The Vancouver Whitecaps 2-0 half time lead over Minnesota United on Saturday evening wasn’t so much a vindication of Carl Robinson’s switch to 4-4-2 as it was a statistical anomaly caused by a penalty kick and another set piece goal.
A better coach (Or even a more proactive one) would have cashed in his chips at the break and reverted to the 4-1-4-1 system that has served the team well in recent weeks.
That didn’t happen though and the home team came out with something to prove and levelled the game with relative ease.
Fortunately that seemed to be the limit of their ambition and from that moment on the game felt like two broken down boxers taking half-hearted swings, each more concerned with feeling the mind numbing force of the knockout punch than landing it.
I’m not sure what it will take for Robinson to realise that Brek Shea is unable to play the central attacking role effectively, but Brek Shea constantly being unable to play the central attacking role effectively doesn’t seem to be it.
Against Minnesota he and Fredy Montero weren’t so much supporting each other as drifting in orbits dictated by a differing gravitational pull.
And though it’s good that the team are now so effective from set-pieces sooner or later they will have to figure out how to give Montero some actual service or risk turning their Designated Player into yet another journeyman forward scampering for space where none can be found.
Elsewhere Alphonso Davies provided a modicum of momentum when he was on the ball and Tony Tchani finally produced a goal without ever offering much of an attacking presence from the middle of the field.
And the makeshift defence did what we expected it to do; be largely solid while always hinting at the possibility of conceding when under genuine pressure.
Whether we see this game as two points dropped after being 2-0 up against one of the League’s less impressive teams or a point gained on the road during an injury crisis will largely depend on the tale of the table at the end of the year.
But next week’s trip to Chicago and the following home game against New York City will be much tougher tests than the one faced on Saturday and just doing enough to get by won’t be doing enough against either of those opponents.
Injuries and suspensions are no doubt a cause of much of the malaise but those injuries and suspensions seem to be tempting Carl Robinson back to the comforting cloak of safety first football that he looked to have discarded earlier in the season.
Let’s hope not.
Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings.
Ousted-6, Nerwisnki-6, Parker-6, Jacobson-6, Harvey-6, Laba-6, Tchani-6, Davies-6.5*, Techera-6, Shea-5.5, Montero-6