-6* (Montero-6, In-Beom-4, Venuto-5) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: What’s in a Name?

Often times when I am out taking the air upon the streets of Vancouver a stranger will stop me and say,

“I am fully aware that the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings system is undeniably the most accurate and objective player ratings system in the world. But I wonder if you would be so kind as to introduce a ratings system that is a little more simplistic for people like me who don’t have your intellectual depth?”

I smile at them and, after I’ve asked them if I can borrow twenty dollars for my car (parked just around the corner) which has unfortunately run out of gas on the way to a really important hospital appointment, I tell them that such a system is indeed in the works.

As they hand over the money they thank me for my time and, on occasion, I feel a pang of sadness that I will never behold their sweet and innocent face again.

Oh sure, I could keep the scrap of paper they hand over with their contact details scribbled down so that I can pay them back. But is that what they really want?

Of course it isn’t!

But today they are about to be paid back in full! More than full really. If anything, they owe me another twenty dollars.

Because today is the launch of the exclusive Shouting A Player’s Name During A Game Index (SPANDAGI for ease of reference).

Oh and by the way, the “P” and the “A” have been transposed there for reasons too scientifically complicated to explain.

What SPANDAGI does is take the ruthlessly efficient mathematical model at the heart of the current Soccer Shorts Player Ratings and throw in a soupcon of personalization.

It’s ideal for the shallower among you.

So how does it work?

Frequently during a game I will shout valuable instructions to a player. “Pass it!”, “Shoot!”, “Move!” and so on. But over time I have observed that the name I attach to these pearls of wisdom is very much indicative of how the player is performing both within the game and over the season.

That’s what SPANDAGI is. It judges a player by the name I call them.

Simple but unerringly accurate.

So let’s take a look at where the current Whitecaps stand in the SPANDAGI Index.

Max Crepeau- “Max”. The goalkeeper has gone from “Throw it out quicker err, whatever your name is.” to “Throw it out quicker Max.” A substantial rise in the standings.

Jake Nerwinski- “Jake”. Maybe down to familiarity more than than content with his play, but “Just hit one decent cross please Jake!” speaks well of his position in the index.

Ali Adnan- “Ali”. “Have a run at them Ali.” shows how remarkably well the Iraqi defender has slotted into the team.

Doneil Henry- “Henry”. Perhaps because shouting “Don’t get a red card here Doneil.” sounds a tad like a bad Folk ditty, but it’s still indicative that the central defender has work to do.

Erik Godoy- Never see him and so never shout anything.

Jon Erice- “Erice“. Partly in deference to his role as captain and partly because calling a Spaniard “Jon” is wrong. “So it will always be “Sort them out here Erice.”

Russell Teibert- “Teibert”. Or occasionally simply “Teib…”. As in “Okay, don’t pass the ball backwards this time Teib….oh forget it”.

Hwang In-Beom- “In-Beom”. “Just get forward In-Beom.” rolls off the tongue really.

Lass Bangoura- “Lass”. Purely for the comedic effect of sounding like a Yorkshire sheep farmer speaking to his faithful dog. “Come on Lass, have a run.”

Lucas Venuto- “Venuto”. The winger has done nowhere near enough to earn first name status. So “Better final ball this time Venuto.” it will be.

Fredy Montero- “Fredy”. Began the season firmly in the “Montero” range but has since moved to “Fredy” with a few good performances. “Stop hitting high balls to Fredy.” is the most useful phrase here.

Felipe- “Felipe”. In an attempt to pad his SPANDAGI stats the Brazilian has chosen to go by one name only so “Please don’t let Felipe take any more set-pieces.” it has to be.

Yordy Reyna- “Yordy”. The Peruvian has followed a similar trajectory to Montero in many ways, transitioning from “Reyna” to “Yordy” as the season has gone on. It will be interesting to see how his injury lay off affects his standing. But, for now, it remains “You should have finished that Yordy.”

PC-“PC”. As with Felipe we are left with little choice. So the best hope right now is that the winger has footwear issues and “You need to reboot your PC!” can be yelled at the coaching staff.

The rest of the squad haven’t really had enough playing time to fully make their mark on the SPANDAGI index (although I do have a special name for Joaquin Ardaiz) but I think we can all agree that that this is a quantum leap forward in our understanding of what I like to call “The Beautiful Game.”

