Vancouver Whitecaps give it all they got

From yesterday but now with some MLS quality additions.

We’re grading on a curve here, but the Vancouver Whitecaps 0-0 tie in Minnesota was one of the more accomplished performances of the season and a vast improvement on anything else they have done since May.

Marc dos Santos mixed things up by trying the Christmas Tree formation and, miracle of miracles, it actually worked.

This formation is very much not the one that Dos Santos has said he wants to play long term, but needs must when the devil drives and if  it somehow instills a sense of belief into the team for the remainder of the year and leaves the off  season more about adding to the squad than rebuilding shattered confidence then it will do.

All season the Whitecaps midfield has existed in a state of purgatory; neither able to offer attacking assistance to the forwards nor defensive cover for the defenders.

And anybody who saw the names of Felipe, In-Beom and Teibert announced as starters will have been left in little doubt that a transition to a footballing nirvana was not likely any time soon.

And yet.

All three played with a level of simplicity and effectiveness we haven’t seen all season. That’s probably down to the fact that, in this game, they had options when they  were on the ball and weren’t forced to play either a one in a hundred chance pass forward or a simple pass back that just leads the team nowhere.

It’s amazing how much easier the game can be when players do the basics right.

Oh to have been a fly on the wall in the Whitecaps dressing room over recent weeks because it’s clear that something happened to completely alter the DNA of the team. Dos Santos is quick to claim the Gold Cup for the loss of focus but the issue seems to have run deeper than that. The next big test will be when they concede a goal. Do they revert to the shambolic indifference of recent weeks or are they back to being made of something stronger?

The Whitecaps even offered the possibility they might score a goal with Fredy Montero looking livelier than he has in months, and Yordy Reyna always being willing to run at the opposition defence with the ball at his feet.

Theo Bair still looks out of place in the starting eleven however, but maybe time and confidence are all he needs?

The three main areas in which Vancouver need to upgrade their squad are a forward who can produce more than Montero, a midfielder who likes to get into the box and score goals and a right back who can attack in a manner similar to Ali Adnan. Those three changes wouldn’t make them unbeatable, but they would make them a decent MLS side.

None of this means all is well in the world of Whitecaps of course.

This club still has more issues than Vogue, but everybody needed at least a hint that the on field problems weren’t irredeemable beyond repair and the hope now has to be that Dos Santos can use the next two road games to establish a playing system that works and thereby convince his players to fully buy into it.

Oh to have been a spider on the wall of the Whitecaps locker room in recent weeks. Not least because there’s a nice juicy fly in there, but also to see how the coaching staff dealt with the way the players switched off from what they were being told. Dos Santos gives the impression that his coaching style is based on talking and listening to players rather than hammering them in to how he wants them to play. Is this the first time in his career that a group of players have needed to be hammered and not heard? Whatever the truth of that it’s clearly a learning curve he needs to get through.

The season is over in terms of achieving anything of note, but at least we might be able to see the hint of the outline of the shadow of a blueprint of what we can possibly, perhaps, maybe expect next season.

That’s not much, but it’s all we’ve got and it’s more than we had before this game.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

Crepeau-6, Nerwinski-5, Adnan-6, Henry-5, Cornelius-6, In-Beom-6, Felipe-6*, Teibert-5.5, Bair-4.5, Reyna-5.5, Montero-5.5 (Godoy-6)




Whitecaps lose: Something, something, blah, blah, blah

From yesterday but now with additional tactical naivety.

It’s hard to know which is worse.

Watching the Whitecaps lose when the players aren’t really giving their all, or watching them lose when they are.

They are each probably equally bad in their own specific way and Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to the San Jose earthquakes was another nail in the coffin of a season that is now more iron than pine.

At least the game started well, with Vancouver getting an early goal from a set-piece (of course  a set-piece) but then things began to form a familiar pattern.

For sure this team is mentally fragile as Dos Santos keeps saying, but they now seem to be so mentally fragile that scoring a goal affects them as badly as conceding one. They pressed and harried San Jose for the first few minutes and got their reward. What is it in their psyche that makes them think “Well that worked, but now let’s revert to the style of play that has failed us miserably over the last few weeks”?

I do not have the answer to this question.

San Jose pressed and the Whitecaps sat deep. San Jose pressed some more and the Whitecaps sat deeper still, until every cross was pinging around the six yard box and creating more mayhem than a group of pensioners with only five minutes left on the early bird special at an all you can eat buffet.

