It's Sunday morning once again. The Black Roast of Death pure caffeine Sumatran beans are still grinding, and the vague aroma of warm nussgipfeli begins to waft my way. Amid Sever's Syndrome prevention exercises and the proud display of bruises, turf burns, and the plague of little black pellets that accompany the return of soccer season, there come a few moments of clarity to reflect -- at least until the dog makes a break for it with a cheesy match sock dangling from its mouth.
Just as the Sunday Morning Scribe has resurfaced, emerging from his burrow once more, so too have the Vancouver Whitecaps, as they finally put an end to the sad and sleepy saga that was their seven-week hibernation.
I've already made my prediction as to what the rest of the 2012 season holds for the Caps, so I won't dive into the punditry pool once more -- at least as it relates to making the MLS playoffs.
Saturday night versus the Seattle Sounders, a team that has pretty much owned the Whitecaps in the MLS and enjoy a 56-43-17 record in all-time play since 1974, Vancouver came away with just a single point after a 0-0 draw -- but more importantly, walked off the field in the knowledge that they had given themselves multiple chances to have earned a victory over their Cascadia rivals.
On the plus side, Vancouver has now drawn their last two matches, yet they remain winless in seven. Blanking the Sounders is a big positive for a side that, at least lately, sees fewer clean sheets than a Whalley motel. Looking at the game ledger, the Caps mustered an impressive 16 shots attempted. Unfortunately only three of those fell on net. Another indicator that the Caps' work ethic has returned were the nine corners awarded in their favour.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that the WCFC can't buy a victory these days -- and given what's been going on in soccer circles these days, I should point out that I'm using figurative language. What a cruel mistress fate is. She conjures up the scenario of Camilo coming in for an injured Mattocks (hamstring), making an immediate impact, and seemingly turning the tide in the home side's favour -- only to deny him a well-deserved spectacular winner from eight yards out in the dying seconds.
The final minutes of match time have been exceedingly unkind to the Caps on a good number of occasions this season -- snatching away points with the voracity of a revenue agency tax collector. Clearly, regression to the mean just doesn't apply after 85 minutes if you're wearing a Whitecaps jersey.
The week before, playing a weaker opponent, the Colorado Rapids, the Caps also had to settle for a draw after leading in the second half. That particular outing was extremely tough to digest, especially after the blue-and-white had practically exploded offensively with a pair of markers after halftime. There was the Dallas deflator prior to that, and the larceny in LA. Going back much earlier in the season, well... let's just say that what happens in Toronto stays in Toronto.
Returning to last night, and the raucous confines of B.C. Place, we saw some very clear evidence that the Vancouver Whitecaps have indeed re-awakened.
Starting from the back, Y.P. Lee looks to be rejuvenated, and playing much more of a role in bringing the ball downfield, be it on the ball, or on the overlap. In the middle of the back line, Andy O'Brien returned from the quad issue he suffered in Portland and looked surprisingly spry. For the most part, Jay DeMerit and O'Brien were rock solid, and instrumental in making Fredy Montero a non-factor.
Alain Rochat continues to look very much in control at the bottom of the midfield diamond, a positional change that's working out largely due to the fact that Jordan Harvey has made remarkable strides this year at left back. Harvey epitomized the "take one for the team" ethic on a couple of plays last night, putting him in a first-place tie with Martin Bonjour in the TOFTT department.
Gershon Koffie was his disruptive self once again, while John Thorrington (hamstring) left the park early, and may well have played his last match as a Whitecap, if not in the MLS. Few give a more honest effort than Thor, while even fewer have suffered through as many injury issues. Barry Robson was involved, assertive, and much more in sync with his teammates this match, and it's nice to see that the theatrics have fallen by the wayside as the team continues trying to build some cohesion.
Unfortunately, striker Darren Mattocks didn't last long enough to find the net, though he did threaten a couple times before limping off. We all know what he can do, and the dimension he gives the Vancouver attack. Early reports indicate that he will probably miss the next two matches.
The most pleasant surprise to me was Kenny Miller. The man worked so hard that I was sweating just watching him. Not only was his work rate through the roof, but we may have finally seen him hitting on all cylinders, after suffering through some early MLS growing pains. He consistently worked well with both Mattocks and replacement Camilo -- all three interchanged rather seamlessly with Robson as well.
All season long, the Caps have struggled to generate an attack of any note. At times, the issue has been a dearth of shots on target. At other points along the way it's been a shortage of creativity and thrust into the box that's limited the team's ability to score. While Vancouver is still looking to test enemy keepers more often, the semblance of an organized attack is beginning to manifest itself.
It's been a long wait for Whitecaps fans -- but it would appear that their side has, at long last, emerged from its slumber.