Damn those Major League Soccer schedule-makers! How can they be so inept as to give teams like the Whitecaps two regular season games with only a three-day gap in between! What do they think this is, U-17 soccer? And yet they have the gall to declare that they can't possibly accommodate FIFA international dates because it would ruin the sanctity of their more-precious-than-gold regular season schedule! Ptah, I say! Humbug! This infandous batch of carpetbaggers has given the Whitecaps, and every other team in the league, the short end of their greed stick.
Okay. Now that I have gotten the obligatory MLS fan outrage out of my system, let's look at this mid-week game rationally.
For us Vancouver Whitecaps supporters, of course, the game we face tomorrow against the New England Revolution is nothing new. We've played more than our share of mid-week games in the past. The United Soccer Leagues loved mid-week games, and the bastard child of them and the NASL, the USSF D2, inherited that weird lust with even fewer inhibitions. The Whitecaps somehow managed to play nine regular season games out of thirty last year on either a Tuesday, Wednesday, or a Thursday. And MLS thinks it has problems. They also played two playoff dates (half of them, in short) mid-week, as well as all four Voyageurs Cup fixtures. Although the Voyageurs Cup wasn't the USSF's fault.
Of course, the 2010 team and the 2011 version only share a few players. But they do share many of the same coaches, management personnel, and even training staff. Their approach to training, to fitness, and game preparation probably haven't been revolutionized. It's those departments, more than any other, that determine how effective a team can be during tough stretches of the schedule.
You can see where this is going, I'm sure. After the jump, a look at Vancouver's 2010 midweek performance.
|April 29||Portland Timbers||2||1||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|June 9||Vancouver Whitecaps||1||1||Carolina Railhawks|
|June 16||Puerto Rico Islanders||1||1||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|June 30||Montreal Impact||1||2||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|July 8||Vancouver Whitecaps||1||1||AC St. Louis|
|July 14||Vancouver Whitecaps||3||1||Miami FC|
|July 22||Vancouver Whitecaps||1||2||Portland Timbers|
|July 28||Montreal Impact||0||1||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|August 19||FC Tampa Bay||1||1||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|9 GP, 3 W, 4 D, 2 L, +2 GD
Full Regular Season Record: 30 GP, 10 W, 15 D, 5 L, +10 GD
|October 7||Vancouver Whitecaps||2||0||Portland Timbers|
|October 14||Puerto Rico Islanders||0||0||Vancouver Whitecaps|
|2GP, 1 W, 1 D, 0 L, +2 GD
Full Playoff Record: 4 GP, 1 W, 1 D, 2 L, -1 GD
I excluded the Voyageurs Cup from the comparison because of its oddness (a higher-division team, varying team strengths, being eliminated before the last game...) and because the list of results were so basic (we drew every damned one). We actually did a lot of drawing last year, as you may recall, and as you can see from the tables above the midweek games were no exception. Our midweek record was more-or-less identical to our full record: 3-4-2 against a regular season record of 10-15-5. Our winning percentage remained constant at 33% and our points-per-game dropped from 1.50 to 1.18, which sounds like much more than it is (we draw one of those Portland games instead of losing it and it's 1.56).
We were, essentially, the same team midweek as we were during the rest of the season. Well, then. Since a midweek game for a team the Whitecaps is obviously also a midweek game for the team the Whitecaps are playing, that's pretty much what you'd expect if both teams were equally prepared. And being as well-prepared as the AC St. Louis coaching staff isn't quite a compliment in MLS terms.
I will, however, give the Whitecaps the benefit of the doubt in a few departments. First off, both our losses were to Portland. Did you see Portland last season? Good God, they were so much better than us for most of that campaign I'm still not sure how we pipped them in the playoffs. That first game we lost to them, our starting lineup featured Marcus Haber, Marlon James, Ansu Toure, and Chris Williams. Portland was much better off: they still had Ryan "Could Score A Brace Against Jay Nolly If You Chained His Ankles To His Wrists" Pore, Bright Dike (though he was on the bench), Ian Joy, Futty Danso, Steve Cronin, and a not-fat-yet Quavas Kirk. The Timbers, in short, were closer to their best lineup than the Whitecaps were (and it showed).
The second Portland game was in Vancouver and featured the Whitecaps much closer to their best (although the likes of Justin Moose and Alex Elliott were still kicking around, wasting oxygen). Of course, that game featured Greg Janicki being sent off for a straight red card, Ryan Pore putting on a show even by Ryan-Pore-against-the-Whitecaps standards, and Jay Nolly making a complete asshole of himself in a game the Whitecaps probably deserved to win. I was in Edmonton for the Portsmouth friendly when we played that one and I still wound up so incredibly frustrated that I wrote a Maple Leaf Forever post about it anyway. That's the sort of game that was.
Having gone through the trouble of collecting all that data, I will now be an idiot and say that, anecdotally, I thought the Whitecaps did extremely well in mid-week games last year relative to their usual ability. But even if you prefer to trust actual data to the year-old reminiscences of a by-no-means-impartial idiot blogger, this isn't terribly discouraging. The New England Revolution are on the road, they're not terribly good, they're coming off a disappointing home draw as opposed to our exhilarating one. If Teitur and company's preparation for a mid-week game is only equal to New England's... well, that still gives us a pretty good chance, doesn't it?