And so the San Jose goals came and the Whitecaps went in at the half with a one goal deficit.

But that wasn’t too bad.

They had made the Earthquakes work for their spoils and recent games had featured something of a revival for Vancouver in the second period, so we settled in for the rest of the game with hope (if not belief) in our hearts.

Our hearts were telling us lies.

The visitors dominated from the get go. Firing shots and winning corners at will and, by the end, the 3-1 scoreline flattered a home team who didn’t give up, but had nothing to offer to counter their opponents.

The best case scenario is that Dos Santos is indulging in the footballing equivalent of a sacrificial blood letting. Allowing the evil demons to escape BC Place through suffering and chaos and then appeasing the gods before a pre-season cleansing ceremony that allows this team to start afresh.

But that scenario is a long shot to be fair.

Random thoughts on the game?

Every time a San Jose player was in possession he had options to pass to and one of those options was almost always a forward ball.

When a Vancouver player was in possession they had nothing to aim for but a high and hopeful ball forward or a safe and simple back pass.

And that difference isn’t about the salary cap or signing a big name player. That’s about the very basics of the game.

But all too often the gap between the Whitecaps midfield and their forward line is almost a third of the pitch (more at times) and there’s no way a team can create meaningful chances playing in such a way and it’s baffling why such a simple issue hasn’t been addressed.

And while replacing Kei Kamara with Fredy Montero made some kind of sense at the start of the season, it’s now richly ironic that the Whitecaps have ended up playing in a fashion that would make the most of Kamara’s talents.

Just getting Hwang In-Beom to stand on the attacking side of the centre circle and never drift deeper would create more headaches for opposition defences than how he is currently being used.

Lass Bangoura looked like nothing more than a Dollarama Yordy Reyna, relying on pace to make up for his lack of first touch or overall awareness. Jake Nerwinski will never be an attacking full back and if Dos Santos wants the right side to mirror Ali Adnan then an upgrade is seriously needed.

Oh, and the substitutions made no sense.

Bringing on two tall central attackers and Felipe was very much the mark of a coach who is just hoping that something will work right now.

In many ways that was the most concerning aspect of the game. Perhaps the theory was to use Ardaiz and Bair to hold up the ball and for Felipe to help the midfield keep some kind of possession?

But in practice it was a mess.

Still, it was definitely an improvement on the Kansas game, so there is that.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-5.5, Nerwinski-3, Henry-4, Godoy-5, Adnan-5, Eriece-4.5, In-Beom-5, Teibert-4, bangours-3, Montero-4, Reyna-5.5* (Ardaiz-3.5, Felipe-3.5)



Vancouver Whitecaps eschew the path to glory

In their last three games the Vancouver Whitecaps have lost 5-1 to LAFC, tied 0-0 with Cavalry FC and lost 3-0 to Sporting Kansas City.

Each one of those is a bad result in its own individually tortuous way, but perhaps the most painful thing of all is that in every one of those games the opposition have played as a team and the Whitecaps have played like, well, not a team.

The defence has no meaningful connection to the midfield, the midfield exists more as a performance art project than a functioning entity on a soccer field and the forward line is comprised of Yordy Reyna chasing everything down in a vain attempt at relevance.

In retrospect it feels as though that last minute goal they conceded in Seattle way back when broke this team.

Broke its belief in its own system and broke its belief in its own sense of progress (On a side note it also broke my TV remote control as I slammed it against the couch in frustration. A moment I now think of as an homage to the opening scene of Stanley Kubrick’s seminal film “2001: A Space Odyssey” rather than the hapless act of somebody who needs to get some perspective on life).

Anyway, against Kansas Marc Dos Santos tried to reboot things by bringing in a PC and a Mac.

The former was a desperate attempt to turn the life sapping enervation of watching Felipe and Russell Teibert (sometimes both!) turn every possible forward pass into its direct opposite and it didn’t work.

PC wasn’t quite as unaware of the notion of ball progression as his forebears, but his contribution was negligible at best and certainly offered nothing in terms of creating chances.

The Mac decision was a tad more controversial.

Max Crepeau has been the Whitecaps best player this season, so to leave him out of a game the team simply had to win to even pretend the playoffs were still a possibility was odd.

