After a one week hiatus in line with the Whitecaps bye week, Two Up, Two Down returns with much to discuss.
After having a long layoff after a disappointing loss in San Jose, the Whitecaps returned with a stiff challenge against league leaders Sporting KC, followed by the FC "Some Old Dallas Always Cheating" Dallas.
Three points from those two games is likely exactly what was expected.
Lot's on both sides to chose from in this weeks Two Up, Two Down.
THUMBS UP: Young-pyo Lee dominates one of the leagues young stars
As the first official the topic to receive two mentions in this piece, Lee is well deserving of my two thumbs up. His consistent defensive sturdiness, quality attacking play, and unwavering athleticism has been remarkable and shows that the 35 year old still has some of that world class ability left in the tank.
The game against FC Dallas was no different as Lee put the not-so-diminutive Brek Shea in his six-inch shorter pocket. So much so that Schellas Hyndman was forced into moving Brek Shea to the right side to take on Jordan Harvey.
Lee did get some timely assistance from the likes of Martin Bonjour and Jun Marques Davidson who made some timely tackles and blocked a cross or two, but very few times was Brek Shea able to even be in a desirable position in which to create some danger.
The entire match I kept having visions of a skunk on a long and narrow highway being run down by a high revving 1977 Hyundai.
THUMBS UP: Caleb Clarke signs with the big team
It was announced today that Caleb Clarke was signed to an MLS contract. Benjamin Massey has an excellent write up here about the signing, so I wont go into details here, as Ben can speak about Clarke with much more credibility than I, as I've only seen him play in person a handful of times.
Either way, it's a good indication for the club. That brings the number of Canadian Whitecap Residency graduates on the MLS roster to three, and all three appear to be capable of handling the jump. Russel Teibert and Bryce Alderson have both proven their worth to some degree already, and Clarke looks to follow in their footsteps.
This is not only good for Canadian soccer, but it's good management on the part of the Whitecaps. The only way to be a consistently competitive club in the MLS without rolling in dump trucks of dosh for a roll of the dice on three designated players is by taking advantages of every loophole and advantage the awkward MLS rules will allow. For now, those advantages lie in cap relief by using homegrown players developed through your academy.
This is good for everyone; Clarke gets a chance to show his stuff at the top level available, the Whitecaps get another quality young player in an off-cap contract, and another Canadian gets to develop in the right way. Unlike Toronto, where many gums are flapping about the development of Canadian talent. If you ask me, the best way to develop a talented young player like Caleb is to let him learn behind a leader like Sebastien Le Toux.
THUMBS DOWN: Set Pieces, Set Pieces, SET PIECES!
While Martin Rennie continues to receive praises from supporters, bloggers, and journalists alike, but the one part of the game which is usually directly attributed to coaching is one which has been the most questionable to start the season.
On both sides of the ball, set pieces have been lacking.
Offensively, quality delivery has been inconstant. Camilo has been able to provide a few good corners and is always dangerous from inside 25 meters, but outside of the Brazillian striker, delivery has been less than spectacular. Even more critical is the fact that when a good ball is played into a dangerous spot, half of the Whitecap players look like they're wearing gumboots. On most corners. it appears half the team has caught a case of the Hasslis and are reluctant to attack a cross. DeMerit did score, and Bonjour has looked threatening, but it really says something that Camilo, the smallest player on the squad, has been the most consistent areal threat over the past season and a bit.
On the defensive side of things, the Whitecaps haven't been terrible. They haven't really been good, either, looking scrambley at times even when a goal isn't conceded. The Whitecaps have been downright lucky. In addition to two Saves of the Week by Joe Cannon, the Whitecaps have had numerous headers off the line and some other hectic moments with the ball bumbling around the bottom of a melee.
Portland Timbers almost made the playoffs last year, earning many points on the excellent set piece service of Jack Jewsbury, and Houston Dynamo almost won the MLS Cup with set pieces as their only real quality attacking ability. Especially against the better teams in the league, an inability to win the set piece battle will ultimately lead to dropping points, as was seen in San Jose and to a lesser degree with Sporting Kansas City.
THUMBS DOWN: Toronto FC goes 0-0-6
Really, this could qualify as a thumbs up, because in reality this makes me all warm inside, like I just downed a mickey of Fireball Whiskey, but the club is truly in shambles.
Head coach Aron Winter continued fiddling while Rome burned when he stated that TFC will make the playoffs. Honestly, it wouldn't shock me if they did, but only because the east is so much easier that TFC will have an opportunity to pad the stats against the likes of Montreal, New England, and Columbus.
There is rumblings about Winter being sacked and again TFC going in a new direction. Ironic, for it was just over a year ago that much criticism was spewed from the east over the mismanagement of the Whitecaps when times were rough.
Now, the attention of the casual fan has waned after a half decade of mediocrity, and the club is cluttering the schedule even further by bringing in Liverpool to play an international friendly, alienating their hardcore fans by showing that results in legitimate competitions are being threatened to make a few bucks on the back of a big name club.
Toronto FC. Where you'll stay loyal to your club because you don't have any other options.