Two Up, Two Down - Week 9

You can exhale, now, Mr. Hassli.

I'm very happy today.

Last night, the Whitecaps won in thrilling fashion as Eric Hassli broke his MLS goal drought to defeat the league leading San Jose Earthquakes with only seconds to spare.

I was unfortunately injured with a badly broken leg last season when the Whitecaps drew Sporting Kansas City with 3 goals in the last 20 minutes, including 2 in stoppage time. I could only watch from home, but from what I hear, it was one of the most amazing live sporting experiences many have ever seen.

Some have said that Saturday at BC Place equaled that game. It is there we begin this weeks Two Up, Two Down.

THUMBS UP: On Field Product

It's hard not to be happy with the 2-1 win against the San Jose Earthquakes. The defense held strong against the most in-form attacking duo in MLS, the midfield was staunch in defense, and created well going forward, and the attackers generally created well. It was what was promised to fans when Martin Rennie arrived and revamped the squad.

It's obvious to say that everyone will be happy to see repeat performances from the one on Saturday. It's unlikely that any will finish with such heart-stopping fashion. Yet win or lose, if the Whitecaps are able to match the on field quality and exceptional entertainment value, especially during the stretch before the CFL season begins and the casual fan splits their discretionary income, the foundation in the consciousness of the general sports fan will have been built to a very respectable level.

After the game on Saturday, I went to a social gathering with some friends. One of the friends slyly remarked, "wow, the Whitecaps actually won a game?" Unfortunately, too many still think the Whitecaps are a bottom feeding snooze fest.

Another couple matches like the last, and there will be no more misunderstandings.

THUMBS UP: Job Done In Edmonton, Proving Depth

FC Edmonton are by no means world beaters, but the 0-2 away win last Wednesday was a very important step for the Whitecaps. It would be hard to argue that Martin Rennie took the match lightly, but he did field a number of second choice players. Part of it due strictly to squad rotation and general fatigue, partly due to saving the true first eleven for an important match later in the week.

In the end, Whitecaps left Edmonton in complete control of the cup tie, with two very important away goals and now has an opportunity to come home and rest any tired bones. It'll also allow for Rennie to slot in some of the younger players for minutes which could equal parts development as they are squad rotation.

Russel Teibert has surely shown he is ready to play at the MLS level, and Bryce Alderson keeps putting in dominant performances in Residency and PDL matches. Nanchoff has been dangerous every time he's been given an opportunity, and may have even found himself in the starting 11 against San Jose if not for the coming out party that Omar Salgado has has in the last two weeks.

It sure is nice to have a debate this year, if nothing else, as last year the quality dropped off significantly when injuries and squad rotation took it's toll. Although they were quality people, Alex Morfaw and Bilal Duckett aren't someone I'll be picking to my fantasy team anytime soon.

THUMBS DOWN: Steven Lenhart is what's wrong with soccer

I know I'm a homer, and I also know that Camilo has his fair of flops (although this year much less noticeable,) but watching a player like Steven Lenhart is enough to make you want to pull your hair out.

There are those who of the "do anything to win" mentality, arguing that if you can coerce an official into some sort of benefit and get away with it, that it is a good thing. The same arguments are used to support defenders of the New Orleans Saints bounties or the use of corked bats.

I'm not afraid to admit I was brought up by a father who was never accused of being a communist. While he wasn't the biggest redneck around, he was old school. The "get up, walk it off, and don't let your opponent see you cringe" type. In a household dominated by hockey, the odd time a Premier League or World Cup match came on, there were various obscenities hurled in the direction of the various players choosing to go to ground rather than fight through some contact.

Maybe it's part of the game, but it's the one part that truly bothers me. Steven Lenhart has shown his best skill is not speed, nor technically ability, nor an ending workrate, but rather the tendency and ability to hit the deck and sell the officials some snake oil. Already this season Lenhart was at the centre of controversy drawing a red card in the match against Real Salt Late and his flopping has continued throughout the season.

Lenhart is not the only offender, nor is he likely the worse (anyone playing FC Dallas knows there are a few candidates there,) but Lenhart is a talented, strong striker who could carry on through most of the contact that he goes to ground for.

It is a systemic problem in soccer and is such a part of the game it`ll likely never change unless the leagues decide to start issuing fines and suspensions in cases of clear embellishment. And it`s too bad, because I keep hearing this thing about football being a workings man game - yet you`d never see a true working man devoid of class willing to put his pride and honour in front of a chance at a foul.

THUMBS DOWN: Toronto FC

Oh-fer-eight.

And no end in sight.

Part of me feels bad. Ashtone Morgan is a hell of a football player and deserves better. Fans who have dealt with 5 years of mediocrity only to renew their season tickets and watch the worst start in league history deserve better.

In the end, I don't really care. TFC is a bitter rival and I'm plenty happy to see them linger at the bottom of the table, as I'm sure their supporters felt about the Whitecaps last season, but it's getting a bit silly.

I have no idea what the answer is now. They've had too many talented players come through the ranks for it to be a fluke. It seems that nothing short of another complete overhaul will turn around the sinking ship that is the reds.

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