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Toronto - Vancouver Post-Game: Can This Please Stop Happening?

Rare photo of Julian de Guzman not slapping anybody.
Rare photo of Julian de Guzman not slapping anybody.

How do you even talk about a game like that? My god, what a nightmare.

I'm told that, after the game, Martin Rennie went on a rant about the refereeing. Silviu Petrescu is from the Toronto area and called a shitty game, because he's a Canadian referee and therefore incompetent. If true, then I lost a little more respect for Martin Rennie because in a game like that you should never rely on the referee to win the game for you. Vancouver was totally, comprehensively out-played by an 0-0-9 time. They were beaten completely into the ground and deserved exactly what they got, which was nothing.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that Martin Rennie is learning about MLS every bit as much as some of his players. Because he's a bright guy who's having a good year and who got thoroughly outfoxed by Aron Winter. Winter simply set up a game plan to exploit the old weaknesses that everybody could see and was talking about: Vancouver can't do much of anything out wide and they can't move the ball through midfield without either Davide Chiumiento or Matt Watson playing. The Camilo Sanvezzo - Eric Hassli - Sebastien Le Toux strike trio might be our three most talented forwards, but they also don't play well together.

The result? Self-explanatory. An absolute disgrace.

Most of the players put in a fair effort. For all the heat Eric Hassli's going to get for sitting down in bewildered shock after not having a foul called from a tough Adrian Cann tackle, at least he cared even if he wasn't thinking. All the guys whose effort is sometimes questionable ran their hearts out, while Joe Cannon's rampaging up and down the field in garbage time will be remembered as long as people want to think about determination not to accept a loss.

They just played awful soccer and deserved to lose to an inferior team, thus handing over a national championship which the Whitecaps have still never won and forfeiting a fantastic shot at their first trip to the CONCACAF Champions League. So, even as I accept that the boys tried their best, I'm still angry at them for playing so poorly in the most important game we're likely to play all season. It's not rational, but fandom never is.

Very few excuses for Vancouver's loss hold water. "Fixture congestion" is a popular one: the Whitecaps have played seven matches so far in May. Well, Toronto FC has played six: they benefited from a Saturday off on May 12 but surely this was at least evened out by Vancouver's heavy use of depth players in the two FC Edmonton matches. Toronto was every bit as hungry for a point against D.C. United and their former captain as Vancouver was to get something against the Seattle Sounders. It's a poor explanation for such an awful performance.

There were certainly signs of mental fatigue in the Whitecaps lineup, particularly from poor Sebastien Le Toux who had one of the very worst attacking performances I can remember from any player in Whitecaps colours. It was a catastrophic game from an excellent player, so utterly repugnant that when he was sent off (allegedly for a stamp, although replays were unclear and I bet Petrescu wanted to send off players from both teams to re-establish control in a melée) I was sort of relieved because at least he wouldn't be turning the ball over anymore.

Perhaps Martin Rennie's tired, which is why he thought asking John Thorrington and Gershon Koffie to be playmakers would work. Say what you will about Toronto FC, but Julian de Guzman and Torsten Frings aren't going to have much problem with that. Thorrington's a useful player in his role but is basically a short passer with marginal creativity. Koffie is a touch clumsy and doesn't always make the right attacking decision. Neither is suitable for the role.

The result? Useless long balls for the forwards. Some of them aimed for Le Toux, who would just turn it over. Some of them aimed for Camilo, who can't play team soccer. It sure is great to watch Camilo hold it longer than is seemingly sensible and try to beat everybody but it doesn't work when he has to be one of the playmakers, as he did in the formation last night. When Eric Hassli had the ball, which wasn't often, he was entirely unsupported and pretty much had to go him-against-the-world. He was Vancouver's best attacking player until Chiumiento came on.

Chiumiento at least gave Vancouver a chance. When he came in he didn't solve every problem but it at least looked like we might score. Of course, by that point the team was so torn up (exhaustion, frustration, the crippling loss of Alain Rochat to what looked like an ankle injury) that we were having trouble just reliably getting the ball into the midfield. I hope there's a lesson there. It doesn't have to be Chiumiento every game; he wouldn't be fit enough for it anyway. But for all his foibles Matt Watson can at least play that role; too many turnovers but activity and an ability to spur the attack. Russell Teibert could do it too if he ever got a chance.

I've never been so eager for Barry Robson to arrive as I was last night.

Toronto deserved their win, and perhaps that's the worst part. There was no rain, the refereeing was merely crap rather than corrupt, the Montreal Impact were watching from home and not playing a reserve squad just to screw us. We played right into their hands. Too little defensive ability from the wings meant that Joao Plata and Reggie Lambe got their space; Lambe scored and Plata probably should have after owning Lee Young-pyo all night. When Toronto ran around with the Voyageurs Cup, it was because the Whitecaps were trounced by the worst team in the world.

Let this be a lesson to the Whitecaps about the dangers of overconfidence. Let's hope Martin Rennie shows his team the tape from this game and then watches it like a hawk himself to see where he went wrong. There are good pieces here but by god we're not contenders yet. Contenders don't throw cups away like that. Let the rebuild continue.