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That Chivas - Whitecaps Game, In Full

Pictured above is a video showing the complete highlights from Vancouver Whitecaps - Chivas USA on Saturday night. "Hey, Ben, there's no video." Exactly.

I despise cliché (no matter how often I use it). But here goes: the Whitecaps were just short on killer instinct from manager to player and right on back again.

Should Martin Rennie have used more than one substitution? Yes. In the second half Davide Chiumiento was being marked out of the universe: bring on Russell Teibert or Michael Nanchoff and try to batter those goats down. Chivas USA is good at very few things but one thing they are good at is playing frustrating soccer that makes everyone hate them: they can't consistently get three points but when they set their mind to it they're sure able to get one. The only way to cure that particular ill is to throw such a varied offensive threat at them that they can't bunker against it all. Instead, Camilo Sanvezzo came on for Eric Hassli and that was it; Business As Usual.

He was taking on a team which hadn't played in ten days and his players were in the midst of one billion games in two weeks (approximation). The Whitecaps are facing a trans-continental road trip midweek as they visit Toronto on Wednesday. A bit of rotation sounds like a good idea in its own right even if it wouldn't have helped win that game, which it would have.

As we all see, Martin Rennie finds a player he likes and plays that guy's legs off until he stops liking him. This is a good thing nine times out of ten. Most managers mix and match too much; they become overconvinced in their own tactical genius and overlook the simple but effective precept of "all else being equal, your best players should play as much as possible." I daresay much of Vancouver's modest but real success this season has come through Rennie simply letting his best horses run. And there have been changes as players have come in and out of favour: witness the fall and recovery of Davide Chiumiento's playing time, the recent ascendancy of Darren Mattocks, and the brief but surprisingly enjoyable "Omar Salgado on the left" experiment.

Still, it's possible to take a virtue too far.

There are two times this season when Rennie has really gone out and thrown some punches: in the first game of the year against the Montreal Impact and the second Voyageurs Cup first round leg against FC Edmonton. The first time, Rennie was trying to make a statement in his MLS debut and the team's season opener against an old rival. The second time, Yashir Pinto had just scored a possibly-vital goal for Edmonton and Rennie wasn't going to take that shit. Both were inferior squads, both were at home, but both times Rennie charged up for offense, hurled his big guns at the opponent, and got fantastic results.

In the heat and humidity of California against a team that wants nothing more than a draw, battering the opponent down with sheer offense is easier said that done. But we all know Rennie isn't going to get half an hour of action out of Teibert or Nanchoff combined this road trip unless someone gets hurt; the only risk was that he'd give up a goal the other way.

It could have happened but it was still a sensible risk. Rennie wasn't afraid to gamble in Carolina but in Vancouver he's tightened up slightly. Hell, he has a good team to tighten up with: great defensive players in the middle of the park and arguably the best season from any goalkeeper in the league. You can see Rennie's logic, and a point on the road during a trip like this is never a bad result. We'd have murdered a drifter for a point in this context last season.

And yet, one senses that the Whitecaps had the bullets but chose not to fire them. That's probably more frustrating than a last-minute loss would have been.