Even top of the table teams lose a number of matches over the course of the season - either to fellow championship contenders, or on those rare occasions when the stars align for a mid-table squad to put it all together and steal one from the big boys.
But excellent teams almost never concede points to a poor side, something that the Vancouver Whitecaps have managed to do a few occasions so far this season. Flukes happen, to be sure, but not with the frequency we've witnessed thus far this season.
At the quarter pole or so, things were bittersweet for Whitecaps fans - the footballing platter for 2012 was, to that point, largely luscious and juicy, even if tinged with the acrid taste left over from the disasterous meal they'd been served the year before. Now, half-way through the MLS banquet, after the gagging on the course served up in Toronto, I'm starting to wonder if that frosted parfait glass before me is filled with a palate-cleansing lemon sorbet, or something a little more potent - like hemlock.
Of course, the earliest signs that not all was to be enchanting this season came on the road in San Jose, when Chris Wondolowski and friends took advantage of a complete defensive meltdown. To be fair, San Jose is a very talented and hard-working side, but for more than a half of football, the blue-and-white were the better side, and the score reflected it. Then, it came: three San Jose markers in a span of 12 minutes, and the Caps were cooked 3-1.
The team then had 11 days to prepare for their dinner party with an equally dangerous Sporting KC side. It was the guests, however, who served up the best recipe for success, with a dash of Aurelien Collin and a sprig of Kei Kamara. In a classic case of too many cooks, Martin Bonjour played sous-chef on the night with an OG, and the Caps fell by a 3-1 margin for the second straight week.
Vancouver recovered well from the indigestion of going down a combined 6-2 over two consecutive matches, however. The Whitecaps won their next five matches (MLS and Canadian Championship), punctuated by them feasting on Edmonton 2-0, and 3-1.
The Caps then travelled to Foxborough, Maine for a matchup with the New England Revolution. Suffice it to say that Gillette Stadium doesn't appear in the Vancouver edition of Michelin's Guide Gourmand.
In the midst of a stretch that saw Vancouver play nine matches in just under a month, Martin Rennie fielded a squad that was as bland as it was uninspiring. It was a horrendously weak side, with three bench regulars starting, and five non-starters seeing game action. Lee Nguyen potted two against his former team, and the Revs gorged themselves 4-1.
Hindsight is of course 20/20, and if Rennie were to face the same circumstances once again, he might elect to change the menu and play a tired Jay DeMerit or Bonjour over Carlyle Mitchell. Rennie's gamble all but guaranteed the loss to an eminently beatable New England side - which became all the more galling after the Caps' failure to capture the Canadian Championship against Toronto FC, a team who are little more than MLS appetizers at 3-11 on the season.
Two worrying trends have cropped up this season. First, the Whitecaps have gagged a number of times when they've encountered tiny morsels (2-3 vs TFC, 0-0 vs Chivas, 1-4 vs New England). Second, former Whitecaps players have come back to bite their former employer: notably, Lee Nguyen (2 goals in 4-1 victory), and Terry Dunfield (added-time winner in 3-2 victory last match). Thank god we won't be seeing Sebastien Le Toux and the Red Bulls until next season.
Next up for the Whitecaps are the Chicago Fire. Let's hope Vancouver doesn't bite off more than it can chew. Thankfully, former 'Caps keeper Jay Nolly is no. 3 on their depth chart - otherwise I'd be stocking up on Alka Seltzer big time.