Vancouver Whitecaps don’t find a way

It’s hard to know what to take away from a game where the Vancouver Whitecaps were so depleted by a combination of injuries, suspensions, visa issues and health and safety protocols.

But, perhaps surprisingly, by the end of the 2-1 defeat in Charlotte it felt like points unnecessarily dropped rather than a brave defeat in the face of impossible odds.

After an initial flurry of attacks following an early Whitecaps goal Charlotte turned out to be pretty terrible at breaking down the Vancouver backline and stand in goalkeeper Max Anchor was more troubled by set-pieces than he was by the opposition creating clear cut chances.

But, just as the game looked to be stumbling to a dull conclusion, Ranko Veselinovic decided that kicking the ball away from his own six yard area was the ungentlemanly thing to do and the game was lost.

That felt like a brutal blow for the rest of the players at the time but maybe if the team as a whole had taken the game to Charlotte a little more such a mistake would have counted for less?

And maybe if they had kept the ball better when they were in possession that kind of tired error wouldn’t have occurred?

Inactions have as many consequences as actions.

This may be a defeat that the coach can point to as caused by the astonishing array of off the field bad luck that is following this team around at the moment. But it was also caused by his team failing to do the basics when it mattered.

They got away with such sloppiness over the recent home stand, but the moving finger of fate is very big on rewrites and ethically appropriate denouements and so it came to pass.

Time for this team to change the script.

It’s also time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Anchor-3, Brown-6*, Veselinovic-3, Jungwirth-5, Godhino-5, Dajome-4, Berhlater-5, Owusu-4, Gauld-5.5, Caicedo-6, Ricketts-4.5 (Teibert-5)

Vancouver Whitecaps work it out

In some ways it’s hard to know how the Whitecaps ended up with all three points from the game against FC Dallas on Wednesday evening.

In the first half Vancouver followed the usual pattern of starting with enthusiasm but then failing to capitalize on half chances before shambolic defending allowed the opposition to score.

But there is an explanation for how the victory was ultimately achieved.

Firstly, Dallas sat deep in the second half and allowed the Whitecaps to gain the momentum they struggled to maintain in the first.

Secondly, the arrival of Brian White and Leonard Owusu provided some much needed energy in the forward line and the midfield.

And, finally, the Whitecaps worked really, really hard.

They didn’t work smart in the way that Dallas did (their pressing was far more systemic than anything Vancouver could ever achieve) but they covered the acreage of BC Place in such a way that they eventually wore the soccer gods down and the deities that we all know exist reluctantly allowed the match official to give a penalty-kick for a foul on Veselinovic and then blow the final whistle much earlier than he probably should have done.

This performance wasn’t a recipe for any kind of future success but it did at least provide the base for a a cake that might be edible once all the ingredients are available.

(That’s a clever reference to the players who aren’t available for those of you with more literal minds than you should have).

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Cropper-6*, Brown-5, Veselinovic, 5, Nerwinski-4, Raposo-3, Guttierez-4.5, Teibert-4, Baldisimo-5, Dajome-5, Caicedo-5, Cavallini-5 (White-5, Owusu-5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: The thrill of the chase

The Vancouver Whitecaps midfield try to prevent another San Jose counter attack.

“The game against TFC was one that the Whitecaps could have lost 3-0, won 3-0, tied 3-3 or any of the variants in between.”

So it was written following the Whitecaps last home MLS game and so it also came to pass on Saturday afternoon as Vancouver and San Jose Keystone Kopped their way to a 3-3 tie.

The first half was less Mack Sennett though and more Senate filibuster as the Whitecaps tried in vain to prevent the passage of the ball through their midfield.

It’s hard to know if the Vancouver defence is just flat out bad or whether they are made to look worse than they are by having no cover from the players in front of them.

It’s probably a little bit of Column A and a little bit of Column B, but it must get tiresome to constantly see the opposition charging toward you while your midfield chases them in vain like, well, like the Keystone Kops.

At half-time Vanni Sartini decided that having two defensive midfielders who can’t defend the midfield is a worse option than having one defensive midfielder and one creative midfielder who can’t defend the midfield and the game exploded into a myriad of examples of why neither of these teams will achieve anything more this season than hoping to squeak into the playoffs with a late burst of good form.

At least it was entertaining.

And it also raised the distinct possibility that Lucas Cavallini may not be a terrible signing after all. While Brian White struggles without a sense of order and competence in the build up play, Cavallini thrives on chaos and he was the catalyst for almost all the good things the Whitecaps did on the day.

The opposite can be said for Cristian Dajome as the Colombian continues to struggle to find any kind of form this year. Maybe that’s the result of being played in so many different positions but, whatever the cause, his decision making and final ball have been consistently poor for too long now.

