Know When to Hold 'Em...


For Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie, the roster-rama continues, as he's apparently looked at the cards he's holding for Saturday's match versus the LA Galaxy -- and decided to fold.

He's already confirmed that RB Y.P. Lee (who hasn't missed a minute on the pitch this season) isn't making the trip, and has suggested that Lee won't be the only starter to miss the match. The speculation so far would seem to suggest Brad Knighton getting his second start this season over Joe Cannon. LB Alain Rochat, too, is tipped to need a "rest". So much for the tired; the walking wounded for the Whitecaps include Gershon Koffie and Andy O'Brien, who are nursing minor injuries.

It's pretty obvious that Rennie's elected to push back from the table in hopes of taking a bigger pot later on -- but can the Caps really afford to sit out a hand? Moreover, what real risk would Rennie be taking if he had decided instead to hold em.

There would be only two reasons I could see for fielding a straw lineup (other than in the case of injury) -- to rest some tired bones in the midst of a hellish schedule, or as a general broadcast to the team that everyone's on notice.

Granted, Lee was probably the worst player on the pitch in Portland, and Rochat seemed to be hitting on less than all cylinders. There's no doubt that they, and pretty much the entire side could use a breather. But that breather is already in place in the form of a two-week break -- after the Galaxy match.

Absolutely no question that Cannon wears the insurance goal versus the Timbers, but has bailed out the team so many times this season that I think he deserves an absolute discharge for that misdemeanor -- unless Rennie feels that he too is gassed.

Which brings us to the question of roster management. Particularly in the case of Y.P. Lee, why has he been allowed to run down the batteries so badly? Is it because there's nobody who could do a credible job at RB in his stead? Or is it because Rennie's been so busy using his subs to replace non-performing front men and taking off holding mids to replace them with an extra attacker late in games that the Caps have trailed in?

A three-game losing skid is some cause for some worry at this point in the season, as everyone is beginning to make the final push for the playoffs. But the Caps haven't just lost three consecutive -- they've played exceptionally poorly in doing so. And for my money, recent form is the best indicator there is for near-future performance. Taking into account the diluted roster we'll be seeing tomorrow, I would venture to say that Vancouver has very little chance of competing, let alone taking home even a single point. Not unless Bruce Arena takes note, and opts to do the same as Rennie and hopes that a pair of eights will do the job that his pocket aces normally do, especially since Landon Donovan is sitting this one out too.

My bet is that LA fields a decent squad, probably resting one or two key players at the half.

In a playoff race this tight, with Dallas only 5 pts back, the Vancouver Whitecaps don't have the luxury of taking a match off -- especially as they're about to enter the two-week international break.

Should Vancouver's losing streak be extended to four of a kind, and Schellas Hyndman's FCD can come up big against the Sounders on Sunday, mark Sept. 15 on your calendars, when the Caps will be visiting Dallas. Looks like Martin Rennie's a gamblin' man -- let's hope he knows his limit, and plays within it.

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