“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”
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)