If you read through my posts from last season, I think it's fairly safe to assume that I'm a Nigel Reo-Coker fan, and I loved the extra level he brought to the Whitecaps' midfield last season. He was easily one of their best players, even if his goal totals didn't reflect it. A staple in midfield, his charging runs to set up the attack became a fixture at BC Place, and he was recognized by MLS with a nomination for the 'newcomer' award at the end of the season.
Fast forward to 2014, and things aren't looking so pretty. While Reo-Coker began the season in the starting 11, questions arose about his fitness level going into camp. After some uninspired matches, Reo-Coker was forced out of the lineup after sustaining a concussion tripping over a bike rack. Now, the terrific play of Gershon Koffie has seen Reo-Coker relegated to the bench, a situation that must be uncomfortable for him, given how the team relied so heavily on him last season.
For once, the club is decently set at all midfield positions, and there just hasn't really been an opportunity for Reo-Coker to work his way back into the lineup. Matias Laba has been phenomenal in the defensive midfield role, while Gershon Koffie has been the talk of the town after his recent run of solid play as well. Following that pair, Russell Teibert has proved to be very comfortable in the role as well. There's simply too many bodies at the position now, and with Reo-Coker's multiple problems early in the season, he hasn't done himself any favors in earning the trust of Head Coach Carl Robinson. It's tough to make the case to play Reo-Coker because he has looked so ordinary in the limited minutes he has gotten.
Now, as Marc Weber of The Province pointed out in his article earlier this week, it's been five matches since Nigel Reo-Coker stepped foot on the pitch. How long does the $446,000 man have to wait in exile? Could this be another Eric Hassli situation, in which the expensive veteran is shipped out of town via trade? More importantly, given that Reo-Coker has gone through controversies with other clubs he's played on, how long does he keep toeing the company line? I will say that he's been on his best behavior since joining the Whitecaps, so it may be unfair to treat him as a ticking time bomb.
The bottom line is that this is professional soccer, and that means business decisions have to be made. Does it make sense to have a $446,00 player sitting on the bench? Absolutely not, just as it doesn't make any sense to play an athlete that hasn't earned his way back into the lineup. That's the rock and a hard place Reo-Coker currently sits in, and it will be interesting to see what Whitecaps head brass does to remedy the situation. However, you would have to think that the writing is on the wall; the longer Reo-Coker sits, the bigger the chance he won't finish out the season as a Whitecap.