Taxi for Carl Robinson

So farewell then Carl Robinson.

The Vancouver Whitecaps coach was “Released” today by the Vancouver Whitecaps just five games before the end of the season and there must be a sense of “release” in more than a few hearts given how flat out strange this season has been.

But Robinson started his time with Vancouver well and gave the club the steadying hand and defensive rigidity it so desperately needed.

But since that first campaign there’s never really been the sense that any significant progress would ever be made under his watch.

When players of genuine quality were brought in they could never quite find a role, leaving the coach tinkering with formations and systems until, with grim inevitability, he would head back to the comfort of two defensive midfielders and the familiar steadying hand and defensive rigidity would return.

And perhaps that really is all his time here ever was?

A constant ebb and flow of chaos followed by order and then order followed by chaos and so on and so on. At best Robinson turned out to be the solution to problems of his own creation and at worst he allowed the constant churn of players to cover up the stasis that had enveloped the club for at least the last two years.

Because Robinson wasn’t just hamstrung by the limitations of the players at his disposal, he was also hamstrung by his absolute belief in those limitations. The comfort of their failings was clung to like unassailable catechisms to become an overarching “Get Out of Jail Free” card for his own tactical timidity.

And that timidity really came to the fore in two defining playoff series.

In the first the Whitecaps travelled to a Timbers team playing on two days rest after a physically demanding ninety minutes, plus extra time, plus penalties against Kansas and, instead of going for the jugular, Robinson settled for a stalemate and was undone by a quick away goal in the second leg.

A braver or more ambitious club would have looked at those games and decided that he just wasn’t the man for the job.

But the Whitecaps didn’t do that. They stuck with their man and we all got to sit through those two playoff games against the Seattle Sounders where Vancouver were barely interested in scoring a goal let alone wining the tie.

Once again Robinson had retreated into a sense of inferiority when the chips were down.

That really, really should have been that but, once again, the Front Office crossed their fingers and hoped for the best and that’s how we got to this debacle of a season.

Players signed for no apparent reason, players played with no regard to form or position and Robinson and his coaching staff becoming more and more embittered with every passing failure.

Firing him now isn’t a brave act at all, it’s the act of desperate people and nobody comes out of the situation looking good.

But what could/should Robinson have done differently? Or even do differently in his next appointment?

Well for one thing he should start coaching like the young coach he is.

More often than not his whole approach to the game is more akin to a sixty-eight year old grizzled veteran of one too many lower league relegation scraps than a man in his first lead coaching role.

Talk of pragmatism and effort and the “boys wanting it” aren’t really the done thing now and the best coaches in the world manage to convey a kind of joy about the game.

Imagine how great that would be?

Not only working in the game he loves but putting across that love through the way his team play on the field.

Trusting gifted players to use their gifts and encouraging limited players to move beyond their limitations.

He might even have fun.

And you know what else might be fun? Engaging with the fans.

I can’t think of a time where Robinson has celebrated a Whitecaps goal with the whole stadium. Losing himself in the collective joy of the moment.

Instead he celebrates within the insular world of the bench. All boys together proving all the world wrong.

True that sense of resentment can be put to good effect in the right circumstance but fans notice these things. They notice the half-hearted applause in their direction on the walk to the bench, they notice how little mention or thanks or acknowledgment they get in interviews and that absence costs a deal of goodwill at the times when a coach might really need it.

Only time will tell where Robinson goes from here and whether he prospers or falters but we need to remember to always keep the distinction between the human being and the job.

By all accounts Robinson was popular with the players, popular with the media who cover the Whitecaps and popular with opponents.

Why that popularity failed to translate in his public persona is hard to say but what we can say is that while we can happily bid “good riddance” to Carl Robinson the coach we can at least wish “good luck” to Carl Robinson the man.

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps: All the leaves are brown…give

Now with added thoughts from the Dystopian present.

Even before the game against FC Dallas on Sunday there was an air of Autumnal ennui lingering around BC Place.

The fallen leaves on the journey to the ground, a sparser crowd than is usual and the cool breath of a northerly wind scattering the clouds to leave the evening spread out against the sky all added up to the sense of an ending rather than the resurrection in fortune the Whitecaps needed.

And an ending it turned out to be.

Vancouver were beaten 2-1 by a team more astutely assembled than they are, better coached than they are and who play as a team rather than a collection of individuals.

