Oh Whitecaps, Where Art Thou?

A Max Crepeau reflexive save
Not standing for the the accursed wave
A penalty shout, an offside call
I miss them all, I miss them all

A referee in need of glasses
Russell Teibert’s backward passes
A careless gap in a defensive wall
I miss them all, I miss them all

The wins the ties, the brutal losses
Jake Nerwinski’s hopeful crosses
A forward who can’t help but fall
I miss them all, I miss them all

A journeyman with two left feet,
A well timed and sarcastic tweet
A melee that becomes a brawl
I miss them all, I miss them all

Yordy Reyna’s legs like pistons
I much prefer to social distance
The line for beer that seems to crawl
I miss them all, I miss them all

Though quarantine may lead to purity
I yearn for the touch of BC Place Security
A cold and broken washroom stall
I miss them all, I miss them all

An In-Beom Hwang goal celebration
Appeals much more than isolation
A decision that’s too close to call
I miss them all, I miss them all

The supporter’s flags as they’re unfurling
A game delayed because of curling
These things held me in their thrall
And I miss them all, I miss them all

I’m sick of Crave, I’m sick of Netflix
I want corners and I want free-kicks
I can watch no more of Better Call Saul
So I miss them all, I miss them all

An Ali Adnan shot that’s blasted
The joyful shout of “You fat bastard”
A misplaced pass, a nice through ball
I miss them all, I miss them all

When they return I’l be more forgiving
For what’s a life without the living?
And what’s a foot without the ball?
I miss them all, I miss them all

Vancouver Whitecaps show the quality we were looking for

Well that was better.

After the home opener debacle of last week the Vancouver Whitecaps put in a perfectly competent performance to defeat a particularly poor LA Galaxy side on Saturday evening.

This time around the Whitecaps played as though they had a game plan.  They didn’t allow themselves to be dominated in midfield and didn’t allow each individual section of the team to become isolated from the others.

There was much talk before the game about the introduction of Andy Rose to provide experience and calm to both the back line and the side as a whole.

It’s hard to quantify just how calming that influence was, but it may be worth the BC Government keeping Rose on call so that he can helicopter in to any of the various Costco locations where people seem to be under the impression that toilet paper is the key to survival.

“Hello everyone, I’m Andy Rose and I’m here to tell you that five rolls of toilet paper per day is enough for even the most highly strung of families.”

Elsewhere, Janio Bikel made the kind of debut at right back that makes one think he will be a regular starter sooner rather than later and Ryan Raposo made the the kind of substitute appearance that makes one think that if it wasn’t enough to make him a regular starter, it was enough to make him one of the first options from the bench in future games.

Not that there weren’t still issues.

The Whitecaps can’t keep relying on Ali Adnan to be their main provider and In-Beom once again displayed a remarkable ability to make the wrong decision whenever he did get in to any kind of dangerous position.

Perhaps is is time for him to adopt the “Costanza Strategy’?  If every instinct he has is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

Vancouver also got lucky in playing a team who have bought a star forward who is specifically known for his prowess at finishing without really seeming to have thought about how those chances will be created for him.

But, on a completely different note, it was another unremarkable outing for Lucas Cavallini. One that he topped off with a penalty miss that was only somewhat less embarrassing than Ali Adnan’s against the same opponent last season.

Have the Whitecaps scouted the Galaxy and somehow decided that kicking the ball slowly toward the goalkeeper is an effective spot kick technique? If so, they are very, very wrong.

But now is not the time to dwell on negativity. There will be ample opportunity for such wallowing in future games.

Now is the time to enjoy a performance that indicated the Whitecaps can play in the style that Marc Dos Santos wants them to, that the new arrivals and the young players can make the team better and that they may not be the pushovers they so often were last season.

The next big test is to see whether they can perform as effectively at home when the onus will be on them to make the running.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6, Bikel-6, Adnan-6, Rose-6, Khmiri-6, In-Beom-5, Teibert-5, Milinkovic-4, Dajome-5, Ricketts-6*, Cavallini-4, (Raposo-6)

 

Vancouver Whitecaps can’t change their habits

If Marc Dos Santos had taken the trouble to contact me for advice before the start of the season (And, like you, I’m slightly baffled as to why that call was never made) the first thing I would have said following my 3½-4 hour PowerPoint presentation would have been to emphasize that the buzz phrase for 2020 would need to be “Buy in”.

Buy in to his tactics from the players and buy in to the project as a whole from the supporters.

