Before we get too far down this rabbit hole, I'd like to state for the record that I am an optimist. I believe that the Vancouver Whitecaps have what it takes to hang on to fifth place in their conference, that they will hold their own in the playoff round and that they can replicate their regular season success against the San Jose Earthquakes in the semi-finals. Despite any pragmatism, cynicism or highly emotional outbursts of rage I may have shown in the comments section of this blog prior, I hold on to the thought that this season will be one we can not only hang our caps and scarves on once the final whistle is blown but cement as a building block to an even greater season in 2013.
(Disclaimer: next season, if we lose the Voyageurs Cup again, I reserve the right to blow a gasket so large the impact leaves a sizable dent in the concrete walls of my workplace.)
However, even an optimist must begin to confront reality once a winless streak takes hold, and seven games without a notch in the "W" column is plenty of time to reflect on a bad spate of results. One possible explanation for the slump, as laid out by Benjamin Massey earlier, is that the Whitecaps' recent struggles can be seen as a "regression to the mean"; that is, they've been lucky -- far too lucky -- to begin the season and the results we're seeing now are a balancing of those extenuating circumstances. As a big fan of statistics, logic and late-night Football Manager 2012 sessions, I can see this point of view. Remove the fluff, look purely at the numbers and, more often than not, a pattern begins to emerge. Follow the pattern and you can begin to see where the club might go; if you're Martin Rennie (or the fake head coach of Vauxhall Motors FC trying to bring home the 2016 FA Trophy), this is where you begin tinkering with your tactical approach to get that long-overdue win.
That's only one possible explanation, though; the other, as championed by many fed-up fans, is that Rennie made a mid-season overhaul that over-promised, under-delivered and wreaked havoc with the team's salary cap and player chemistry. Forget how tough it was for fans to say goodbye to Eric Hassli and Davide Chiumiento; imagine how tough it must have been for their teammates to see two memorable pieces of the inaugural MLS season depart in the span of nine days.
There is, however, a third possibility.
If the cause of the Whitecaps' misfortune isn't logical or emotional, then it stands to reason we must be dealing with some sort of voodoo curse or magic. How else to explain a mind-numbing run of form that has seen roster selection put through a food processor, a concussed captain, defeat via world-class strikes from distance and the Portland Timbers -- the Portscum Timbits -- on the verge of winning the Cascadia Cup? This reality-altering hex is known as "hyper-regression" and, unlike standard regression, threatens to send a team spiraling well past the mean and into oblivion through a series of heretofore-unlikely occurrences. Luckily, it just so happens one of my hobbies is to study occult signs to detect sports hexes and their sources; thus, after a weekend of deep study, I am ready to humbly present my predictions as to exactly where this "hyper-regression" will leave the 'Caps in four games.
Has everyone put their Nostradamus hats on? Good; let's begin:
- Gershon Koffie will be admitted to hospital for an irregular heartbeat after receiving a telephone call from James Kwesi Appiah inviting him to train with the Ghanian national team. Koffie will, regrettably, already be in the ambulance by the time Appiah says, "...psych! We're calling up Dominic Oduro instead. Ah ha ha ha, that was great... hello? Hello?"
- Camilo, after scoring a sublime golazo to go with a world-class individual effort, will leap into the Curva Collective to celebrate with the supporters. Ignoring the resulting yellow card, he will spend the rest of the match in full samba mode in the stands and ultimately retire the following day to pursue his true calling, the "Camilo Sanvezzo Fine School of Dancing".
- John Thorrington will stop on the way home after practice for a jug of milk and, due to the strain of opening a freezer door, will dislocate his shoulder. Momentarily shocked by the pain, he will then trip over his own feet and concuss himself as his head makes contact with the linoleum. The newspapers will later summarize this as "Thorrington Catches Lucky Break, Doesn't Smash Hip, Shin or Forearm; Ribs Questionable, But What Else Is New".
- Jay DeMerit, Martin Bonjour and Andy O'Brien will be forced to take extended medical leave after each taking an uppercut to the head during a wayward Brad Knighton punch clearance. Despite receiving numerous pleas from his fans, coaches and family to stop injuring teammates, Knighton will insist he does not need to alter his playing style.
- Knighton will cede the starting goaltender job back to Joe Cannon after a career-ending ACL injury caused by DeMerit taking a lead pipe to Knighton's knee. DeMerit's actions will be chalked up to "post-concussion symptoms". Meanwhile, in England, Ben Foster will inexplicably shiver uncontrollably.
- Joe Cannon will cede the still-fresh starting goaltender job to Brian Sylvestre after the tonic of youth Cannon and Young-Pyo Lee had secretly been drinking goes missing. Bob Lenarduzzi will hold a press conference on the same day to announce that a rejuvenated Carl Valentine has been signed by the club and doesn't look a day over 25. Upon hearing this, Cannon and Lee will simultaneously wither away Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade-style.
- Martin Rennie will take a page out of Davide Chiumiento's book and try some home cooking (courtesy of Haggis Fans Weekly) to get Barry Robson and Kenny Miller back in form permanently. Unfortunately, in a well-intentioned move to get in the coach's good books, Darren Mattocks will offer to cook. The resulting house fire will leave Mattocks, Rennie and Miller confined to a burn ward for the rest of the year.
- Robson will barely escape the haggis inferno by diving out the front door before it collapses. However, instead of immediately calling for help, he will raise his arms in protest and demand a referee book the fire for a blatant foul.
For those of you keeping score at home, that will leave the team with a starting eleven of Sylvestre, Greg Klazura, Carlyle Mitchell, Alain Rochat, Jordan Harvey, Dane Richards, Tiago Ulisses, Matt Watson, Russell Teibert, Etienne Barbara and Atiba Harris. That may look unfathomably dire but, as I said off the top, I'm an optimist -- even a textbook case of "hyper-regression" could still be enough for Vancouver to comfortably run out a 1-0 win against Chivas USA since, well, it's Chivas USA.
(And in case it wasn't clear -- yes, this post was an attempt at humour. I hope you at least got a chuckle out of it.)