No doubt we’ll still hear talk of “great spirit”, “never say die” and “bravery” in the media scrums this week but there are all kinds of bravery in soccer.

In the post game question and answer session Robinson said that he thought his team were “playing in third gear” during the first half. If that’s not a a sign of systemic issues then I don’t know what is.

A game the team knew they had to get three points from and they play the first forty five minutes within themselves? And the coaches can’t do anything about that until the break? 

Make a substitution at thirty minutes just to let everybody know the performance isn’t acceptable (and it turns out the half-time switch which was made was because of injury to Levis rather than any desire to shake up the team).

There’s the bravery to always show for the ball no matter the game situation or personal form and there’s the bravery to trust your technique to make that tough one touch pass to a teammate making a run.

There’s also the bravery of a coach who wants his team to play with attacking intensity no matter the opposition, a coach who sets up his team to succeed rather than not to fail and a coach who trusts his players but isn’t afraid to make tough selection choices as soon as they need to be made.

The Whitecaps haven’t had any of those attributes for the longest time. Happy just to scrape by, swell a progress, start a scene or two and always, always be deferential and glad to be of use.

And the game against Dallas was a pretty neat summation of the season.

It wasn’t that they didn’t try, they did. It’s just that they didn’t have the cohesion or class to break down a team that had been organized.

Of course the Whitecaps conceded two goals from set pieces (a defensive coach who has been unable to organize the defence all season is a recipe for disaster on so many levels) and of course Davies and Kamara combined to offer some hope but by the final fifteen minutes the Whitecaps were, as always, reduced to hitting crosses into the box while still failing to get enough men forward.

Getting men forward to be on the end of crosses isn’t some next level Pep Guardiola tactical thought experiment. It’s one of the basics of football and the Whitecaps still haven’t figured out how to get it done. Go figure.

Random thoughts?

The recurring sequence where Russell Teibert passes the ball back to a central defender who passes it back to Russell Teibert who then passes it back to the central defender is my personal “Room 101”.

Carl Robinson has been relying on Jordon Mutch’s reputation to change things as a substitute in the last two games rather than anything the Englishman has ever done on the pitch this year.

The fact that none of Felipe, Juarez, or Blondell got even a minute of play between them in such a crucial game is about as damning of the acquisitions this season as it’s possible to be.

It seems Felipe is this year’s Tony Tchani. A central midfielder Robinson stuck with through thick and thin before completely abandoning come the tail end of the season. Weird.

And the Davies to left back gambit worked on the Kamara goal but also helped to unbalance an already disjointed defence.

This disjointedness was emphasized int the dying minutes when Henry and Marinovic couldn’t figure out who should go for the ball and a corner was conceded.

It might be worth hypothesizing that Marinovic is a significant cause of the defensive woes this year. He’s a solid, if unspectacular, goalkeeper but the players in front of him have never looked settled no matter what the combination.

It’s clear he’s not the sole culprit for the whole debacle but he certainly doesn’t seem to be the kind of keeper who can organize his backline effectively.

The season isn’t mathematically over of course but emotionally it feels as though we all need to move on now.

From this game, from this season and from this iteration of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

That would probably be healthier for all concerned.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-4.5, Nerwinki-5.5*, levis-4, Waston-4.5, Henry-4, Teibert 5, Ghazal-5, Reyna-4, Techera-3.5, Davies-5, Kamara-5 (Mezquida-4, Mutch- 3)

Whitecaps face the final curtain

So that’s just about it then.

After the 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders at BC Place on Saturday evening the Whitecaps sit four points off the playoff places with only six games left to play and a remaining schedule leaning very much to the “Yikes!” end of the spectrum.

But at least this time Vancouver lost to Seattle displaying some ambition and heart and, on another day, they might have won the game, could have won the game and probably should have won the game.

If anything the Whitecaps were trying too hard.

Mezquida snatched at almost every chance that came his way (including a golden opportunity when the score was still tied), Nerwinski over hit every cross, Davies tried to win the game single-handed instead of using his threat to create space for others and just about everybody took the wrong option when getting anywhere near the Seattle net; an extra touch here, a misplaced pass there.

Thoughts will inevitably turn to what difference the presence of the suspended Yordy Reyna would have made.

The Peruvian would certainly have given the opposition less time and manpower to concentrate on Davies and he would also have injected the elements of quality and pace that neither Mezquida nor Techera bring to the frontline.

