Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the Vancouver Whitecaps 2-1 defeat to Real Salt Lake on Saturday evening was that there was something in it for everybody.
If you think the Whitecaps are on the right track with their new signings you can point to a first half in which they were easily the better team.
If you think there are core issues that still need to be resolved you can point to another failure to break down a defensive opponent.
It’s hard to convey just how poor Real Salt Lake were (particularly in the first half) but there were times when Vancouver looked to be at least a division above them in terms of quality and organization.
But the Whitecaps couldn’t turn that dominance into goals (or even any clear-cut chances) and a late defensive lack of concentration in the first half and a late breakaway goal in the second half were enough to stave off a very, very late goal from Brek Shea.
In hindsight (and probably with some foresight too) it’s hard to know why Shea didn’t get the start given his road form and aside from one surging run Bernie Ibini offered little attacking threat.
And the same went for Alphonso Davies on the left as he reverted to consistently taking the wrong option with his final pass. It looks like it’s going to be two steps forward and one step back for the kid this season.
It certainly hampers a team built on the importance of the cross to have two wide players who aren’t actually all that good at crossing and the two best deliverers of the ball on the team (de Jong and Nerwinski) aren’t getting forward enough to make their presence genuinely felt.
And that can be the only reason why Kei Kamara felt the need to drift wide so often.
As the second half progressed Salt Lake were content to turn the whole affair into a de facto home game for the Whitecaps and so sat deep content in the knowledge they wouldn’t be broken down.
It’s not hard to see why they would do that given their form and it’s not hard to see why Vancouver failed to breach their back line but it is kind of baffling why Carl Robinson isn’t prepared to throw the dice on something new when things aren’t working out in that way.
Felipe does a decent job of neat passing and the occasional through ball when sitting deep but to have your best passer of the ball closer to your own penalty area than your opponent’s when trying to find an elusive goal doesn’t really make much sense.
And can we now consign “moving Alphonso Davies to left back” to the dustbin of tactical history?
It doesn’t create more offensive chances and it just makes the defence weaker, as outlined by Davies losing his man on the second Salt Lake goal.
Next week the Whitecaps face LAFC, a team who seem determined to play every game in the most open manner possible so the chances are there will be chances and goals galore at BC Place on Friday.
But following the rather impressive performance in Columbus the Whitecaps regressed to their traditional mean in Salt Lake.
A well organized team who don’t really know how to break down a well organized team.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.
Marinovic-5.5, Nerwinski-6*, de Jong-5.5, Waston-5.5, Aja-5.5, Juarez-4.5, Felipe-5, Ibini-4.5, Davies-5, Mezquida-4, Kamara-6