Dallas let Bernie in and the Whitecaps feast

“Once you taste the geometry of a church in a cul-de-sac

you’re going to want to sit with the bad kids in the back”

Dallas-Silver Jews

It’s hard to say exactly what the Silver Jews meant in that lyric but it makes at least as much sense as the Vancouver Whitecaps travelling to Dallas in the heat of July and coming away with a 4-0 win.

But that’s what happened on Saturday evening and although Dallas may well point to a penalty kick and a red card as being decisive, the reality is that both decisions were correct and the Whitecaps were the better team before either and both incidents.

So what went right?

Well, either Carl Robinson made a series of brilliant tactical changes or he left out a few senior players for a game he didn’t think his team could win and somehow produced a nugget of gold from the base metal of pragmatic squad rotation.

But the coach gets the criticism when things go wrong so he deserves the praise when he gets it very, very right as his side produced a textbook road performance.

Actually, “textbook” doesn’t seem strong enough a term. It was more a “textbook that has all the answers in the back and incriminating pictures of the examiners in the dust cover just in case” road performance.

Having Kendall Waston back in central defence certainly helped and both Williams and de Jong provided steady if unspectacular cover in the full back positions.

In central midfield Laba had one of his better games at breaking up play and Tony Tchani is beginning to establish himself as a neat player who will almost always take the simplest pass available (but in a good way).

It was in the forward line though that the Whitecaps really looked like a fresh team with Ibini, Shea, Reyna and Montero displaying the kind of movement that has been sorely missing.

Reyna played closer to Montero than anybody else has this season and it can’t be a coincidence that the Colombian subsequently had his best game for the Whitecaps.

Reyna’s willingness to run at defenders also offered something new for an attack that, for once, didn’t rely on the hopeful punt forward to create chances.

It’s far too small a sample size to make any kind of definitive judgement but it may be that the Reyna, Montero axis will work better with “natural” rather than “inverted” wide players since that should force the opposition defence to play less narrow in the centre allowing Reyna room to run and Montero room to both create and poach.

After the 1-0 win in Los Angeles I wrote that the game appeared to be a turning point in the Whitecaps season and they promptly followed that up with a display against Portland that was so devoid of anything positive that it almost qualified as a piece of performance art.

That can’t be allowed to happen again but how Robinson selects his next team is anybody’s guess because there were at least four players in Dallas who made a very good case for being drafted in from the fringes and offered another chance at a role in the main production.

Let’s just enjoy this game for now though, ending as it did with Nicolas Mezquida nutmegging the goalkeeper with an overhead kick from a ludicrously tight angle.

It was just that kind of night.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

Ousted-6.5, Williams-6.5, de Jong-6.5, Waston-6.5, Parker-6.5, Laba-6.5, Tcahni-6.5, Shea-6, Ibini-6.5, Reyna-6.5, Montero-7*, (Techera-6)


Whitecaps v Rapids: What did we learn?

So I was beginning to develop an embryo of a theory which vaguely posited the assertion that Major League Soccer had evolved from one form of creature to another.

Maybe it wasn’t quite a fully fledged invertebrate yet but it had at least emerged coughing and spluttering on to the beach and was definitely beginning to think about using those newly acquired lungs that the persistent sales-octopus had sworn were bound to be the next big thing.

In other words, MLS was developing a very definite hierarchy with a handful of teams pulling away from the rest and the rest being separated into the “mostly looking up the table” or “mostly looking down the table” categories.

Unfortunately actual results have tended to thwart this particular theory and though we can perhaps class Toronto, Dallas and maybe New York City, Kansas and Portland/Orlando as comfortably belonging in the upper echelons the rest of the pack are still fighting for their places in the standings like coked up ferrets in a sack full of white hot rivets

So what was interesting about the Whitecaps win in Colorado was that it was Vancouver who were able to introduce difference makers from the bench with Mezquida and Shea linking up for the winner in addition to the inevitable Alphonso Davies hype fest (HypeFest is like FyreFest but with better catering).

And now that the Whitecaps have announced the signing of Bernie Ibini from the Australian A-League that ability to change the game late on has increased again.

Now, there are two ways of looking at the recent acquisitions of the club.

The first is that they are demonstrating a remarkable lack of imagination in constantly signing players who are essentially hybrid winger/forwards and thus creating a one size fits all approach to tactics that will eventually lead to a dearth of flexibility in the approach to any game.

The other view is that there is a deliberate policy of recruiting exactly the kind of players who can be switched in and out of the team without altering either the shape or flow of the side.

It also provides the opportunity to better recreate what we saw in Colorado; late introductions that can change a game.

Carl Robinson already had this weapon at his disposal to some degree with Manneh and Hurtado but the hope has to be that the recent additions are a step up (in either quality or consistency).

Even then they are probably still over reliant on Fredy Montero to sniff out goals where none seemed to exist and the “there’s definitely a plan to the signings” narrative may be based more on wishful thinking than concrete evidence.

But there’s definitely a plan to the signings!