The first game of any new season is, at best, a vague foreshadowing of what is to come but for the Vancouver Whitecaps Sunday’s game against Montreal is likely to be even less instructive than that.
One week ago there was the sense that the Whitecaps had finally built a team specifically designed to play in a manner suited to the way Carl Robinson likes to set up his side but then, two days before the season opener, that was all blown out of the water by the signings of Jordon Mutch and Felipe Martins.
Both are the kind of box to box midfielder the coach has consistently said he would like in his team without ever giving any indication that he wanted the players at his disposal to play in that way.
So it will be interesting to see how Mutch and Felipe are used.
Unless he’s suddenly been possessed by the spirit of Pep Guardiola it’s hard to see Robinson fielding a team filled with false number nine’s so the likelihood is that Mutch and Felipe will either share the playing time or at least one of them will be asked to curb their attacking instinct.
That still leaves a whole host of questions around how the team will be set up and who will still be in and who will mostly be out but it does feel slightly bizarre to be stocking up on central midfielders at the very moment Vancouver have finally acquired a target man who loves to feed off crosses from the flanks.
There will be injuries and suspensions and international duty of course but Robinson’s much vaunted (mostly by himself) ability to keep players happy will be severely put to the test.
It’s unlikely that either Mutch or Felipe will feature against Montreal which probably means we’ll see the more familiar setting of 4-2-3-1 with Juarez and Teibert sitting deep and Davies, Techera and Reyna playing behind Kamara.
Perhaps the main question (besides who will play alongside Kendall Waston in central defence) is whether the coach can figure out a way to make use of the expected crowd of 27,000.
This is the first game back at BC Place since that performance against Seattle which saw the sheer lack of ambition of the Whitecaps kill the atmosphere and any semblance of home advantage along with it.
There’s at least a chance that they will come out of the traps flying on Sunday though and an early goal would force Montreal forward which is basically tactical catnip to the way Vancouver play.
If that early breakthrough doesn’t come however let’s hope the Whitecaps don’t pull back into the shell of defensive security that has been their wont in recent seasons.
Right now it’s hard to ignore the suspicion that the recent flurry of moves have been based on who was available rather than who was needed or wanted, but the second best case scenario for Sunday is that the Whitecaps post an entertaining win that provides Robinson some time to integrate the new signings into his team before the Galaxy arrive here later in the month.
The best case scenario is me winning the 50/50.