While the current World Cup blinds us all to every other sporting event rather like an alien spaceship hovering over the horizon intermittently blocking out the sun and intermittently dazzling us with its reflection, it’s easy to forget that the Vancouver Whitecaps are back in training and preparing for a game in Philadelphia next weekend.
And how much better the mood must be now the team are finally scoring goals and trying to win games?
Carl Robinson certainly deserves credit for adjusting his team to play in a manner just about everybody else said they should have been playing from the first game of the season and the question now is whether he left that change too late for the season to be genuinely successful.
Hopefully the coach hasn’t used his time away from the players to dwell on the number of goals they’ve conceded too much, but hopefully he has been dwelling on how to use the best group of players he’s had at his disposal.
So what are his options?
Firstly, let’s take the players who should always start if fit.
Marinovic, Waston, Henry, Felipe, Davies, Reyna and Kamara.
That might be harsh on Techera (who is in a hot streak of goalscoring form) Aja (who has been fine in central defence) and Mutch (who has been very good when available) but the named seven are the ones who have done enough to always be pencilled (Damn it man just write it in pen!) to the starting eleven.
There’s nothing much wrong with continuing to alternate the full-backs until the business end of the season as each one of Nerwinski, Franklin, de Jong, Levis and Shea have strengths and weaknesses and can be picked and chosen to suit the demands of the day.
In central midfield Felipe’s “What kind of player is he really?” quality can be useful in platooning other players in.
In Colorado he worked very well with Juarez in controlling the pace of the game (and keeping the ball) and Ghazal or Teibert could slot in as more defensive cover to allow Felipe to move forward when needed.
In home games though the ideal scenario would be Felipe sitting deep as a putative defensive midfielder, while still able to play passes that release the pacy players in the team, with Mutch as the attacking box to box midfielder.
Mutch made much difference when he came on as a substitute against Orlando simply because his first instinct is to always get forward.
The Whitecaps have needed that kind of player since before the Gods that made the Gods were made.
That just leaves the right side of the midfield to be covered and while Techera will (and should) play more games than most here’s where the opportunity for Robinson to switch things up presents itself.
If he wants to pair Blondell with Kamara up front he can switch Reyna out to the right (or play Blondell out there if he feels like it). If he wants to use Shea on the left he can get Davies to switch flanks. If he desperately wants to play an extra defensive midfielder he can use Felipe, Davies and Reyna as the three behind Kamara.
It still feels as though the team are one more really good wide player away from being the real deal (which kind of makes the desire to stockpile central midfielders somewhat strange) but Robinson has far more options than many coaches in MLS.
Let’s hope that turns out be a blessing rather than a curse.