After all, before the 2019 season we were promised an exciting side that would play an aggressive high press but, once the cleats hit the turf, the team turned into an incoherent mess of individuals playing in their own sweet and sour way.

So this season things had to be different.

Thus we were promised an exciting side that would play an aggressive high press but, once the cleats hit the turf, the team turned into an incoherent mess of individuals playing in their own sweet and sour way.

Oh dear.

The 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City wasn’t disheartening because the performance was so poor, it was disheartening because it felt as though not one single lesson had been learned.

The Whitecaps faced their home opener with a 22,000 crowd as though the main objective was just to get through the whole experience without doing anything too ambitious.

As though the crowd and the occasion were things to be blocked out rather than built on.

The whole performance was marked by nothing less than lack of courage. Lack of courage when not on the ball as, once again, the press disintegrated when faced with the harsh reality of a game that mattered and lack of courage when on the ball.

Most of the time the man in possession was left with no out pass other than a speculative forward ball making Lucas Cavallini the most recent resident of the solitary island that only exists in the world of the Whitecaps. An island beyond heat maps, an island in which the inhabitants crane their necks as random footballs fall from the sky with unpredictable frequency.

Not that the formation or tactics helped anybody.

Playing out of the back isn’t really playing out of the back if it just consists of Russell Teibert collecting the ball from the central defender and then giving it back to him but, if we have to play that way and if In-Beom has to play so deep, then why isn’t he the one in charge of distribution?

Not that he was any good either of course. In most recent interviews In- Beom seems to have the urge to mention Europe as a future destination. We can only assume that this is in relation to vacation planning rather than as a career prospect given the way he shirked any real responsibility on Saturday.

And there was something enervating about watching Cristian Dajome plow his furrow on the right wing.

The latest in a long line of Vancouver wide players who flatter with their pace while being blissfully unaware of those around him or paying attention to the final ball.

Were there any good points?

Milinkovic did well for the goal and it was astonishing to see a full back in the opposition six yard box during open play to complete the move.

But, just as the Whitecaps relinquished the advantage to Kansas at the start of the game, then so they relinquished the advantage once they equalized.

Forever happy with trying to get by on just enough and never pushing themselves to do more.

There are still players to come in and this was only the first game of the season, but we’ve all been through this movie before.

The occasional three points on the road thanks to backs to the wall defending and an against the run of play counter-attack. A late equalizer at home that is somehow argued exhibits the character of the team and makes us all think that a turnaround is coming.

But the turnaround isn’t coming and it never will. Not if the foundation of what happens on the field is so flawed.

The Whitecaps have spent the off season making hay on the fact that their off the field operations will no longer tolerate under performance or the abdication of responsibility that have characterized the club for years.

But that culture still seems to be a long way away from the on field product.

Because the performance on Saturday reeked of a group of coaches and players who aren’t brave enough to push through to the next level.

They were out-thought, out-worked and out-played.

It was embarrassing to watch.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-4, Nerwinski-5, Khmiri-2, Cornelius-3, Teibert-3, In-Beom-2, Dajome-2, Milinkovic-5*, Cavallini-4, Reyna-4

 

Vancouver Whitecaps out punch the Galaxy

In many ways the LA Galaxy are the Platonic deal of what an MLS team shouldn’t be.

No recognizable tactical plan. No sense of how to defend in anything approaching an organized manner. But shed loads of money thrown at big name forwards who are able to do just enough to force the team into the playoffs and so give them a puncher’s chance of winning the whole caboodle.

But wait.

Because in many ways it’s the Vancouver Whitecaps who are really the Platonic ideal of what an MLS shouldn’t be.

A tactical plan that doesn’t take into account the strengths of the players available.  No sense of how to set up a midfield in anything approaching an organized manner. And no money thrown around to sign big name forwards who are able to do just enough to force the team into the playoffs and so give them a puncher’s chance of winning the whole caboodle.

And the two competing philosophies met in a surprisingly entertaining game in LA on Sunday evening with, somewhat improbably, the Whitecaps beating the Galaxy 4-3 in a contest of who could score the most in a ludicrously open game.

That’s probably being a little harsh on Vancouver in this particular instance because they did at least look as though they had a game plan, which was to negate Ibrahimovic and to always look to hit the Galaxy on the break as quickly as possible.

And it worked (just).

Possibly because for the first time in a long time the Whitecaps were playing a team with a midfield as poor as their own, with both Rose and Teibert finding themselves in the kinds of open spaces they haven’t enjoyed all season.