And there still remains the frustrating sight of the Whitecaps failing to get enough men in the box to be on the end of the inevitable cross no matter how desperately they need a goal but that’s a result of only being able to function effectively with two defensive midfielders on the pitch

So this game didn’t exist in isolation.

If the disciplinary issues had been dealt with effectively earlier in the year then maybe Reyna wouldn’t have been suspended for his fifth yellow card?

And if the team had worked more on passing and moving over the last few seasons then maybe they would have finally figured out how to break down a deep lying defence beyond relying on set-pieces and a lucky drop of the ball here and there?

And let’s not even think about how much of the salary cap was sitting on the bench last night (You’re thinking about it right now aren’t you!) or how long it took Carl Robinson to find a starting eleven that worked instead of sticking with square pegs in round holes for far too long.

But if the game on Saturday proved anything it’s that BC Place can be a decent place to watch football if the fans have a team they can believe in, a team that wants to win games no matter who they are playing and doesn’t treat the opposition (any opposition) with too much respect.

Hopefully that knowledge can be built upon for next season but for now it’s down to hoping against hope that this team can string together four or five wins and that either Portland or Real Salt Lake fall off a metaphorical cliff (or an actual cliff too I guess).

That’s not going to happen but at least the Whitecaps look like they will go down fighting..

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-5, Nerwinski-5.5, Levis-4, Waston-5, Henry-4.5, Teibert-5, Ghazal-5.5, Techera-4, Mezquida-4.5, Davies-5, Kamara-6* (Shea-5, Mutch-5)

 

Vancouver Whitecaps making history

In his book “1491” Charles C. Mann paints a picture of an American continent already utterly transformed by the human hand.

Long before Columbus and his crew touched land people had been shaping the surface of their home to fit their needs; forest fires to create vast clearings to make hunting easier, redirecting rivers and changing the very fabric of the world that grew around them.

But the myth of the continent being an untouched Eden inhabited by the “noble savage” before 1492 has served so many people so well it’s somehow endured in the collective memory.

After all, history is nothing but the recording of change and if a People can be portrayed as never-changing then they don’t really have a history and if they don’t have a history then they are a blank canvas upon which any social or political point of view can be painted.

But even Mann’s book is replete with assumptions and self-projection. Because that’s what history is.

Just as all good Science Fiction is about trying to understand the present then so is all good history. Who were these people? In what ways were they like us? In what ways did they differ? Why are we making the exact same mistakes as they did?

The tragedy of it all though is that we remain incapable of examining our own societies in the same kind of forensic and detached detail. We seem condemned to be forever wise about the past and forever stupid about the present.

Which brings us to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

We can’t know what future historians will say about the 2018 iteration of the team but from the contemporary point of view it’s a difficult narrative to get your head around.

The team have a player with the most “Big Chances created” in the League (Reyna) and a player with the most successful dribbles in the League (Davies) and yet many at the club seem to think they are overachieving by even being within sniffing distance of the playoffs (and that scent is getting fainter by the day).

The status of Carl Robinson and his coaches also remains shrouded in weirdness. The main man still has time to run on his contract but his assistants have yet to have their contracts renewed leading to speculation that this will be his final year in charge no matter what the results from here on in.

It certainly feels as though it should be his final few games because there’s an air of weariness and rancour permeating through everything right now.

The weekly fines for Cristian Techera are one thing, but goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr has taken to Twitter after he last few games berating naysayers and insisting that everybody at the club is “UNITED”.

Hard to say if this is a genuine expression of solidarity or some kind of Trumpian attempt at proving what can never be proved.

It certainly hints at the kind of edgy malaise behind the scenes and in the locker room that we see reproduced on the field with regularity.

Yet we remain too close to the whole thing to make any kind of objective assessment of the season. That will come later.

But if we were forced to form a coherent narrative of what we have seen we would perhaps say that the whole thing has been a foreshadowing of collapse and change.

Just as there must have been at least one Inca who looked at yet another mountainside eroding and thought to themselves “I don’t know, this seems like really bad news to me” then so some Whitecaps fan must see the inability to keep a clean sheet, the discipline issues, the controversy over how players are attained and the seeming sense of isolation that is engulfing the coaching staff as portents of seismic events that are too late to stop now.

Vancouver Whitecaps still on root to the playoffs (just)

Now with additional “tremors” from the following day.

The Vancouver Whitecaps beat San Jose 2-1 at BC Place on Saturday evening to earn the much needed (absolutely essential ) six points from their consecutive meetings with the worst team in MLS.

