For most of the game against Austin FC on Saturday afternoon it seemed that the follow up to Vanni Sartini’s opening triumph would be his Neither Fish nor Flesh. A performance that exposed the flaws of the first outing rather than building on the positives.
Instead it turned into his Give ‘Em Enough Rope. Not great, probably not good, but with enough flashes of promise to indicate the project wasn’t dead yet.
The first half was awful.
The Whitecaps were out pressed, outplayed and out of ideas. Partly because the team selection was wrong. Losing the threat of Javain Brown on the right cried out for extra pace elsewhere on the field, but Sartini opted to move Bikel to replace Brown and Baldismo to replace Bikel in the middle.
If he had flipped his team sheet over to cover players whose name began with the letter C he would have seen that Caicedo was best positioned to provide said pace.
The late Austin goal in that half was inevitable and must have left the coach wishing he had acted earlier in replacing Bruno Gaspar at left back.
It’s unclear what was wrong with Gaspar. An early tackle that made him want none of what was to come? Playing on the left instead of the right? A dislike of MLS as a cultural entity?
Whatever the reason it’s rare to see a player not want the ball that much.
The second half saw the introduction of Caciedo and his pace did indeed make a difference (As I correctly predicted just three short paragraphs ago).
But what was more interesting was Santini’s willingness to adjust the way his team was set up. Baldisimo to a quasi central defence role! Dajome to left wing back! Three at the back and wing backs!
Perhaps the interim tag gives him more leeway to try things? Perhaps working in the academy has instilled the habit of making in game changes when needed? Or perhaps he’s willing to admit he’s got something wrong every now and again?
Having Ryan Gauld starting games doesn’t hurt of course and we’ve now seen enough of the Scot to figure out just what kind of player he is.
He’s certainly not the stereotypical MLS “Number 10”, all languid mercurial skill and pulling the strings of the players around him.
But he is a very good deep lying forward who works hard throughout the game, makes the right runs when he’s not on the ball and makes the right decisions when he’s on it.
And those traits are making all the difference to this team.
Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings!
Hasal-5.5, Gaspar-1, Bikel-4, Godoy-4.5, Jungwirth-5, Teibert-4.5, Owusu-4.5, Baldismo-4.5, Dajome-5.5, Gauld-5.5, White-5 (Caicedo-5.5*, Metcalfe-5, Veselinovic-5.5)