Jasser Khmiri finally made his debut in the centre of defence and had a decent game (although one of the weirder tropes of this season is that most defenders can often be said to have “had a decent game”, while the team concede goals with astonishing regularity. Individual competence doesn’t equate to collective cohesion I suppose).

And Erik Godoy offered another example of why he should return next season as he filled in at right back and already has one more assist in 2019 than Nerwinski and Sutter combined.

Goals for Chirinos and Ricketts surely won’t tip the balance when the decision comes to stick or twist on them in the off season, but anything that makes any of us feel a little bit better about this team is very welcome indeed.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-5, Godoy-5.5, Henry-5, Khmiri-5.5, Levis-4.5, Rose-5.5, Teibert-5.5, In-Beom-6*, Bair-5, Chirinos-5, Ricketts- 4.5 (PC-5, Montero-5).

 

Vancouver Whitecaps still a not so solid crew

Of all the dispiriting games of a dispiriting season the 1-1 tie with the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon at BC Place was perhaps the most dispiriting of all.

And not even a, right at the very death, Fredy Montero equalizer could prevent anybody’s spirit feeling well and truly dissed.

There was always the faint hope that being relieved of the pressure of needing to get points would allow this team to relax and finally find some coherence and fluidity, but such hopes have proven to be in vain.

Whether that’s down to players switching off for the season or just not being good enough whatever the circumstance is up for debate.

But the main cause remains the issue that the Whitecaps are so badly constructed that, no matter how much effort and how little tension they felt, the players couldn’t put together a consistently good performance anyway.

And so the only positive moments the Whitecaps produce (with “moments” being the operative word) come when an individual or two do something out of the blue.

And on Saturday, as it was the Saturday before, it was Ali Adnan creating a late goal for Fredy Montero. Which is great. But there is still no structure for the players to fall back on when things don’t go well. No default setting to see them through the tougher times.

Against Columbus Russell Teibert nearly created a goal for himself by pressing the opposition defence.

But he was the only one doing any consistent pressing all game. Is that the plan? Just a one man press? Because if so it won’t work.

And, if it isn’t the plan, is Teibert going rogue or are the rest of the team just not following instructions?

These are all rhetorical questions because it’s impossible to tell from watching Vancouver play just what the plan is. Or if they even have one.

Oh well, t’s nearly all over and soon we can all spend the off season fretting over which signings will work instantly and which ones will have had a tough year previously and will need a full season in MLS to get used to the rigours of the league.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-4, Sutter-4.5, Adnan-4.5*, Henry-4.5, Cornelius-4.5, Rose-3, Teibert-4, In-Beom-4.5, Bair-3, Reyna-4, Ricketts-3 (Chrinos-4, Montero-5)

 

 

A Brief History of the Vancouver Whitecaps: From 2019 to the present day

 

The Expansion Season

At the time it felt strange that an expansion team would begin their season with only four games of the campaign remaining, but everything seemed a little bit strange back then.

We’ve all got used to it now.

That expansion season began with the Vancouver Whitecaps appointing Marc Dos Santos as head coach and, with his squad somehow already in place, most of the early attention was on events off the field.

During the opening game for instance, some members of BC Place security forced placards supporting the Iron Front into the hands of unwilling fans and, shortly afterwards, the Front Office announced that Bob Lennarduzzi would be moving from his role as Club Liason to the more senior role of Club President.

On the field things were going splendidly as Dos Santos and his coaching staff fielded a team full of attacking intent and one that frequently spent much of the game camped inside the opposition half.

Teibert and Felipe were a joy to watch in midfield as their freakish ability to always find the quick forward pass kept opponents far from the ball and the Whitecaps soon led the league in attempted shots.

The race to the end of the season was a thrilling one (as it always is these days) and it sensationally finished with every team in the Conference level on points and goal difference (as it always does these days).

No wonder wealthier teams sought out the services of Dos Santos and so, after a highly successful year, he was lured to LAFC to be Bob Bradley’s assistant coach.

At the time that move felt like the kind of bitter blow that could derail the club completely. But how wrong the naysayers were.

The Carl Robinson Years.

The decision to appoint Robinson as head coach was controversial to say the least. After all, this was a man with no history within the game whatsoever.

What were the club thinking?

Well, it turned out that the club were (as always) getting things absolutely right.

In his first year in charge Robinson brought in the likes of Kei Kamara, Efrain Juarez and Canadian phenomenon Alphonso Davies and quickly proceeded to produce some remarkable and innovative football.

