All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy .All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy .All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

  1. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  2. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  3. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

 

 

Pedro: Not deep or deep?

Most of the talk this week within the Whitecaps camp has concerned the kind of intangible states of mind which ultimately add up to “grit”.

And while there can be no doubt that the team has been desperately lacking something from a psychological point of view in recent weeks we haven’t yet got the stage where we have access to CAT scans of players emotions throughout the game.

So, in the absence of such fascinating data, let’s stick to the mundane facts of what happened on the field

There’s been pretty much universal agreement that Pedro Morales needs to play in the deep lying midfield role if he is to be effective and that’s what happened against San Jose last Friday.

The good news is that the Captain got much more time and touches than he ever does when playing the number ten role but (and it seems there’s always a “but” with the Whitecaps this season) how effective that time and those touches were is open to question.

Stats show that Morales sent most of his passes to Christian Bolaños  and the second most to Matias  Laba followed by Giles Barnes and Kendall Waston.

Passes to the front two you ask?

Here’s a shot of his passes to Masato Kudo

 

mezquida

And the same for Nicolas Mezquida

kudo

So the teams most creative player hit the grand total of six passes to the two forwards of which two were inside his own half and the only pass to finish in the penalty area was from a corner.

Now we can argue whether this deficiency is down to Morales or whether it’s down to Mezquida and Kudo but the truth is probably that those two forwards just don’t play the game in a way that fits with the way Morales plays the game.

They both want quick, short passes in front of them whereas Morales wants to hit longer, searching passes across and up the field.

We can save the debate of why a Designated Player needs to be accommodated so specifically for another time but right now the Whitecaps are where they are, and where they are is needing to find something (anything) that works.

And that means giving Morales the forwards who suit his game.

There were hints against San Jose that Barnes could use his pace to fill a kind of surrogate Manneh role and it’s probably time that the in game savvy of Blaz Perez was used to full effect.

That gives a front two with both pace and height (the ideal targets for Morales to hit) and should also mean that Vancouver are able to hold the ball far more effectively up front than they have been in recent road performances.

It would be rough on Mezquida to make him pay the price for the overall troubles of the team, but it would mean that both he and Kudo could start the CCL game against Kansas that could well be the main priority for the season by the time that Tuesday rolls around.

It all feels very “make do and mend’ for this team at the moment and the fact that with nine games remaining nobody (and I mean “nobody”) can confidently name the best starting eleven is a startling testament to just how awry this season has been.

But sometimes if you throw enough things at the wall one of them will actually stick.

You should get the FourFourTwo app by the way, it’s a great way to find out the kind of info about a game that can bore people to death for hours (just mention my name to Siri when you go to the app store).

We’d like to help you learn to help yourself

Only the most optimistic of Whitecaps fans will have come away from the 2-1 defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday evening thinking that Vancouver’s playoff hopes were still alive.

Sure they could get a win in either Kansas or LA and maybe be back in the hunt but realistically this looks like a team that is as good as done when it comes to the MLS season.

But instead of plodding over the same old ground about what went wrong on the night (the shambolic defending, the inability to finish, the lack of any cohesion) let’s maybe take a step back and take a look at some of things that have gone awry with Carl Robinson this season.

What are the issues that the coach needs to address in his own performance?

Locker room culture- Robinson loves to sign a player who is “good in the locker room” but ultimately that culture has to be set by the coach and his staff and not by surrogates.

I doubt that anybody has watched the Whitecaps this year and seen a group of players who are all on the same page.

That doesn’t mean there’s internal strife and it doesn’t mean they are unhappy (they may even be too happy) but it does mean that something isn’t working.

The breaks haven’t always fallen for Vancouver this year but there are two ways of dealing with adversity in all sport; you either use it to make yourself better and stronger or you use it as an excuse for defeat.

The Whitecaps have leaned on the latter far too often in 2016 and that’s a culture that needs to be changed from the top.

The inability to change a game- If there is one thing that separates the great coaches from the good coaches and the good coaches from the average then it’s probably the capacity to take a step back from the emotion of a game and view it as an objective observer.

That’s how the really top coaches earn their salaries; with small tactical switches and substitutions at the right time.

Robinson is still learning the role but it can be so frustrating to watch the Whitecaps clearly making no inroads in a game and yet there is still a reluctance to make a change.

