The Vancouver Whitecaps game against the Portland Timbers on Sunday afternoon at BC Place felt a bit like the last day of a particularly disappointing vacation.
That day trip to the historic village? Tourist trap full of tourist tat. That fish restaurant everybody recommended? Food poisoning. That cruise around the charming harbour? Thirty minutes on a barely renovated car ferry.
Yet on the last day of the whole vacation you not only stumble across the best beach party ever but you also finally get some “quality time” with that guy/gal you’ve been helplessly staring at for the last seven days.
Okay, the Whitecaps 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers wasn’t quite that good but it did at least ease away a little bit of the pain of all that had gone before.
And that easing of pain was helped even more thanks to four of the best goals of the season; a left foot rocket and a right foot pass into the net from Giles Barnes, a howitzer from Pedro Morales and a twisting run from Nicolas Mezquida.
A churl would say that the Timbers (who haven’t won on the road all year) just weren’t very good, but Vancouver have managed to lose to not very good teams all season.
That same churl would also say that being able to produce your best performance when there was nothing of any significance on the line was actually a sign of weakness rather than strength.
But the Cascadia Cup and a little bit of pride were on the line and the trick for Carl Robinson and his coaching staff is to learn the right lessons from the game and not the wrong ones (and if there were an end of season award for stating the obvious then that sentence would easily sweep all before it).
The wrong lesson to be learned is that there are no fundamental issues with this team that can’t be fixed with a small attitude adjustment and a little bit of luck.
The issues run far deeper than that.
The right lesson to be learned is that playing a lone striker can work if the lone striker works as hard as Erik Hurtado (but with a better end product) and if each one of the three behind him is constantly willing to offer support when the ball goes forward.
It also doesn’t hurt to actively try to add to a lead rather than to hope one goal will always be enough.
But there’ll be time enough in the coming weeks and months to delve into what needs to change (a lot) and who needs to leave (a few) because today we can all sit back and relax as our metaphorical plane takes off from our metaphorical runway and our metaphorical whimper of a vacation comes to an end with an unexpected metaphorical bang.
But seriously let’s never go back to that place again.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings
Ousted-6, Aird-7, Waston-6, Parker-6, Harvey-6, Laba-6, Morales-7, Bolaños 7, Mezquida-7, Hurtado-6, Barnes-7*