The favourite criticism of Martin Rennie's coach philosophy is his over usage of players. However, who is truly to blame for his over reliance on the 'good' players?
As a first year head coach, Martin Rennie has done, well, pretty much what he could've with one full season under his belt. He guided a team that had failed miserably in 2011 and got them into the 2012 MLS playoffs, the first Canadian team to do so. Near the beginning of the season, when the Whitecaps were riding high and looked like they might be on the cusp of greatness, Rennie was the toast of the town. However, when the end of the season, and reality, kicked in, Rennie came back down to Earth and his faults as a coach were exposed.
The biggest, nagging fault that dogged him when the 'Caps started cooling off was roster management. Rennie believes in riding his players all season long, which isn't exactly the best idea. Anyone who has seen the John Wayne classic The Searchers knows that even times of peril, it's best to let your horse have a drink of water and a rest. Otherwise, they tend not to make it very far. Now, Martin Rennie, the Vancouver Whitecaps, and for that matter, their fans, were extremely lucky to not experience any more injury than they did in the 2012 season, despite Rennie's usage of his veterans.
When you think about it, it's downright incredible that a player like Jay Demerit lasted the entire season with relative ease. Take into consideration the injury plagued 2011 that he had, and you would think that Rennie would want to give him a bit of a break. Instead, Demerit played in 31 matches, 32 if you include the all-star match. Then there was YP Lee, who was so tired by the end of the year that he contemplated not coming back this year.
Why doesn't Rennie trust his backups? Well, to be frank, the 'Caps don't really have any. Take a look at the depth behind the starting backline for the Whitecaps and tell me you'd play them in a dire situation. If you put Martin Bonjour in, you know that cards are going to be doled out. Then there is Greg Klazura, who literally has no MLS experience to speak of. Finally, Carlyle Mitchell, another unknown quantity. When Alain Rochat is in the midfield, there just aren't the neccessary players to insert into the lineup. Should Rennie have rested his squad earlier in the summertime? It's definitely a point with merit. However, it isn't as cut and dry as, "Rennie should have rested YP Lee more!" When Rennie's options were literally, okay, who can I play that will hurt the team less? Honestly, do you remember how poorly the team played without Jay Demerit?
I say that before Rennie can be fairly judged on his usage of players, the 'Caps need to get a few more MLS quality players for depth. Help Rennie out and give him the option of using a guy off the bench. If we want to see better treatment of the backline players, the club is going to have to step up and give Rennie better backline players to work with, players that can actually compete for a roster spot. It happened with Bonjour; Bonjour was a card machine, so the 'Caps went out and got someone better, Andy O'Brien. The club doesn't even need a player as solid as O'Brien, they just need a player that can be counted upon in spot duty. There's got to be some of those players floating around out there, and the 'Caps need to strike soon. Otherwise, it'll be another season of praying that Demerit and YP Lee can stay healthy. If not, boy oh boy is this squad in trouble.