And it was a game they both completely dominated while simultaneously hanging on by the skin of their teeth at the end.

Weird.

At least Carl Robinson seems to have finally solved the mystery of what his best starting eleven actually is (not that it was much of a mystery for many who have watched the team this year).

Put Ghazal and Teibert in front of the back four and compensate for their lack of attacking threat by having Nerwinski and Levis move forward from the full back positions.

It worked perfectly in the first half and the Whitecaps should have led by more than one going in at the break.

There’s going to be an awful lot to dissect and discuss once this season finally fades away but one of the main points of contention will be Robinson’s use of his squad.

His persistence in playing Felipe in a defensive midfield role (a role which negates his offensive output and emphasises his defensive frailty) has led to a number of points being dropped (particularly at home) and that’s inevitably linked to his refusal to play Russell Teibert when the Canadian was clearly having the best season of his career.

It’s fairly clear that, in his heart of hearts, Robinson wants his team to set up with two genuine defensive midfielders but for much of this year he has half-heartedly turned that into just one and a half and so much has been lost.

But then we got the trademark flat start to the second half which allowed the Earthquakes to find a semblance of a footing in the game and for the longest time it looked as though Vancouver were going to blow a crucial three points.

It even got to the stage where Kendall Waston made a marauding run forward just to give his team and the crowd the lift they needed (and it says something about just how little import this coaching staff put in the value of the home crowd getting behind the team that Assistant Coach Martyn Pert was screaming at Waston to get back in defence while that run was being made).

The next home game sees the visit of the Seattle Sounders and many of us will still be traumatized by having to watch “that” playoff game at BC Place where the Whitecaps set out to kill the game from the first whistle and almost immediately negated a home crowd of 27,000.

From his many comments about the quality of his players it’s clear the coach doesn’t see them as a match for the Sounders (or anybody much at all really) but he must know that one of the most potent weapons an inferior side can have is to get the home crowd roaring them on.

He must know that right?

Yet it’s not inconceivable that Vancouver will follow another morale boosting (and supporter energizing) win against San Jose with a another performance that shows Seattle the kind of respect they can’t afford to be shown.

In the end it took the introduction of Nicolas Mezquida to find the second goal the Whitecaps so desperately needed and all seemed to be fair sailing until they conceded the obligatory scrappy goal at the death and somehow found themselves putting life and limb on the line to prevent the lacklustre Earthquakes from ruining the season for good.

It’s a two week break now before facing the ridiculously in form Seattle Sounders at BC Place in another “must win” game.

Another narrative that will be thoroughly dissected once this season finally fades away is the disciplinary issues the team have faced all year.

And that came back to bite them in a much more subtle way on Saturday evening as Yordy Reyna picked up a yellow card that means he is suspended for the Sounders game.

Reyna has been the best Whitecap during this good run of form (he may even be the reason for this good run of form) and he will be missed an awful lot in two weeks time.

Robinson could just go for a straight swap and start Mezquida, but the Uruguayan has always been at his best using his energy to wear out tired defenders later in the game.

So that means either a change of formation (which isn’t really Robinson’s forte) or probably playing Felipe in the number ten role.

He’s a very different kind of player to Reyna but his passing should at least enable him to link up with Kamara, Davies and Techera without having to worry too much about his defensive duties.

In truth the other results from the weekend mean the Whitecaps are going to have to pull up both their socks and trees to squeak into sixth place which, when it’s written down like that, is a sad indictment of what might have been for the whole year.

But at least we might finally have some fun on the way to the inevitable despair.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-5, Nerwinski-5.5, Waston-5.5, Maund-5, Levis-6*, Ghazal-5.5, Teibert-5.5, Reyna-6, Davies-5, Techera-4.5, Kamara-5 (Mezquida-5)

Vancouver Whitecaps: No way Jose

Now with additional WTF? thoughts from the day after.

For the first half in San Jose the Vancouver Whitecaps went toe to toe with the Earthquakes in a battle to see which team would come out on top if neither of them were set up with any kind of tactical coherence.

The Whitecaps lost that particular skirmish and trailed 2-0 at the break and, let’s be honest, their season looked as good as over.

But ten minutes into the second half Carl Robinson made a double substitution taking de Jong and Felipe off and bringing Ghazal and Mezquida on.

Mezquida added energy to the front line and Ghazal added substance to the middle and suddenly Vancouver looked like they were playing the worst team in MLS (which they were).