By the sixtieth minute against San Jose (for just one example) it was clear that the Whitecaps had run out of attacking ideas but it took another Earthquakes goal before a substitution was made and that was too little too late.

If Robinson can’t see that the changes need to be made then he needs to seek the advice of someone who can and if he can see that the changes need to be made but is reluctant to make them for fear of damaging a player’s confidence or upsetting team chemistry then he needs to be braver in making the switch.

Which leads to.

Picking names over form- Every manager will deny that they do this but every manager probably does; they all have their “favourites” and that’s fine to a degree.

The problem for Robinson is that his seeming “favourites” are really not playing well at all and so we are faced with the situation where the likes of Waston and Laba keep getting the start whereas the likes of Mezquida and Parker are either shunted into unfamiliar positions or out of the team altogether.

The coach hinted earlier in the week that he would drop one of these regular starters but that didn’t happen on Friday.

He hinted the same thing immediately following that defeat so let’s see what happens, because this policy has haunted him and hurt the team in the last few weeks.

Attitude on the road- If MLS is anything then it’s a League where any team can beat any other team on any given day yet too often this year Vancouver have gone into road trips with, if not a defeatist attitude, than at least an attitude that exudes “settling for a draw at best”.

I get that the travel is tough but enough teams have come to BC Place and outplayed the Whitecaps to make a person believe it isn’t quite that tough.

Keep talking about how hard a game or a trip will be and you give players an excuse for not performing and a lot of players will be all too happy to fall back on that excuse.

Which leads to.

Abdication of responsibility- Not in the sense of taking the blame for poor results (he definitely does that) but in the insistence that “fine lines” etc are what decide football games.

They often are but there’s a kind of “it’s out of our hands whether we win or lose” disposition that, once again, must seep through to the players and give them an easy out if things do go badly.

Players shouldn’t look for these get out clauses but they always do and they always will and it’s up to the coach to deny them the chance.

There are probably other things I could mention; the lack of any effective touchline presence and the failure to recognize that the modern coach needs to be a tribune for the fans frustrations as much as a defence counsel for the players.

But the counterbalance is that he has also had dreadful luck with injuries, suspensions and all around MLS weirdness that offers up some kind of mitigating factors, but the room for error is getting less and less roomier with every passing defeat.

It may already be too late to turn the League season around but there is still the Champion’s League to try and progress in and a core of players who can still achieve something (there was no lack of effort against San Jose, just a lack of organization) so now is the time for Robinson to make brave choices both before and during the remaining games.

If not now when? If not him who?

Time then for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Ousted-4, Parker-4, Waston-5, Edgar-4, De Jong-5, Morales-6, Laba-4, Bolaños -6*, Mezquida-6, Barnes-5, Kudo-4 (Davies-5, Perez-5)

D-Day for Robinson and the Whitecaps

“Must win game” is one of those eternal footballing cliches that is almost never literally true but does occasionally speak to the heart of the matter.

And Friday evening’s game against the San Jose Earthquakes very much fits into the “not literally true but it sure enough feels like it” category for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Whitecaps really aren’t in a good place right now (apart from Vancouver which is great right!?) with new signings having little time to settle in and a coach who seems to be struggling to settle on both a first eleven and a preferred way of playing.

So if Vancouver do fail to beat the Earthquakes then the two subsequent MLS road games (Kansas and LA) could see them drifting away from the red line of competence that constitutes the playoff marker and down into the murky depths of “there’s always next year” land.

How we’ve got to this situation is up for debate; players either not getting or not buying into how the Robinson wants them to play, a fundamentally conservative coach who is trying to get his team to play more expansive football but just can’t figure it out, key players failing to perform all over the field, a series of unfortunate incidents beyond the control of anybody.

There is probably something to be said for all of those scenarios (and many more) but while we can all have fun theorizing and hypothesizing Carl Robinson just doesn’t have that luxury.

He needs to get it right on Friday (and beyond).

And that probably means a return to the comfort zone for both the coach and the players and that means 4-2-3-1 (obviously) but with Giles Barnes in the “Manneh” role on the left.

Barnes doesn’t have the pure pace of Manneh but he can at least run with the ball and he can at least make other teams worry about his presence and force them to be a little more cautious when pushing forward. Couple that with a return to Mezquida and Kudo as the front two (who actually do provide the kind of “defence from the front” that one would assume Robinson would like) and if Morales has to play then play him deep alongside Laba or Jacobson.