In his post game presser Dos Santos claimed that the idea to start MacMath was based on the upcoming tough schedule, but he really did need to put out his best team for the Kansas game and his decision backfired spectacularly.

MacMath made a few decent saves, but was clearly at fault for the second Kansas goal that well and truly doused the flame of any possible Vancouver comeback.

The coach also gave young Theo Bair his first MLS start and while Bair did well initially it was obvious by as early as the sixtieth minute that he wasn’t going to change the game.

Which begs the question as to why Ardaiz wasn’t used until the eighty-ninth minute.

Whatever the reason the Uruguayan can surely now be consigned to another of those Whitecaps signings that make us all scratch our heads and ask “You know, that guy they had on loan for a season, he was a young DP, but never really played? What was his name?”

In defence of Dos Santos he doesn’t have too many players who can change games right now and some of his decisions were probably down to a sense of simply tinkering around the edges in the hope that something might work rather than the wholesale changes he must know are needed.

Yet being outplayed is one thing and being outspent is another, but the Whitecaps are now beginning to be outworked in games and that can’t be allowed to stand.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-4, Nerwinski-5, Adnan-5,5, Godoy-5, Rose-4.5, Henry-5, Erice-4.5, PC-4, In-Beom-4.5, Bair-4.5, Reyna-5.5*


Vancouver Whitecaps hold their horses

Editor: I need five hundred words on Cavalry against the Whitecaps. Stat!

Me: Wait, do you want words or stats?

Editor: Stop using stupid jokes to up your word count. Give me the copy now.

Me: The copy of what?

Editor: Your resignation letter if you don’t do it sharpish.

Me: But nothing happened.

Editor: Something must have happened!

Me: But it didn’t. Literally nothing happened throughout the whole game.

Editor: We don’t pay you the big bucks to come up with nothing. Think man!

Me: Well, there was horse.

Editor: Yes, yes, yes! That’s good, an animal. People love reading about animals.

Me: It got a bit lively.

Editor: During the game?

Me: No, before. During the anthem.

Editor: Wait! So this horse disrespected the Canadian national anthem?

Me: Well….

Editor: You’re saying it disrespected the anthem and looked as though it were about to charge into the spectators?

Me: That’s not really how it….

Editor: Sounds like a pre-planned attack. How many other horses were there?

Me: Quite a few. The team name is Cavalry so it’s sort of their thing.

Editor: So a group of horses gathered at an iconic Canadian sporting venue and were only thwarted from making an all out assault on the spectators thanks to the heroic actions of a single rider?

Me: I mean…

Editor: Try and get a quote from a Government official. Ask them what plans they have in place to stop this increasingly dangerous equine menace.

Me: I don’t think that’s necessary or the appropriate reaction to what was really an incredibly minor incident.

Editor: It’s either that or write abut the game?

Me: I’ll get right on it.

Editor: Good man! I always said you were the finest of the lot of us.

Me: Wait a minute.

Editor: What now?

Me: I don’t have an editor.

Editor: Don’t be ridiculous man. I’m right here.

Me: No you aren’t.

Editor: Yes I am.

Me: No you aren’t.

Editor: Yes I am.

Me: No you aren’t.

Editor: Look, I see what you’re doing here. You’re just using up your word count by repeating the same phrases over and over and over and over and and over and over.

Me: (Sniggers)

Editor: What’s happening? Why am I repeating the same phrases over and over again? Tell me! Why am I repeating the same phrases over and over again?

Me: Because you aren’t real.

Editor: Nonsense!

Me: It’s true. I can make you say anything I want you to say.

Editor: Absolute rubbish. You can make me say anything you want me to say. Wait! What was that? Why did I say that?

Me: I made you say it. I control everything about you.

Editor: This is most disturbing. But what a great story. Forget the game and the horses! We will run with “Imaginary editor demands player ratings for a game that everybody who watched it will already have forgotten”.

Me: That’s better.

Editor: You really are great you know? Stop making me say things! You are so wonderful. Stop it at once and give me those player ratings!

Me: Okay, okay. Calm down

Editor: So sorry about that honey bun. Stop this now and remove me from this godforsaken reality immediately!!

Me: Done.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-6*, Sutter-5, Adnan-5.5, Godoy-5, Henry-4.5, Cornelius-4.5, Felipe-4, Teibert-4, Rose-4, Reyna-5, Montero-3.5 (PC-4.5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: Déjà vu all over again

From yesterday but now with additional free shots on goal.