The impact of Ryan Gauld’s absence can’t be overstated as the Scot makes the rest of the team more “intelligent” by making the runs and passes that force the right on field decision to be made. And neither can the poor off-field off-season be discounted.

Too few deals made too late have left the team at the mercy of the Fates and the Fates rarely have any mercy and so injuries, visa delays and Covid protocols are conspiring to make the Whitecaps merely the sum of some badly assembled parts.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Cropper-5.5, Brown-4, Nerwinski-4, Jungwirth-4.5, Godoy-5, Teibert-3, Berhalter-3, Dajome-2, Raposo-5, White-4, Cavallini-6.5* (Baldisimo-5.5)

More like Lose-ipeg

That was surprisingly comfortable.

The Whitecaps beat Valour FC 2-0 to storm into the quarter-finals of the Canadian Championship at a sparsely attended BC Place on Wednesday evening.

In the first half Vancouver figured out that making any kind of decent run behind the visitor’s backline would open them up and two goals arrived with relative ease.

Then, in the second half, nothing happened. Literally nothing.

In many ways it was a fascinating insight into the void of endless oblivion that is waiting for all of us. Eternity stared into our faces during those forty-five minutes and we could do nothing but stare back, our souls suffused with an unsettling cocktail of awe and dread.

On the positive side a few players got a much needed run out, Lucas Cavallini maintained his yellow card streak and Russell Teibert scored a goal from inside the box.

It was a game that will not be remembered for what it was, but forgotten for what it was not.

But the Whitecaps proved that the age old mottos is correct.

“If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing.”

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Cropper-5, Godinho-5, Nerwinski-4, Jungwirth-5, Veselinovic-5, Baldisimo-5, Teibert-5.5*, Raposo-5.5, Gauld-5.5, Caicedo-5, Cavallini-5 (Berhalter-4,5, Brown-4, White-4, Vite-4)

Vancouver Whitecaps define the terms good and bad

Girls hand writes on the last page of opened sketchbook

The game against TFC was one that the Whitecaps could have lost 3-0, won 3-0, tied 3-3 or any of the variants in between.

But, in the end, it took Lucas Cavallini doing his “Drunken supply teacher joining the grade 7 kickabout” impression that allowed Tosaint Ricketts to slot home a late winner that was both deserved and not deserved.

On the positive side the switch to four at the back didn’t make the defence any worse and it made the attack more potent. Ryan Gauld was back to something close to his best, always looking a threat when he had the ball and attracting swarms of Toronto players with every touch.

Sebastian Berhalter continued to show that he has a decent passing range, Javain Brown got forward with intent and Erik Godoy’s distribution from the back (and willingness to get forward on occasion) improved the overall level of play as much as it did the defensive solidity.

The negative side is that most of the positive sides occurred in the second half. With the Whitecaps once again hesitant to pressure an opponent until they really, really had to.

The spur on this occasion was a penalty-kick that was saved by Thomas Hasal and it would be nice to think that moment will prove to be a turning point for the young keeper while also bearing in mind that he was taken off injured after conceding what looked like a perfectly good goal later in the game only to be saved by the officials.

In retrospect it seem obvious that if the Whitecaps were going to win any game it would be one where the opposition failed to convert from the spot and had a good goal chalked off as well.

But it’s baby steps for this team and three points is three points and there’s at least the glimmer of something stirring in the way they played in patches on Sunday afternoon.

All may not be well but all is not still terrible.

Now can they build on their good fortune?

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Hasal-5, Brown-6, Nerwinski-3.5, Godoy-6, Veselinovic-5, Teibert-4, Berhalter-5, Dajome-3, Caicedo-3.5, Gauld-6.5*, White-5.5 (Cavallini-6, Raposo-5)

No New Variant for the Vancouver Whitecaps

Watching the Vancouver Whitecaps try to play football can be a disconcerting experience at the best of times.

Watching them try to to play football while suffering from a “mild” case of Covid is a different journey altogether.

Fortunately, the unending medication required to keep me conscious also numbed the pain of losing 3-0 to Austin FC and did supply me with a series of fever dream type questions which will have to stand in for the usual analytically brilliant tactical breakdowns you are more accustomed to from this site.

Let the questioning begin!

Why were the men in green running in patterns, while the men in white were running in random directions regardless of where the ball was?

Why did the men in white stop running and just stand still when they got near the men in green’s penalty area?

Why did the coach think that playing Baldisimo as the sole defensive midfielder would work this time when it hasn’t worked on any of the other times he has tried it?

Would it be better to play actual wing-backs in the wing-back role?

Teibert?

If White and Cavallini are playing together shouldn’t there be a plan to get the ball to them?

How can a team have a plan if the coach constantly changes players and where they play?

Is this the first time the Whitecaps players have genuinely given up during a game? There didn’t seem much buy in after the opening burst of attacking activity in each half?