On form (and quality too) the best front four for the Whitecaps are Kamara, Reyna, Davies and Techera but it may be that isn’t the best fit for the team as a whole.

The Whitecaps lack of a genuine number ten means that Reyna gets slotted into that role. When he’s on form the Peruvian is the oil that keeps the attacking cogs spinning but he’s not a “creative” number ten in the traditional sense. His strength is his movement and his nuisance factor which means he’s better suited to a wider, freer, role.

What we saw in San Jose was Mezquida pressing the opposition back line in a way that just wasn’t happening in the first half and that created turnovers (which are Vancouver’s lifeblood) and allowed Reyna so much more freedom.

Perhaps a platoon of Mezquida, Hurtado and even Anthony Blondell (if he’s still alive) could play as the first line of defence behind Kamara and allow both Reyna and Davies the space to do whatever they wanted to do?

It might even help the defensive woes.

Three quick goals and a fairly truncated last-ditch defensive effort earned the three points that keep the post-season playoff hopes alive.

It’s been a feature of Carl Robinson’s tenure with the Whitecaps that his side fairly frequently come out at the start of the second half flatter than a pancake in a steamroller factory so it’s a nice twist to find them beginning games that way and improving after the break.

It’s not sustainable of course. Setting up the team up in the wrong way only to rectify it sometime in the second half can only finish in sorrow in the end.

In any normal season one could argue this would be a turning point of a game; the fulcrum around which the campaign switched to full steam ahead.

But 2018 has been a year without a fractured narrative at best and it wouldn’t be a complete shock to find that San Jose come to BC Place next Saturday and hammer the Whitecaps 6-0.

But one way to stop that happening would be for Robinson to select a first eleven that works rather than the one he wants to work.

And that has to start with Felipe.

The Brazilian isn’t suited to playing a deep-lying defensive role; he can’t tackle or track back and that depth limits his ability to play any genuinely dangerous passes.

When we take a look back on this season one of its defining features will be the sheer number of central midfielders the club had on their books.

It’s really hard to figure out why certain players were added when they clearly weren’t needed but avid followers of the team will know that the base of every Robinson team is the central midfield pairing.

No team should actually need two genuinely defensive midfielders in the way the Whitecaps do but this is where we are and the best two right now are Teibert and Ghazal and any attempt to start any other player on a regular basis smacks of decisions made based on salary, personality or weakness.

And whatever the limits of Mezquida’s game may be the team play better when they have a forward who will genuinely harass the opposition defence and, perhaps more importantly, free up Reyna to do whatever the hell he wants to do.

The Peruvian was the catalyst for almost all the good things the Whitecaps produced going forward in San Jose in the second half and setting up the team to give both him and Davies as much freedom as possible might just be enough to counteract the defensive mess that clearly isn’t going to be cleaned up before the end of this year.

The Whitecaps are still fully behind the eight ball when it comes to making the playoffs but at least they only have to rebound off two cushions to make the shot now and if (this is a very big if) they can play their remaining home games as though they actually want to beat teams and get the crowd behind them they have at least a chance of making the shot.

But how much better might this season have been if a few players weren’t signed or, once signed, given so much rope they choked the Whitecaps out of so many points?

The last two games have seen Vancouver play terrible football in the first half only to claw their way back in the second. You decide what that says about the way this team is coached but they are currently achieving the somewhat remarkable feat of being both terrible to watch and fascinating to watch.

Weird.

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-5.5, Nerwinski-6, de Jong-3.5, Waston-5, Maund-5, Felipe-3, Teibert-5, Davies-5, Reyna-6.5*, Techera-5, Kamara-5 (Mezquida-6, Ghazal-6)

 

 

 

 

Vancouver Whitecaps get mad at getting even

Now with added blasts of inchoate rage from the day after.

The seminal 1976 movie “Network” is best known for the line spoken by embittered news presenter Howard Beale (played by Peter Finch).

“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

But to those who know the movie well there’s a more poignant line spoken by Max Schumacher (William Holden) to the Faye Dunaway character Diane Christensen near the end of the film.

“There’s nothing left in you I can live with.”

At least the Beale character has some anger to energize him, some residual sense that there are things to rail against, but for Max there’s just isn’t anything left to cling to anymore.

The feeling that he thought was love, or fascination at least, has gone.

On an entirely unrelated note the Vancouver Whitecaps threw away two valuable home points to the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon at BC Place.