You are very welcome.

Vancouver Whitecaps play quite badly

Well that was awful.

Kansas is never an easy place to play but the Whitecaps made it even harder with their performance on Saturday evening.

They gave away a goal in the first half thanks to yet another series of unforced errors and even when Kansas went down to ten men early in the second half Vancouver failed to take advantage.

It’s a fairly basic tenet of playing against a team who are a man down that you need to pass and move, keep good possession and make the opponent work at chasing the ball.

Yet the Whitecaps did none of those things.

Stuck as they were in the kind of ponderous build up play that is just about acceptable on the road when facing a superior opponent, but serves no purpose whatsoever when there should be the scent of blood in the water.

So there was a kind of karmic suitability to Doneil Henry going down injured and being withdrawn almost immediately after Marc Dos Santos had made his third and final substitution of the game.

Fail to take advantage of that kind of opportunity and the Universe will happily kick you in the teeth.

It’s hard to say who played well.

But Russell Teibert battled for everything and Fredy Montero never gave up in the search for scraps of opportunities (but the fact that Montero was constantly dropping deep to pick up the ball gives a pretty good indication of how poor the service he received was).

Where the Whitecaps go from here is hard to say.

If they can’t create an offensive threat against a team as injury ravaged as Kansas City and when that team is also down to ten men then even the well worn excuses of of “It’s technically an expansion year” and “They will strengthen in the summer” lose what little patina of respectability they continue to have.

All in all this was arguably the most dispiriting performance of the season. A brutal reminder of the deficiencies of both the starting eleven and the squad as a whole.

And maybe this was even the first crack in the armour surrounding Dos Santos as a coach? He can only work with what he has for sure, but the continuing inability to create chances should have been at least partially solved on the training ground by now.

On, and as an addendum, Derek Cornelius smacked home a sweet left footed volley in the final minute to earn the Whitecaps a hugely creditable away point in Kansas.

All is well!

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player ratings.

Crepeau-5.5, Nerwinksi-5, Adnan-6, Henry-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Felipe-5, Teibert-6*, Rose-5.5, PC-4, Venuto-4, Montero-5.5 (Cornelius-5, In-Beom-4, Ardaiz-4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: Nothing to see here

So how do we judge a 1-0 defeat against the in form and reigning MLS Cup Champions?

Especially when that defeat was decided by yet another unnecessarily conceded penalty kick?

The answer to that is easy.

We judge it as harshly as humanly possible!

So what went wrong?

Well, that almost starts and ends with the midfield.

I could indulge my hypothesis that Jon Erice is the best Captain the MLS era Whitecaps have had in terms of on field tactical influence and that aspect of his game was certainly missed last night.

But the most baffling aspect of the Dos Santos era thus far is his persistence in playing Hwang In-Beom as a deep central midfielder.

The end result is becoming increasingly familiar, with the South Korean offering little in the way of attacking threat and eventually losing the physical battle with whichever opponent he is up against.

There also seemed to be a conscious decision to play Russell Teibert as a kind of auxiliary left winger which simply resulted in the vast majority of balls played wide to him being passed back toward the middle (and thus allowing Atlanta time to reorganize at their leisure).

And Erice’s replacement was Felipe.

And Felipe is one man stats machine designed to have people purr over the numbers while simultaneously slowing the team down (and thus allowing Atlanta time to reorganize at their leisure).

In short, the midfield offered little or no elements of concern to the Atlanta defence.

And while seeing Max Crepeau stand on his head while using his feet to juggle a seal which is simultaneously juggling a ball during every home game is great entertainment, it’s not a sustainable model to have the goalkeeper be Man of the Match for every home game.

Perhaps the only thing as entertaining as Crepeau is watching Ali Adnan become increasingly angry and frustrated every time a teammate doesn’t pass to him.

No word yet on if the Iraqi left back will remain in Vancouver, but he would be missed for his personality on the field as much his play.

In conclusion, this game is one we would all do well to simply forget.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-7.5, Nerwinski-6, Adnan-6, Godoy-6, henry-6, Felipe-4.5, Teibert-4.5, In-Beom-4.5, Bangoura-4.5, Venuto-4.5, Montero-5

 

 

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.