Vancouver Whitecaps in Familiar Territory

So the Vancouver Whitecaps played reasonably well in Dallas to earn their third 2-2 tie in a row.

Sure the defence still looked capable of conceding whenever they were put under any pressure and Brek Shea and Bernie Ibini offered virtually nothing in the wide areas and both Brett Levis and Jake Nerwinski showed the folly of leaving them out of the side for too long a period.

But Teibert and Felipe were neat in  the centre of the field on a day when keeping possession was essential given the Texan heat and Yordy Reyna once again demonstrated that his sudden bursts of pace can unsettle any team.

All the good looked to be for nought however once Dallas took a two goal lead with just over ten minutes to go but an own goal and a penalty kick (with the last kick of the game) were enough to earn the Whitecaps an unlikely but deserved point.

Can this result be a turning point for the season?

That depends on how coach Carl Robinson approaches the rest of the campaign. He was brave to stick with 4-4-2 at such a difficult place to visit and it ultimately paid off.

But from the limited evidence of this game it may be that the movement of Anthony Blondell is better suited to that formation than the back to goal style of Kei Kamara.

There’s no way that will happen of course but it would be interesting to see Blondell and Reyna get a run of games playing together as the front two because they both do the one thing the rest of the Whitecaps seem to find it so hard to accomplish; move off the ball.

It’s also clear that the best midfield two right now are Teibert and Felipe but, once again, that requires the coach to leave a shed load of salary sitting on the bench and that brings all kind of problems in terms of squad harmony as well as questioning the way this team was built in the off season.

What can’t continue to happen is the kind of mix and match team selection we’ve had all season where players are given no real chance to get to know each other in a competitive game.

It’s hard to know if we should be cautiously optimistic or optimistically cautious after that game but if the coach can settle on a starting eleven, stick with it bar one or two necessary changes and give them the okay to play football then the season may not be the right off it so clearly seemed to be.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

Rowe-5, Nerwinski-5, Levis-5, Waston-5, Aja-5, Teibert-6*, Felipe-6, Ibini-3.5, Shea-3.5, Reyna-6, Kamara-5 (Davies, 5 Blondell-6)

Vancouver Whitecaps need a Kamara

The good news is that the Whitecaps have at least realised that signing players who fit with Carl Robinson’s style of play is an eminently sensible approach.

After the announcement of Anthony Blondell a few days ago the club has now added Kei Kamara to the mix (and, indeed, the mixer).

The bad news is that the Kamara signing feels a little bit like opening your main gift on Christmas morning and finding you are now the proud owner of an iPhone5C.

I mean, it will do the job and everything but it’s just it would have been better to have received it at least a couple of years ago when it was a little more state of the art and a little less in a state of repair.

Both the club and Robinson have been keen to emphasise both how suited Kamara is to the way they play and (once more with feeling) how “good he is in the locker room”.

The obsession with constantly repeating this phrase for every new signing aside the actual evidence suggests that Kamara can sometimes be “challenging” in the locker room just as much as “good” and one area where the coach has seemed to yet really find his feet is in dealing with big personalities who aren’t totally content with events both on and off the field.

That dynamic could be an interesting one to watch.

Perhaps more interesting than the Kamara signing is that ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle has indicated that the Whitecaps are still trying to bring Fredy Montero back on loan from his Chinese club for the 2018 season.

Granted this policy of stocking up on proven but ageing MLS forwards isn’t the most exciting or imaginative way of doing business and there’s a degree of short-termism which bodes ill for the long run.

But seeing Montero play slightly deeper behind Kamara with (and this is very much up in the air given the circumstances) Reyna on the left side and Blondell as cover wouldn’t be a bad way of doing things.

But if neither Montero or Reyna are back next season then there’s suddenly an alarming lack of any genuine creativity around the opposition penalty area.

That may not bother Robinson all that much given how well his team fared in the standings in 2017 but the odds of him catching the lightning in a bottle of set-piece goals and a couple of very against the run of play road wins isn’t the foundation for a successful season.

Time will tell as more arrivals and departures unfold in the coming weeks but, as it stands, Vancouver have made a couple of useful additions in the forward area.

That’s good I guess.

Vancouver Whitecaps: At the time of writing

Yes, we are currently in the “at the time of writing” phase of the year in which there’s always the disconcerting sense that as soon as the hapless hack hits “publish” the Whitecaps announce an arrival or departure that nullifies just about everything written.

But, when you think about it, isn’t the whole of life lived through the “at the time of writing” lens?

Every choice we make, every decision we decide upon is subject to the constant flux of an ever-changing world.

And isn’t “constant flux of an ever-changing world” just a pretentious way of saying the same thing twice?

And isn’t asking rhetorical questions just a tedious way of padding out a post that actually has very little to say?

All points well worth considering.

But here’s where we stand with the Vancouver Whitecaps squad rebuild/rebrand right now.

Anthony Blondell will definitely arrive from Venezuela and extensive YouTube viewings imply he may be the kind of big and strong striker to suit Carl Robinson’s preferred style of play.

It was somewhat disconcerting to hear the coach comment that Blondell “can also play out wide” since it brought to mind visions of a misplaced centre-forward lumbering down the wing in the desperate hope of earning a set-piece opportunity.

But hopefully it won’t come to that and Blondell will be looking forward to really getting to know the underside of the giant video board at BC Place as he waits for yet another lofted clearance to finally drop.

Things don’t bode so well for Fredy Montero’s return since all public utterances from the club are somewhere along the lines of a shrug and a smile to indicate there is nothing they can do but sit and wait for a phone call from China.

That would be a shame for two reasons.

Firstly Montero pretty much guarantees goals and secondly because it would have been interesting to see him play in a slightly deeper role behind Blondell as the kind of genuine number ten that Yordy Reyna just isn’t.

The centre of midfield is the most baffling right now.

All the indications are that Nosa Igiebor won’t be back which would make his brief tenure at the club genuinely bizarre.

He was only really introduced to the team for the playoffs, was named the best player of the first half in Seattle by Robinson himself and then that would be that for his Whitecaps career.

It’s hard to believe there wasn’t an agreement in place for next season so either we have to believe the unbelievable or assume one or other of the parties have decided that the said agreement doesn’t look quite so tempting after all.

Weird.

Russell Teibert might be back as the Whitecaps declined his option but are still in discussions with a player who didn’t even make the bench in either of the two final games against Seattle.

Why the club or Teibert would want that relationship to continue is a mystery.

If the squad improves then Teibert necessarily slips even further down the pecking order and the player himself must want more for his career than the occasional run out in games the coach has decided don’t really matter.

And the signing of David Norman Jr to an MLS contract means Teibert can’t even think of himself as the young Canadian hope in the centre of the pitch anymore.

There are some who argue that Teibert is an important part of the club’s public presence in the city but they are wrong.

It’s hard to see Matias Laba returning given his long-term injury and while Christian Bolaños may be tempted to take a lesser deal the chances are that at least one other MLS coach will fancy their chances to get more out of the Costa Rican international than Carl Robinson did.

That would make Brek Shea the current first choice on the left side and (assuming Montero and Laba do leave) the only Designated Player on the team.

That’s probably meaningless in real terms since Shea is very much at the lower level of the DP scale but it screams volumes about the ambition of the club.

So the plan has to be to move Shea on and invest serious money in at least two players of genuine quality.

That has to be the plan right?