Heads Down, Thumbs Up - Week 10

Lee Nguyen shows why he shouldn't have been cut in a dominant performance against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday.

A little tweak in my reoccurring piece.

Too often it's difficult to find two negatives worth mentioning. Not a difficult problem to have as a supporter, unless you're a supporter who has pigeonholed himself into writing a few hundred words on a said negatives. I suppose this is a funny week to be changing the format, as there was plenty to be critical of following the 4-1 drubbing the New England Revolution laid out on the hodgepodge starting eleven on Saturday.

With that, the slightly tweaked version, in which I take a page from the old school game 7Up: Heads Down, Thumbs Up.

THUMBS DOWN: Sloppy Whitecaps defenders have multiple brain cramps

For most fans, the match versus New England was more of a footnote than a headline; clearly there is much more anticipation for the following Voyageurs Cup final, and the two Cascadia Cup matches. It appeared that Martin Rennie was of the same mindset, as he rested both Martin Bonjour and Jay DeMerit, and played Rochat in a less favourable centreback role. It didn't take long for the breakdowns to happen, as stand in Carlyle Mitchell looked unusually uncomfortable, Rochat looked like an out-of-position left back, and early MVP candidate Young-pyo Lee showed he was human.

It's seemed that when there is a breakdown in the Whitecaps defense, it's not due to being overwhelmed and under-skilled (for that, see Toronto FC's so called backline,) but rather than a lack of focus. And unfortunately when one fatal brain cramp kicks in, they seem to come in waves. With all due respect to Alan Gordon's fantastic header, the three goals were shipped due to mental shut downs. On Saturday against the Revolution, the same problem reared it's ugly head as the Whitecaps back line looked out of sync.

Perhaps it is hard to blame the players, considering everyone, from supporters, media, and coaching staff had one eye on the upcoming games against Toronto and Seattle. Either way, it is Rennie's job to ensure the squad on the pitch is competitive and ready to play. He did take the blame post game, saying that he made the wrong personnel combinations, so all credit to the classy manager for shouldering the responsibility.

Maybe this can be used by the gaffer to build upon. Proof that you must be focused for every minute of soccer, even when you're in form and riding a 5 game win streak. It's likely to fire up a humbled team for a very important home match against TFC on Wednesday.

I'm sure any supporter asked will be happy to give up 3 points against a eastern conference opponent if it means a good ol' fashioned thumping of the reds on Wednesday.

THUMBS UP: Return of form to the playboys of 2011

There have been many critics of Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento this season, much of which has been well earned. Fan favourite Eric Hassli, who is paid designated player money, was in a dreadful goal drought, and Davide Chiumiento looked like he lost some confidence and desire.

Realistically, though, both players had played well. Not DP and almost-DP well, but well. Now with 3 goals in 3 matches by Hassli, and 5 assists in 3 by Dede, the playboys of 2011 appear to have the swagger back.

And not a moment too soon. Darren Mattocks and Etienne Barbara made their first appearances against Edmonton and both made immediate impacts as Mattocks scored his first, and Barbara schooled the FC Edmonton defenders and drew a penalty. Pace and physicality, the two returnees have shown they have the skill to step up and take on some significant minutes in the MLS.

This new found depth will be well tested, as a grueling schedule that has 4 games in 10 days, consisting of 2 cups matches and 2 derbies will test the entire squad. No doubt we will get a good look at both the playboys of 2011, as well as the new and exciting Mattocks and Barbara.

Bring on the Reds.

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