Although “threw away” might be being somewhat generous.

Vancouver were outplayed for almost the entire game as New York resorted to the kind of “pass and move” attacking play the Whitecaps eschew for reasons best known to themselves.

It takes a lot (and I really do mean “a lot”) for Carl Robinson to make a change at half time for anything other than one of his players losing a leg but Efrain Juarez somehow managed to achieve that somewhat remarkable feat.

He was always a step behind the game both in terms of positioning and passing and he’s now getting close to becoming the Whitecaps worst ever MLS signing in terms of on field performance relating to off field expenditure.

For this game he could offer the excuse he had been out of action for some time due to suspension but that would only beg the question as to why he was starting in the first place.

The “no real consequences for your actions” policy continues to run unchecked in this team it seems and those who were left out of the starting eleven to accommodate the Mexican (David Norman jr for example) must sometimes despair.

Amazingly however the Whitecaps went in to the half time break with the scores tied at 1-1 and even more amazingly they then took the lead in the second half.

Both of those goals came from Kendall Waston out-climbing the returning Tim Parker from corner kicks and it’s hard not to think there was an added motivation for the Costa Rican in playing against his erstwhile defensive companion.

The Whitecaps created virtually nothing of any value from open play all game and yet those two set-pieces had given them a glimpse of the three points they so desperately needed.

Then disaster struck.

Alphonso Davies drew a second yellow card from Micheal Murillo and the Whitecaps were suddenly faced with their nightmare scenario; playing against ten men.

It’s not hard to know why they struggle in this situation.

A team with a man advantage are supposed to control the game, keep possession and tire out the opposition with a series of simple passes.

And the Whitecaps are specifically built to do none of those things.

Perhaps the greatest trick that Robinson (and the club as a whole) has pulled during his tenure is to instill the belief into so many people that there’s no other option to the style of play he favours given the limited spending on salary.

Yet the Red Bulls spend less than Vancouver and currently sit atop the Supporter’s Shield standings while simultaneously playing a style of soccer that makes the Whitecaps efforts seem positively Neanderthal (that’s grossly unfair on the Neanderthals of course given that recent discoveries have uncovered convincing evidence they were capable of both language and creating sophisticated art. But what are they going to do? Sue me?)

Anyway, we’re left with the usual “happy to get a point against a good team” post game schtick that I’m not sure even the coach is really buying into anymore.

And, sure enough, they allowed the Red Bulls to pressure them into giving away a needless free-kick near the edge of the area and the inevitable equalizer ensued.

What should have been a smash and grab three points turned into yet another example of why this team fails when it really matters.

It’s not fundamentally wrong to rely on dead ball situations to score some of your goals but it is fundamentally flawed if that is the only way you can score goals when playing against a team of some quality.

It’s sadly instructive to watch Carl Robinson and observe that the only time he gets out of his seat to do any genuine in game coaching is to shout instructions on where his players should be positioned for defensive set-pieces.

Stick to what you know I guess but the team need so much more than that low level of input and expertise.

After the game Robinson was perplexed at the number of individual errors that crop up week after week.

But so many individual errors point to an overall systemic failure rather than the vagaries of happenstance.

What this team needs right now is genuine leadership. It isn’t getting it from the bench and, sadly, it isn’t getting it on the field either.

Kendall Waston is the kind of captain who leads by example but he doesn’t seem to be one who can corral a team into concentration. Or organize them on the fly when the opposition throw a curveball.

Somewhat ironically the one player who looked capable of being that guy at the start of the season was the aforementioned Juarez.

But that ship has well and truly sailed.

There’s a lot of talk about individual “Soccer IQ” these days in relation to the decisions players make when on the ball (and whether such a thing exists at all is a topic for another time) but more important than that is having somebody (anybody) who can think on their feet when a game situation changes.

The Whitecaps have nobody who can do that right now.

The season isn’t quite over yet but this game felt like the one in which most people at BC Place finally excepted that, if they were being honest with themselves, it really was.

So perhaps we can turn back to Howard Beale for the most accurate summary of the game and perhaps the whole of this season?

“This is not a psychotic breakdown; it’s a cleansing moment of clarity.”

Time for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Marinovic-6.5*, Nerwinski-6, Levis-5.5, Maund-5, Waston-6, Juarez-3, Felipe-5, Davies-5.5, Reyna-5, Shea-4.5, Hurtado-4.5 (Teibert-5.5, Mezquida-5)