Vancouver Whitecaps: Something we learned yesterday

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





Vancouver Whitecaps: Road Warriors

Well, well, well.

The four game road trip that many of us thought could be the breaking of the Vancouver Whitecaps season may well turn out to be the making of it.

For the third straight game Carl Robinson trotted out the same starting eleven and the same formation and although the performance wasn’t up to the level of the win in Montreal (or even the defeat in Portland) it was still good enough to beat a very poor Colorado Rapids team by a late Brek Shea goal to nil.

Once again it was heartening to see Robinson introduce attacking substitutions into a veritable stalemate of a game and (from a purely subjective perspective) the more often that change works then the better it is for those of us who watch the team week in and week out.

And it worked particularly well this time around with Nicolas Mezquida setting up the well taken Shea goal with a good crossfield pass.

On the night the standout performers were probably Williams, Waston and Parker with additional nods to Laba and Techera, but we still haven’t seen a great deal from Tony Tchani.

It could be that Tchani is a victim of  NPCBS (New Player Confirmation Bias Syndrome) in which the initial impressions of a player become magnified over the first few games with the result that every time that initial impression is confirmed it becomes embedded deeper into the spectator’s subconscious (I recommend reading Dr. Marta Johansson’s ground breaking paper on NPCBS  “ArsenalFanTV and the Robert Pires Problem- A Thought Experiment” for a genuinely fascinating insight into the phenomenon) but I’m not sure that’s the case with Tchani.

There was though at least one brief spell in the second half where he acted as a kind of midfield wall for the rest of the team to play off that perhaps offered a foreshadowing of his future value to the team but “foreshadowing” isn’t yet a recognized and measurable statistic and it will be interesting to see how the coach fits Tchani into the eleven as other players return to fitness.

What else is there to say?

This was exactly the kind of game the Whitecaps were losing last season and although that change of outcome is as much down to the vagaries of chance as it is to the variation of tactics they already have six points in the bank from a series of games where four would have been perfectly satisfactory.

Building on those points at home is the next big task but first it’s on to Houston and lots of analysis based around the word “problem”.

Time for the Soccer Shorts Player Ratings!

Ousted-6.5, Williams-7*, Waston-7, Parker-7, Harvey-6.5, Laba-7, Techera-6.5, Tchani-5.5, Bolaños-6, Jacobson-6, Montero-6 

Vancouver Whitecaps v LA Galaxy: What did we learn?

Fair warning to you all that I watched the majority of the Vancouver Whitecaps 4-2 win over the LA Galaxy on my phone while waiting to board a flight to the UK so the insights contained within will be those of a man both jet lagged and uninformed.

Maybe that’s the magic bullet I’ve been looking for?

Whatever the case I won’t allow being in England to influence my perspective in any way but cor blimey guvnor it weren’t half smashing to use me old apple pies to have a gander at them there fellas using their plates of meat so well.

Anyway, what did we learn?

Carl Robinson proves his critics right- One possible reading of the game is that the coach had been right all along with the formation he was playing, it just needed time to bed in.

The other, less charitable, reading is that everybody else was right all along and that the team needed to play in a far more proactive manner (especially at home).

This was certainly helped by the Galaxy’s strange compulsion to make the game as open as possible but even so the Whitecaps actually got men forward from the midfield and perhaps the most unexpected consequence of the Tony Tchani signing is that he allowed Matias Laba to get forward rather than the other way around.

It’s ludicrously early to be making any kind of relevant assessments but if Laba suddenly finds the will and the way to get into the opposition penalty area on a regular basis then that’s nothing but good news.

Selection headaches ahoy!– Brek Shea’s suspension gave Cristian Techera the chance to start a game and boy did he take that chance.

Techera hasn’t looked that good since he first arrived in Vancouver and it was a reminder of just how effective he can be as an attacking presence.

Maybe the Manneh trade has either invigorated or terrified the Uruguayan (nobody wants to wake up to find themselves on a plane to Columbus) but whatever the cause Techera should have moved ahead of Shea in the starting eleven reckoning after Saturday.

Shea will undoubtedly start against Tigres on Wednesday and so he has a chance to make a counter-claim but if Robinson doesn’t reward Techera with more minutes then we may well be back to the unmotivated bug of yester season.

There are still issues- Of course there are; one win does not make a summer after all.

In the first half the Whitecaps all but lost their way after the non-call on the Davies PK decision and the first LA goal and, after a very bright start, were somewhat grateful to get back into the locker room just one goal to the bad.

That hints at the still lingering suspicion of a soft underbelly at the heart of the team (Why is the underbelly near the heart anyway? They need medical help stat!) but hopefully that particular flaw will be partially remedied by the memory of achieving a come from behind win in such thrilling fashion.

Erik Hurtado’s attempt at a “Beckham”- We must never speak of this again.

Time for the (belated) Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Ousted- 5.5, Williams-6.5, harvey-6, Waston-6, Parker-6, Laba-7, Jacobson-6.5, Davies-6.5, Techera-7.5*, Bolaños-6.5, Hurtado- 5.5 (Montero-6)   

So farewell then Kekuta Manneh

The news that Kekuta Manneh has been traded to the Columbus Crew for Tony Tchani and some imaginary salary cap money probably comes with both a sense of surprise and a sense of the inevitable.

Surprise because both clubs kept the deal close to their chests until the official announcement and inevitability because Manneh had seemed a disconsolate figure for much of the season; a man set apart from the ebb and flow of the team dynamics.

But now that the deal has gone down what are we to make of it?

From the Whitecaps point of view Tony Tchani fills a much needed hole since a genuine box to box midfielder has been as rare in Vancouver as a Kokanee drinking hipster and (assuming Carl Robinson allows him to play with the freedom to get forward) the thought of a player arriving late into the opposition penalty area takes the breath away given the barren nature of the current attack.

We will also get to find out whether Matias Laba can play the lone defensive midfield role. I have my doubts given his tendency to hunt the ball, but if he can form an effective partnership with Tchani then it changes the whole dynamic of the Whitecaps midfield.

Maybe Robinson will even consider playing 4-3-3 in some games to give himself the insurance of a more static presence in front of the defence in the shape of Teibert or Jacobson while still allowing the possibility of the quick break from the three forward men?

That’s a stretch but at least now the options are more realistic than the previous “Maybe Bolaños can play there?” scenarios.

But what are Columbus getting for their imaginary money?

There’s no doubt that Manneh has plateaued of late in Vancouver and whether that’s down to injury, disillusion or coaching is up for debate but it will be genuinely interesting to see how he fares elsewhere.

The Crew have certainly taken a chance on a player who hasn’t been in good form for a season and change but the potential is still there even though the window for that potential is getting narrower by the week.

If their gamble pays off and they can somehow rediscover the best of Manneh then they will have a player who can change a game in the blink of an eye and a US international that they can build a system and a marketing campaign around.

That’s a long shot but I think most coaches would want the chance to prove they could make that gamble pay.

For now though this looks like a very good move by a Whitecaps team that has needed something good to happen since at least the start of the season.

Next stop the World Cup!