Portland v Vancouver: What did we learn?

So I was listening to the new WhaleBone Shampoo album the other evening (“Restructuring the Forest” only available on vinyl through the “Perplexed” record label) and while the majority of the tracks are minor updates on the mashup of Trap music and Eastern European influenced Psychobilly that made their debut album “A Carwash for Dr. Ernst Janning” such essential listening it was the title track that I found so compelling.

This was clearly the band stepping away from their comfort zone and featured a kind of Kraftwerkesque electronica backing while individual members took turns in reading out random abstracts from past editions of National Geographic magazine.

Does it work?

Probably not, but it is at least an attempt to create something of an escape clause for the band; something that extends beyond the already slightly tired boundaries of their debut offering.

And as I was listening to that song it made me cast my mind back to the Whitecaps 2-1 defeat in Portland last weekend and then when I further heard Jordan Harvey being interviewed in a post-scrimmage scrum and listened to him opine that the team had vowed to break away from the defensive structure of previous years when it came to road games it made me re-evaluate what had gone before.

So let’s review.

A defeat in San Jose which only came about when David Ousted was red carded after Vancouver had sped into a 2-0 lead.

A mess of a game and a performance in Salt Lake in which an untried three at the back system was utilized with disastrous results.

And finally the recent Portland game where 4-1-4-1 was the order of the day with Andrew Jacobson playing as the most forward thinking central midfielder.

Now, we may not like much of what we’ve seen in those games (and we certainly haven’t liked the results) but there are clear indications that Carl Robinson is desperately trying to break away from the fetters of that old 4-2-3-1 routine that pretty much every other coach in the league figured out how to play against as early as September of 2015.

Much like listening to members of WhaleBone Shampoo earnestly reciting disconnected phrases about the lost tribe of Sapanahua and the latest breakthrough in mosquito repellent we have to acknowledge that, even if we don’t necessarily rejoice in the final cut that made it through the editing process, we should at least rejoice in the willingness of those involved to stretch their boundaries.

So it’s probably time to cut the coach some slack and hope that he continues with this experimental phase of his coaching career and to really, really hope that it produces something more tangible than interesting tactical variations in the very near future because the alternative is too awful to consider.

A return to the kind of road games where the Whitecaps sit back and sit back in the hope that nothing at all ever happens.

And it never, ever did.


Vancouver Whitecaps: Does the captain matter?

With the Whitecaps still to announce who will replace Pedro Morales as the team captain it at least begs the question of whether it’s at all relevant who is in possession of the armband.

As is so often the case around here the answer to that question is “it depends” because context is everything.

There are some teams where it really doesn’t matter.

Make any player captain of the current Juventus or Chelsea squads for example and it won`t make a difference because they are both experienced, well-balanced squads with clear ideas about what thy are expected to do on the field.

But the Whitecaps didn’t fit that description in 2016 and they likely won’t in 2017 either so who Carl Robinson chooses for the role actually will matter. Not least because of the slightly bizarre behaviour we’ve seen from Morales himself on social media recently.

It’s hard not to conclude that Pedro was a destabilizing presence last year and that, at the very least, a small number of players will have lost respect for him.

That loss of respect may even have seeped through to the coach who selected him and you can bet the players will be a little more interested in who is chosen than would normally be the case.

Will Robinson once again opt for simply naming the highest paid player as team captain? That seems unlikely given that Fredy Montero has only just arrived at the club which leaves the coach with a far more interesting decision.

In his ideal world he would probably have named David Edgar to the position; experienced, vocal and not at the club long enough to have fallen into one clique or another.

But Edgar’s long-term injury takes that option off the table, so the choice will now have to be made from one of last season’s regular starters with Harvey, Waston and Ousted being the most obvious contenders.

There are issues with each one though.

Ousted’s public spat with Pedro must have put a few noses out of place among friends of the latter. So selecting Ousted would put Robinson firmly on one side of the camp and risk exacerbating the tensions of last year.

Waston’s disciplinary record doesn’t bode well in a potential captain and furthermore if any player needed to focus solely on their own play this year then that player would be Waston.

That leaves Jordan Harvey who has the positives of being likeable and honest in post game interviews (something that the language barrier made it impossible for Morales to do) but the negatives are largely that he isn’t the most vocal of players on the pitch.

Tries his heart out sure, can organize a defence definitely, but probably not an imposing enough figure to take control of the whole team.

Still, his work rate would at least be a good example to the rest and given the somewhat limited other options available to him Robinson may have to conclude that if his captain isn’t going to be a transformative figure on the field he can at least pick the player who would do the least harm.

That looks to be Jordan Harvey.