 
There’s a decent argument to be made that what the Whitecaps defence need more than anything right now is just for somebody to sit in front of them and thus guarantee some kind of shield and Jacobson could probably do that job better than the more proactive Laba.

None of this solves all the problems of course. The right back roulette and the lack of cohesion just about everywhere on the field, but at least getting back to the basics of what the coach feels comfortable with may at least imbue some of that comfort into the team.

There’s still time for the Whitecaps to turn this thing around (and the pieces are definitely there to coalesce into a genuinely threatening MLS team) but the time for trying things (and players) out is well and truly over.

The only way the Whitecaps are going to get into the post season is by returning to what they once were.

Forward to the Past!

Whitecaps fall down the rabbit hole

“The time has come, the Walrus said,

      To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

      Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

      And whether pigs have wings.”

There have been times this season when it really has felt as though we were through the looking glass when it came to Carl Robinson’s team selections but Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids was probably the peak of Mad Hatterism.

Yes, yes I get that the heat and the travel and the altitude play havoc with the players but we watch football games not weather reports, arrival boards and barometers and anyway there’s a world of difference between losing games and losing them the way the Whitecaps have lost in both Dallas and Colorado.

Barely a shot in anger in either game (or the previous one in Houston to be fair) is hardly the stuff to inspire much hope in fans but, instead of pouring over the minutiae of a dreadful night in Denver, let’s just sit down and think of a number of impossible things that should never ever be tried again.

Pedro Morales as a number ten- By the twentieth minute Morales was already dropping deep to get the ball and so leaving Giles Barnes isolated up front. Maybe this was a poignant tribute to the Rivero era but it’s unclear what Robinson has disliked about the pairing of Kudo and Mezquida in attack.

Even without those two it must surely have been obvious that having a number ten who closed down the opposition defence and stayed in touch with the centre forward was preferable to one who does neither of those things.

In a recent interview the coach said that there were “no stars in his team” but it sure feels as though Morales is being accommodated no matter how he performs whereas others are shunted in and out of the team no matter how well they do

New players should fit into the team not the other way around-  I doubt anybody thinks that the signings of Edgar and Barnes are anything but good things, but the decision to throw them both into the deep end against one of the toughest teams to play on the road seemed overly optimistic of their attributes.

Even stranger given that playing Barnes meant that the whole forward line was revamped and even more strange given that playing Edgar completely rearranged an already uncertain backline.

And I refer you to the “no stars in the team” remark to try to explain why Kendall Waston stayed in his regular position whereas Tim Parker (who has been the better central defender this season) got shunted to the right back role where he struggled all evening.

Was it really an surprise to see that back four constantly confused about who should be where and when and why? (That’s a rhetorical question by the way).

If it’s not working make a change- Seriously.

The Whitecaps never once looked like scoring throughout the whole of the first half so why give the same lineup and the same tactics fifteen minutes to make thing better in the second? (Another  rhetorical question).

It was somewhat ironic to see the Rapids score within seconds of the obligatory sixtieth minute substitution but, once again, fifteen minutes had been wasted hoping that the thing that didn’t work for forty five minutes suddenly would.

Two defensive midfielders- Just move on from it. It’s clearly not helping the defence and the inclusion of both Laba and Jacobson means that at least three or four other players have to be shifted to their les optimal positions.

Other than that things went quite well and I’m sure the Whitecaps can put themselves back together (Humpty Dumpty style) in time for the tough looking run in to the end of the season.

Time then for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings (sigh).

Ousted-5, Parker-4, Edgar-4, Waston-4, De Jong-4, Laba-5 Jacobson-5*, Bolaños-4, Morales-4, Techera-4, Barnes-4  (Mezquida-5, Davies-5)

Vancouver leave Couva with a win

I’m sure I don’t need to go into detail about the relative strengths and weaknesses of Trinidad and Tobago’s Central FC (even though I very definitely could do that if I needed to).

The important thing to remember is that there are no easy road games in the CONCACAF Champion’s League which very much fits into the “it’s a cliché because it’s true” category (actually is “it’s a cliché because it’s true” now a cliché itself? I think it might be).

Anyway Vancouver went to Couva and came away with a very impressive 1-0 victory thanks to a Cristian Techera goal in the thirty-fourth minute and have now given themselves a decent chance of getting through the group stages of this competition.