Defending? Should they introduce it as a tactic for the remainder of the season?

How long does Sartini get before the trigger is pulled?

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Hasal-2, Raposo-2, Godinho-2, Veselinivoc-2, Blackmon-2, Nerwinski-2, Baldisimo-2, Teibert-2, Vite-2, Cavallini-2*, White-2 (Berhalter-2, Brown-2, Dajome-2)

Not a perfect day for the Vancouver Whitecaps

From yesterday but now with additional angst.

First let’s say that the decision to call back the Whitecaps last minute equalizer against Montreal was questionable to say the least.

If you’re making offside decisions based on camera angles than those decisions need to be “clear and obvious”. It’s possible the officials saw more than those watching from home did, but either way it was a bitter blow.

Second let’s say that the Whitecaps continue to reap what they sow.

If you’re constantly having to bring on more offensive minded players to chase the game because you are 2-0 down then maybe there is something wrong with the way you are starting the game?

And, while acknowledging the risk of sounding like @AngryCapsfan82037 on Twitter, no team with Russell Teibert as the midfield fulcrum will be able to pressure the opposition the way that Sartini says he wants the Whitecaps to do. A player whose first (second and third) instinct is to look for a pass that moves the ball backwards constantly kills any forward momentum. Why the coach doesn’t see this can be added to the “The Strange and Terrifying Mysteries of the Vancouver Whitecaps” horror compendium.

That wrong thing isn’t just a midfield two with no genuine attacking intent but it ertainly doesn’t help as the forwards were left isolated and alone until the arrival of Vite, Baldisimo et al.

Vite made forward runs with the ball and when Baldisimo received the ball deep he turned around and looked for the forward pass. It’s not hard to see why this made the Whitecaps more likely to score than they were before.

How many times will Sartini watch his team continue to fall behind in games before he cottons on that there’s something systemically wrong? That playing midfielders who can attack is also beneficial to the defence?

Not that the defence are blameless either. Or anybody in the team really.

The inability to concentrate for the full ninety minutes would shame a toddler at a screening of Battleship Potemkin and both halves began with the Vancouver players seemingly still pondering how they would improve the locker room d├ęcor rather than focus on stopping the Montreal players who were busy kicking the ball into the net.

Say it with me.

“Only playing well when you are 2-0 down isn’t a sign of character, it’s a sign of lack of character”.

In the post-game presser yesterday Sartini seemed visibly frustrated/angry with how his players approached the game. Perhaps this will be a turning point? Because he must realize by now that these players will continue to let him down and that weakness will ultimately cost him his job. Something has to change in the way he approaches getting the best out of this team.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Hasal-4, Brown-2, Dajome-2, Veselinovic-3, Blackmon-3, Nerwinski-4, Teibert-3, Berhalter-5, Gauld-3, Caicedo-2, White-4 (Cavallini-4, Vite-5*)

The Honeymoon is Officially Over

How long will it be before Vanni Sartini changes the things that aren’t working? Will he change the things that aren’t working?

The inverted wing-backs, players at wing-back who aren’t wing-backs, constantly changing the personnel in the back three (in front of an inexperienced goalkeeper no less), playing two central midfielders who have no meaningful attacking intent.

Every game creates an unnecessary problem which then needs to be solved in the next.

Not that all the deficiencies fall on the head of the coach.

On Saturday the Portland Timbers purposefully slowed the game down at the start and the Whitecaps just let them do it. What should have been an opportunity to force the issue against a Timbers team who were out of form became another example of the Whitecaps allowing the opposition to dictate how the game was played.

They lack the on field leadership to recognize such problems and solve them on the fly.

A Roy Keane type figure or a Roy Kent or a Roy of the Rovers or a Rob Roy or a Logan Roy or a Roy Orbison or a…..look just sign somebody named Roy!

I don’t know how many times this has to be said, but only starting to play with purpose when you are two goals down isn’t a sign of character. It’s a sign of the absence of character.

Nor was Sartini helped by the clubs inability to improve the squad over the close season. The thinking seems to have been that the good run at the end of 2021 bought time to take stock when, in reality, it was the ideal time push forward.

Now we wait for the potential summer signing to provide the potential increase in quality that was needed four months earlier.

Three consecutive road games could see Vancouver looking down the barrel of another wasted season before May decides to make an appearance in the calendar.

So much time wasted by unforced errors in every department.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!

Hasal-4, Raposo-3, Dajome-3, Veselinovic-4.5, Jungwirth-4.5, Gutierrez-4.5, Berhalter-4, Teibert-2, Gauld-5*, Caicedo-4, White-4

Vancouver Whitecaps: Better at home

Well that was better.

The 1-0 won over Sporting Kansas City wasn’t perfect by any means but at least the Whitecaps looked as though they had practiced playing football together over the previous few days. Nobody was outstanding but, more importantly, nobody was terrible.

