Vancouver abuzz about the Whitecaps

I used to think that the most contemptible of all the creatures on this planet was the September wasp; that annoying piece of anger and sting which ruined every late summer barbecue and patio beer.

But then I stumbled across an outline of their life cycle and suddenly developed a new found empathy for my eternal nemesis.

It turns out that those creatures relentlessly swooping down on your craft beer have been dealt a pretty rough hand in life for, having spent the whole year helping to keep their colony alive, these “worker wasps” (for that is who they are) are heartlessly abandoned once enough new queens are produced to allow a fresh period of hibernation to begin.

The nest effectively shuts down and there is suddenly no food source for the poor souls who have toiled all their lives for others.

Naturally they immediately embark on a desperate hunt for any source of sugar to keep themselves alive which, in most cases, means the alcohol in your glass or the food on your plate.

Hard to blame them for being so angry and so persistent isn’t it?

I still kill them of course but whereas I used to think of my battle with the wasps as being akin to the Second World War (my heroically defiant battle against an unprovoked aggressor) I now see it as disturbingly similar to the Great War of 1914-18; a series of senseless slaughters in which neither side will ever make any significant physical or moral headway.

And as with the wasps so it is with supporters.

Not that I want to embark on the senseless slaughter of soccer fans you understand but it turns out they need wins and goals just as much as a worker wasp needs that sugar and without those wins and goals the poor supporter become irritable and sometimes aggressive.

Anyone sitting enjoying cool al fresco beer in these balmy April Vancouver days may have found the experience somewhat ruined by the angry buzz of a Whitecaps fan unhappy with the team or the tactics or the coach.

Thrown a surprise spring barbecue for friends? Then perhaps it was disrupted by the sting of criticism for the way the Whitecaps have either been defending, attacking or conducting their stadium security measures.

Biology is a powerful decider.

Yet so is the pervading culture and the pervading culture of the current day is to live and die by each game without ever taking the time to see anything within the context of the whole season, so it’s not hard to imagine how three bad results in a row has set the regular Whitecaps fan on edge.

Yet this isn’t me looking down on such behaviour because I’m exactly the same as I obsess over minor tactical changes, study the body language of the players and parse every Carl Robinson phrase for semiotic or semantic clues.

Fortunately the difference between us and the wasps is that they really do have no hope; there will never be a nest for them to return to no matter how hard they try to prolong the last few hours of their existence.

But we at least know there will eventually be wins and goals along the way because MLS is a parity league and because the law of averages is as reliable a guide as the law of gravity and so, when Saturday comes, we’ll be back among the safe swarm of the colony that is BC Place and no doubt we’ll all feel a lot better about things.

But let’s just hope that if there is a sting in the tail of that game it arrives in the form of Blas Pérez and not Mauro Rosales.

Salt Lake put Whitecaps in real trouble

The good news is that the Vancouver Whitecaps rediscovered some of their defensive solidity following the 4-0 defeat to DC United last week. The bad news is that defensive solidity counts for nothing when a team has very little attacking threat and so a 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake ensued on Saturday evening thanks to a Martinez goal in the fifty-fifth minute.

The Whitecaps were probably the better team in the first half but still failed to find the back of the net and the fact that they still haven’t scored from open play this season is starting to look less like a statistical quirk and more like an accurate reflection of what this team is capable of. There were half chances for Mezquida and Rivero but none of them ever looked like being taken and once Salt Lake had the lead it was hard to imagine the Whitecaps levelling the game up.

What’s worse though is that it didn’t seem as though the players themselves could imagine levelling the game up and the final thirty minutes were played with the languor of a pre-season game rather than the intensity of a contest which actually mattered.

And Carl Robinson’s substitutions did little to change anything with Bolaños and Kudo barely being visible and Erik Hurtado supplying his usual cocktail of high work rate and low skill set and it’s a worrying trend that Hurtado was thought not to be good enough for this team last season and has now become one of it’s most effective subs solely because he’s actually willing to put in that effort.

So where do they go from here?

Well to two home games against two good team in FC Dallas and Sporting Kansas City if we’re being literal but on a more abstract level everybody within the team needs to move away from the “it will click eventually” mentality that seems to permeate through the locker room to a more harsh examination of their performances so far.

Last season we knew exactly what this team was; it was a counter attacking team that was happy to essentially live by the coin flip of “first goal wins” and it worked incredibly well until other teams figured them out meaning that changes did have to be made.

Those changes have been made but so far it’s really hard to say what this team actually is because they neither seem comfortable in possession nor capable of hurting teams on the break. In short they need to find their identity before the season slips away from them and before we see any more performances in which they sleep walk to defeat with barely a shot fired in anger.

Those two upcoming home games are suddenly far more crucial than they should be at this stage of the season.

Time then for the Soccer Shorts player ratings.

Ousted-6, Aird-5, Harvey-6, Waston-5, Parker-6*, Laba-6, Jacobson-4, Techera-4, Manneh-5, Mezquida-6, River0-6 (Bolaños- 4, Kudo-4, Hurtado-5).

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