Last season Carl Robinson rang the changes for these games and paid the price in terms of quality of play, but this time around he kept a core of experienced players in the starting eleven and was rewarded with a very good team performance.

He’ll certainly have been impressed with Brett Levis who looked composed on the ball at left back and with Spencer Richey who looked solid in goal.

A shout out too to David Edgar who did well in his first competitive start for the Whitecaps and to Alphonso “he’s only fifteen you know” Davies who came on as a second half substitute and made an immediate impact on the game and so very nearly got his first goal for the club.

I’m in the seemingly group of people who think Davies is too young to be playing at this level and until this game I’ve felt reasonably vindicated in my view because for every exciting run there’s been a corresponding piece of rawness.

But against Central he looked to be the real deal.

The question now is whether his overall game would benefit from fifteen minute cameo appearances with the first team or the full ninety minutes with WFC2. One thing is for certain though; this kind of experience is beyond value to a young player.

So maybe the real difference between this year and last year in the CCL is that the players who were given their first chance to impress at this level actually grabbed that chance with both hands? It’s hard to be definitive about that but the end result was that this was the best overall “team” display from Vancouver for some weeks.

The defence connected with the midfield and the midfield connected with the forwards and the Whitecaps were frequently first to the loose ball which meant the home team were never allowed to settle into any kind of rhythm.

For now we should just enjoy the warm glow of quiet satisfaction at seeing the Whitecaps produce an organized and thoroughly professional performance and hope that this “second string” eleven has laid some kind of foundation for those who didn’t play today to build on.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings

Richey-6, Smith-6, Edgar-6, Kah-6, Levis-6, Teibert-6, McKendry-6, Mezquida-6, Techera-6, Aird-5, Hurtado-6* (Davies-6

 

 

 

 

Whitecaps just killing time in the blazing sun

One of the more annoying aspects of Sir Alex Ferguson’s lengthy tenure at Manchester United was that his initial struggles in the role propagated a  particularly tiresome theory.

Whenever another manager faced similar struggles somebody would come along with the familiar refrain “Yes, but Fergie also needed time before he became successful” as though the initial failure was a prerequisite to subsequent success.

It wasn’t and it isn’t.

One of the many annoying aspects of Portland Timbers winning the MLS Cup last season was that they achieved their success after struggling for most of the year.

Only the late surge of winning the last three games got them into the playoffs and propelled them to glory.

So now we find that whenever an MLS team is flirting with missing out on the post season we get to hear the refrain “Yes, but the Timbers were poor for most of last season before finally coming good at the right time” as though their initial struggles were a prerequisite for their subsequent success.

They weren’t and they aren’t.

It’s a comforting thought for fans of the Vancouver Whitecaps however because the 2-0 loss to Dallas on Sunday afternoon means the Whitecaps are looking less and less likely to finish in the top four and more and more likely to be scrapping for fifth or sixth.

There are provisos to be noted for this latest loss of course; searing heat, facing a very good team, facing a very good team who are even better when playing at home.

But there was a disturbing air of familiarity about they way the Vancouver succumbed.

They played a decent first half where they managed the game well (although maybe they were a little too careless in possession) and that gave way to a second half where they were never really in  the game.

Maybe it’s just confirmation bias (or maybe it’s just confirmation) but the Whitecaps frequently seem to start the second period in a kind of mental and physical torpor and they paid for that again when Acosta and Urruti struck just before the hour mark.

The first goal was initially down to giving the ball away cheaply and finally down to David Ousted being beaten too easily on his left hand side (not the first time that has happened this season).

The second was down to Kendall Waston being beaten far too easily for pace following a fairly routine ball over the top.

After that it was about damage control as much as anything else and the game (somewhat understandably) drifted towards a languid conclusion.

In the final analysis a defeat in Dallas isn’t going to be the result that destroys a season, but it is another link in the chain that seems to be tightening around this team and we have to hope that the arrival of David Edgar and Giles Barnes can provide the elsuive spark that has been missing for so much of the campaign.

After all “Doing a Portland Timbers” isn’t a plan, it’s just a prayer aimed at the disinterested (and non-existent) footballing Gods.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Ousted-5, Seiler-5, Parker-6, Waston-5, de Jong-6, Laba-6*, Jacobson-5, Morales- 5, Bolaños-6, Pérez-5, Kudo-5