At first look the decision to pair Nerwinski and Raposo on the left seemed to be another case of Sartini being quirky for the sake of being quirky (and eventually every Vancouver coach is sacrificed on the altar of “looked good in training”) but it worked out fine.

That was helped somewhat by Kansas being surprisingly poor and the return of Brian White helping the side to keep their shape and for most of the game it was simply being unable to find the right final ball that prevented the home side finding the net.

Ironically that right final ball arrived with the departure of White and Gauld as Baldisimo jinked a chip shot over the Kansas defence for Raposo and Cavallini to fight over before Raposo stabbed home.

Cavallini certainly seems more engaged (or just fitter?) this season, but he still operates in his own private universe that tends to drag his teammates into places they don’t want to be.

Elsewhere, nobody needed a decent game more than Javain Brown and that’s what he had. He was never really troubled defensively and offered a threat going forward.

And Sebastian Berhalter seems to be an upgraded version of Russell Teibert; defensively minded but with more recognition of what’s happening ahead of him.

It still feels as though the coach is struggling to settle on the exact formation he wants his team to play and that he’s struggling to fit a few disparate pieces into a functioning whole, but this game was a foundation for acceptable competence.

Defend well and get the ball forward quickly.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Hasal-5, Brown-6, Blackmon-6, Veselinovic-6*, Nerwinski-6, Raposo-6, Teibert-5.5, Blackmon-6, Caicedo-5, Gauld-6, White-6 (Cavallini-6, Vite-5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Exhuming McCarthy

We can safely sum up the start that the Vancouver Whitecaps have made to the new season as “not ideal”.

Sure the games have been against tough opponents and injuries to key players have taken their toll. But it’s never a good sign when excuses are being deployed this early in the campaign and the window for getting things right has been reduced greatly by the single point earned from the first four games.

So let’s take a look at where some of the the issues are and by “take a look at where some of the issues are” I mean “name names and throw individuals under the bus”.

Vanni Sartini- It’s possible that Sartini’s success last season was down to a combination of a change being as good as a rest for the players and a healthy dose of good fortune. But he also built that success on having a specific way of playing and sticking to it no matter who was available to fill the role.

This led to some odd decisions but it provided the Whitecaps with the degree of certainty they had lacked under Dos Santos. No more adapting to the opposition game in and game out. This is how we play and this how we will play.

Suddenly however the coach has been beset by the urge to switch things up. Inverted wing-backs to help bolster the midfield. One man or two men up front or one man and two men behind the striker.

The certainty is gone and the team are, once again, testing their tactics afresh in each new game.

The injuries to Gauld and White have no doubt had an impact on these decisions but Sartini now feels like a man who is over thinking things because he has a position to protect rather than a man who is doing what he believes in because there is nothing to lose.

Time to get back to what worked.

Cristian Dajome- It’s arguable that Dajome has been Vancouver’s most important player over the last two seasons. Always raising his game when the team were in trouble and chipping in with the occasional crucial goal.

This season though he feels like a man out of place.

Getting the best out of Dajome means giving him space to run into and the only way that’s possible right now is in the wing-back role. That lessens his impact even if he’s on the right, but the inverted wing-back role effectively kills it.

The long term solution to these positions should be Brown and Gutierrez which leaves Dajome looking like a stop gap even if he does prosper.

He probably works best as a wide player in a front three, but see above re Sartini avoiding moving things around to accommodate individual players. But playing Dajome as the lone forward when White isn’t available wouldn’t be a terrible idea.

Lucas Cavallini- It can’t be often that Cavallini is compared to Cristiano Ronaldo but he does pose a similar problem to the Whitecaps as Ronaldo poses to Manchester United.

A big name signing who is totally unsuitable to the tactical ethos the team are/were trying to build.

Cavallini can press the opposition defenders but not for a sustained period of time which effectively defeats the point.

He’s also proved himself incapable of sticking to any kind of tactical plan. Where Brian White works hard and “stays in his lane” Cavallini works hard and wanders over fields and meadows to chase the ball and, more often than not, finds himself in the ideal position to cross the ball to the place where he should have been all the time.

He’s a kind of Bizarro World goal poacher. A player who frequently places himself in the position where he is least likely to score while simultaneously getting in the way of everybody else.

Russell Teibert- The weird thing is that Teibert himself isn’t the problem. He’s a functional midfielder who should be doing a job as a useful player to bring off the bench or use in the games when the first choice midfield need a rest.

The problem is that the Whitecaps have somehow failed to find a better central midfielder than him despite having the whole world to search and over a decade to locate this seemingly enigmatic creature.

No team can win anything, or even just do okay, if the midfield offers nothing of value other than earnest looks and futile hustle.

If that problem isn’t solved then all else is in vain.