“Robboball” as it came to be known throughout the world consisted of his team camping within the opposition final third for lengthy periods of time before hoofing a long ball backwards to an isolated central defender who was frequently surrounded by four or five opposition forwards.

It seemed madness at the time but somehow it worked and Robinson led the Whitecaps to joint top of the Western Conference (alongside every other team).

This was a feat he was able to reproduce in all of his subsequent seasons as he demonstrated an uncanny knack to bring in and let go of players at just the right moment.

But in many ways he was a strange man and his almost pathological fear of human contact made him an odd and lonely figure on the sideline; recoiling from any opposition player if they even looked as though they were approaching his technical area.

And, in one now much viewed and retweeted incident, he quickly ran away in horror when Wayne Rooney offered him his hand to shake when appearing as a substitute for DC United.

But his quirks aside Carl Robinson presided over a remarkably successful period which included two legendary playoff performances against Cascadian rivals Seattle and Portland in which his team ruthlessly pressed their opponents back from the first whistle to the last.

So when the club announced that Robinson would be stepping down to become assistant coach to Martin Rennie he had already written his name large in the pantheon of Vancouver sports history.

Martin Rennie’s first year

The Scotsman arrived from a stint in Korea where he was coaching Seoul E-Land and he certainly had big boots to fill, but this first year has been one of huge promise and excitement.

His eye for talent was clear when he snapped up Brazilian striker Camilo (exactly the kind of pure finisher the Whitecaps had missed since their very first year) and his style of play was, if anything, even more exciting than Robinson’s.

A style of play that persuaded captain Barry Robson to fly to his now beloved Vancouver voluntarily in the hope of being signed by Rennie.

And Rennie proved to be a match for his predecessor by also leading the Whitecaps to a joint top finish in the Conference (alongside every other team).

How he develops from here will be fascinating to see, but how reassuring to know that the club has an ownership group who know how to pick exciting young coaches and who always seem to act just before any potential issue befalls the club.

Who knows what MLS will turn into in the coming years or even if the League can survive? But thankfully the Vancouver Whitecaps seem to have safe and steady hands at the tiller for years to come.

And how reassuring is that? After all, none of us are getting any older.

Go Whitecaps!

Vancouver Whitecaps still in a bad place

Earlier in the week Marc Dos Santos had complained that his side suffered more than certain other teams when it came to decisions by VAR.

So it was inevitable that during the 3-1 loss to New York City FC VAR would do what it does best.

Two human beings looked at an incident and decided it was a probably a penalty. Then two other human beings looked at in slow motion and from various different angles and decided it probably wasn’t. Then one of the first human beings looked at in the same way and decided it probably wasn’t either.

The exponentiation of human error is the greatest gift that VAR has given us.

Not that the Whitecaps lost because of that one incident of course.

They committed a series of individual errors and were severely punished for each one by a well drilled and well set up team and this was also episode thirty in the “Can you spot the Whitecaps midfield?” sitcom.

Finding that midfield has to be the main priority for the new Sporting Director.

And excitement at that particular appointment reached fever pitch this week as the club followed up their announcement of two weeks ago that they were beginning the search with the further announcement that they had now hired Nolan Partners, a sports executive search firm, to conduct the search.

Once Nolan Partners announce who they will be appointing to conduct the search the process can really begin in earnest.

On the pitch it will be interesting(ish) to see how both Dos Santos and the team handle the brutal reality of their season being over with four games remaining.

And at least a couple of players should probably have played their last game for the club.

Montero and Erice won’t be back next season (surely) so leave them on the bench and give others the chance to at least get a better feel for MLS and BC Place.

It might even be a good idea for Dos Santos to select who he wants to be his captain for next year since neither Montero or Erice will be back (surely) and hand the armband over to Doneil Henry as a start to instilling a different mentality in the team.

But really we’re just throwing ideas at the wall to see if they stick right now.

Because the squad will, once again, be vastly different next year and both the coach and his new Sporting Director need to ensure that player recruitment is based around a particular playing style and not just bringing in random players because they are available.

That sounds obvious, but the Whitecaps have a nasty habit of ignoring the obvious and going their own sweet way when it comes to running a football club.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-4, Nerwinski-5, Henry-6*, Rose-5, Adnan-5, Erice-3, In-Beom-5, Teibert-4, Montero-4, Reyna-6, Ricketts-5 (Sutter-5, Chirinos-4)