Six one! Six bloody one!

When Marc Dos Santos took over from Carl Robinson at the end of 2018 most of us hoped there would be both a change of style and a change of attitude from the Vancouver Whitecaps.

And, to be fair, the style change has been evident.

They are more tactically flexible, they look to play out from the back and they are no longer as reliant on the hoofed clearance as the go to attacking option.

But the big problem is that they’re still shit.

Is that a tad too harsh? No. Next question! 

But there have at least been moments when the team show glimpses of how Dos Santos wants them to play but that’s all they are; thirty second clips that show up on Twitter every now and again.

And perhaps the most surprising failure has been how poorly the Whitecaps press without the ball, because pressing doesn’t take technical skill as such, it’s about organization and playing as a team and that should be possible to achieve on a much more consistent level by this stage of the season.

And Saturday’s 6-1 defeat to LAFC simply emphasized that undeniable fact.

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with losing to LAFC on the road of course; they are easily the best team in MLS right now (and probably the best team MLS has ever seen) but the manner of the defeat was dispiriting.

An early Yordy Reyna goal did nothing to convince Vancouver they had a chance in the game and the following eternity of minutes were filled with endless LAFC attacks while the Whitecaps just got deeper and deeper.

All season there has been an emphasis from the coach that his team have never really been beaten by a large margin. As though losing by a single goal is some kind of achievement. In retrospect, a beat down like this has been coming simply because the Whitecaps have been inviting it by celebrating marginal failures.

And during all that time not one single Whitecaps player wanted to keep the ball. No matter how they received it or where they received it, the first thought was always to get rid of that pesky little round thing that had somehow landed at their feet as quickly as possible.

And that has to be a coaching issue.

It has to be down to how the players are being told to play because not every team in MLS plays that way.

Even the teams as bad (there aren’t many, but work with me here) as the Whitecaps play with some semblance of control. Some semblance of believing that they can break down a defence with something more than an opposition error or a freak moment of quality.

But not Vancouver.

They just continue to play scared.

Scared of losing, scared of trying to win, scared of conceding and scared of trying to make the plays that create chances.

Only Adnan and Reyna have been playing with any kind of confidence in their own ability going forward, with Montero and Ardaiz both being busts in their own different ways.

And the idiotic red card Montero picked up in LA might actually turn out to be a blessing in disguise and compel Dos Santos to think long term about life without a player who has (this time around) been a waste of a Designated Player spot and salary.

The only hope now is that this deserved shellacking will be the wake up call they need.

After all, they aren’t going to make the playoffs and they aren’t going to get better if they continue with this mindset.

So let’s fervently hope this trouncing allows (forces) Dos Santos to throw off the shackles of restraint and that he allows (forces) his players to attempt to play football with some style, some courage.

Because, right now, this is just as bad as it was under Carl Robinson (but with better post-game interviews).

And they are far better!  

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Crepeau-3, Nerwinski-3, Levis-3, Godoy-3, Rose-2.5, Henry-3, Teibert-3, Erice-3, In-Beom-2.5, Venuto-2.5, Reyna-4* (Montero-1)




Vancouver Whitecaps are toast

It’s easy to get carried away about the import of individual games, or even individual moments within those games.

But the late goal that consigned the Vancouver Whitecaps to a 1-0 defeat in Seattle on Saturday evening felt as though it were dripping with significance.

If the Whitecaps had held on for another road point they could well have looked back at the recent run of games with a degree of satisfaction. Not happiness, but at least satisfaction.

But, as it stands, they still sit outside the playoff places. They have played more games than any of their rivals. They have the worst Point Per Game record in the Western Conference.

That, deep into added time goal, was likely the one that caused the house of cards to tumble, the straw that broke the ecosystem.

And Marc Dos Santos can’t really complain about the result.

The first half was even, with two teams who who were depleted by International call ups making it look as though it would take a mistake to break the deadlock.

But in the second half Seattle pressed forward. Had a goal disallowed because VAR decided that if you looked at an incident twenty times in slow motion that it might just be a foul and, in return, the Whitecaps displayed all the shortcomings that have condemned them to a season of death by a thousand ties.

Their only realistic attacking threats all year have come from Yordy Reyna, Ali Adnan, Lucas Venuto playing as a substitute or set-pieces.

And so it proved again.

