Two games in, Young-pyo Lee appearing to be an extremely savvy signing. Sure doesn't look like a 35 year old.
History is made! Hallelujah! The first win in franchise* history! Great days ahead!
Okay, it was ugly and unconvincing, but it is 3 points, and it must be said that the team defense and mentality are huge factors in games like this and are already leaps and bounds ahead of last season.
Spoiler alert: it was much easier to find things to thumbs down this week.
*Franchise, of course, meaning MLS side. As was mentioned by Ben Massey here, Craig MacEwan must have forgot the Whitecaps existed before First Kick 2011.
THUMBS UP: The Mental Games of Martin Rennie
Initially reported by Marc Weber, Martin Rennie has taken to addressing the mental side of football with his players, notably with addressing the reasons Eric Hassli was reluctant to attack the ball with his head.
Let me first start by saying that I had already conceded that Hassli will not ever be an aerial threat, but that if he scores 10 goals a season with his feet, I'd be happy. Lucky for fans, I'm not the Whitecaps manager, because it appears that Rennie is well on his way to adding a new dimension to the big Frenchman's game. The thought of a six foot four powerhouse like Hassli nodding in a couple on top of his already lethal shooting game is enough to make me giddy.
It appears there was some instant success, as Hassli headed on for Le Toux only 4 minutes in to the first game of the year, and Hassli even had a couple chances near the goal against Chivas off his head.
We all heard Martin Rennie was a great motivator and a real player's coach, but this level of psychological management is even beyond what I had hoped for.
THUMBS UP: Class, Skill, and Leadership of Young-pyo Lee
The instant impact Young-pyo Lee has made by his fancy footwork, smart positioning, and timely attacking has endeared him to supporters, but there may be even more the veteran right back has to give. At the start of the second half, Lee was leading the huddle, appearing to provide both encouragement as well as tactical advice.
Without doubt, a man of Lee's vast experience has much to give in the way of leadership, but with the language barrier, as well as an already established leadership group that includes Joe Cannon and Jay DeMerit, it comes with some surprise that Lee is already leading the team.
Clearly the other players on the squad have also realized what an amazing source of talent and experience the South Korean international is.
THUMBS DOWN: Passing and Chemistry
After expectations rose after seeing a wonderfully executed build up goal against Montreal, one would hope some of that good interplay and smart passing would continue. It did not, and the Whitecaps succeeded in only 71% of their passes. This was mostly evident in the final third, where Davide Chiumiento, Eric Hassli, and Sebastien Le Toux all lacked the cohesion required and numerous passes ended up going either no where or worse, straight to red and white jerseys. The poor weather conditions and apparently inadequate pitch condition could be partially to blame, but even as things failed to connect, players were trying fancy flick-ons when a simple hold, pass, and move would have been more appropriate. Lucky for the Whitecaps, Chivas USA's attack was equally as uninspiring, especially after Ryan Smith was subbed out after really providing the only consistent attacking performance on either side of the ball.
THUMBS DOWN: Bad Team, Worse Support
It's pretty hard to blame residents of the Los Angeles area, but the level of support at the Home Depot Center for Chivas USA is really quite alarming. The official attendance of over 7,700 belies the actual support in the stands. Now, if I was a casual fan in Los Angeles, and decided not to go to see the championship calibre Lakers, playoff position battling Kings, or exciting young LA Clippers, and wanted to go see a soccer game, I'd no doubt pick the star-studded LA Galaxy playing a game against DC United over a consistently terrible Chivas USA playing a team that finished last in the league last season.
Chivas USA needs to move. Far away from the LA Galaxy. I'm not convinced the knock-off Mexican Primera branding will ever work either. Mexicans take their soccer seriously. Anyone who was a Club America, UNAM Pumas, or Cruz Azul fan would never cheer for any Chivas team, even if they had the words "USA" behind it (actually, that probably makes it worse.)
The fact is that people will come and watch good soccer in a good facility. The MLS would be wise to move the team to a new location, either in LA, or out of it, and re-brand it to a proper team, rather than a ploy to attract Hispanic followers.