I could copy and paste every previous blog outlining that Hwang In-Beom is offering nothing going forward or that whoever starts between Russell Teibert or Felipe somehow manage to reduce the Whitecaps expected goal number, but there will be plenty of chances to do that again for sure.

But perhaps the biggest issue right now is Fredy Montero.

If Dos Santos had his time back would he still let Kei Kamara go and bring Montero in?

He could certainly argue that Kamara doesn’t fit his style of play, but it’s hard to see how this iteration of Montero does either.

Too slow of pace to truly press and seemingly now too slow of thought to turn the crumbs of chances he gets into a even a slice of bread let alone a loaf (for this analogy to work you have to imagine that a slice of bread represents a shot on target and a loaf represents a goal and, yes, it is a tad laboured).

A still effective in MLS Kamara may well have earned the Whitecaps three or four more points and given Dos Santos’ rebuilding project a little more leeway.

Perhaps the upcoming transfer window will bring in the catalyst to transform the season, but this no longer feels like a team in need of just one or two pieces to kick start them.

It feels like a team in need of an overhaul, at least in terms of how it is set up to attack and, at most, in terms of why players who should be core to the project aren’t performing anywhere near the level they should be.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

MacMath-6*, Nerwinski-5, Godoy-5, Rose-5, Adnan-5.5, Erice-5, Felipe-4., In-Beom-4.5, PC-4, Reyna-5.5, Montero-3.5








Vancouver Whitecaps show their Personality in Texas

How you feel about the Vancouver Whitecaps after the 2-2 tie with FC Dallas on a hot evening in Texas will tell you exactly what your personality type is and, using the exclusive Soccer Shorts “Personality Profile Producer”, you can now find out which one you are below.

So have a read and let me know how you fare.

(Please don’t reply to this question, I genuinely have no interest whatsoever.)

A Pixie Sprinkled with Sunbeams- You believe that Lucas Venuto’s late equalizer proves that Marc Dos Santos has produced a squad of players that can get a result no matter how tough the circumstance.

Even Gold Cup absentees, sweltering heat and playing an opponent in the peak of form can’t prevent Vancouver from continuing their unbeaten run.

The Whitecaps are now ideally set to make a run for the playoffs and a genuine tilt at the MLS Cup.

A Reindeer Doused in Tepid Water- You believe that this game highlights the positives of this current team but, in the back of your mind, you can’t help but think there were still enough warning signs that this team isn’t quite at the level you want it to be.

Why does In-Beom continue to offer no attacking threat of any worth? Is relying on Ali Adnan really sustainable beyond the end of June? And Felipe? What of Felipe?

But still you see that Yordy Reyna is back to the best of his form and the return of Crepeau and Henry in particular will make the team so much stronger for the run in.

A Baby Elephant Trapped in a Duvet made of Pine Leaves- You believe that this game offered more reason for negativity than positives. Sure, a point in Dallas is great but that can’t hide the fact that Fredy Montero is not the Fredy Montero of old and no amount of padding his stats with penalty kicks can hide that.

It also looks increasingly unlikely that Ali Adnan will stay and the midfield is still a black hole when it comes to goal scoring and you know that Crepeau and Henry can’t continue with their stellar form for the remainder of the season.

You haven’t given up all hope because you know that MLS can be a funny old league, but you are definitely not basing your vacation plans around any potential playoff games.

An Overturned Turtle splashed with the tears of Dolphins- For you the season is already over. You knew when Dos Santos arrived that his brand of “I want to play football and talk about tactics” would never suit MLS and you feel you are proved more right as the weeks go by.

What is the point in trying to play out of the back when one of those doing the palying is Jake Nerwinski? Or hitting teams on the break when Montero can’t run? Or play possession football when the team can’t pass.

In your world that late Venuto goal simply establishes that sitting deep and bringing on a fast player at the end is the best way to play every game of football.

The only pleasure you have left in life is sitting back and watching the inevitable demise of an empire built on shifting sand.

So which personality type are you?

(As I said, I really don’t care. Please do not reply.)

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.

MacMath-5.5, Sutter-4.5, Adnan-6, McDonough-4.5, Rose-5.5, Godoy-5.5, Erice-6*, Felipe-5.5, In-Beom-5, Reyna-5.5, Montero-3 (Venuto-5.5, Levis-5, Nerwisnki-4.5)