It's almost fitting, that after a season and a bit of defending his players from most scrutiny, that the Vancouver Whitecaps players would eventually repay Martin Rennie in kind. When the Montreal Impact hoisted the Voyageurs cup at B.C. Place last week, many believed Rennie's days were numbered. Whether he deserved it or not is debatable but one things for sure; five straight Canadian Championship losses meant there had to be a sacrificial lamb.
The role was split between Rennie and defender Jordan Harvey, who you just had to feel bad for. Harvey was subbed in for Kenny Miller late in the second half, a sign that Rennie was content to play safe with the lead. When the Impact tied the match, the 'Caps needed a late goal. As the football gods once again pointed and laughed at the boys from Van City, it would be Harvey getting the final chances of the match. He, of course, missed and we all know the rest of the story.
Perhaps that's why the Whitecaps win against the New York Red Bulls was one of the most satisfying since this club joined the MLS in 2011. Jordan Harvey scored the first goal for the Whitecaps, giving them the confidence and momentum needed to come back in the match. Then there was Rennie, learning from his mistakes and going for the insurance goal late in the second half. He almost got it too, if Russell Teibert could've finished better on a great setup from Kenny Miller. The Whitecaps would end up besting Thierry Henry's bunch, nabbing three points and moving back to .500 on the season (4-4-4).
While fans and media can still point to the Canadian Championship loss (and considering the Whitecaps had no excuses to draw that match, they should), but Rennie and the Whitecaps rebounded in the absolute best way possible. Despite missing several regulars, they topped one of the best teams in MLS, and have now lost outright just once in their last 9, count em, 9 matches.
In that span, they've tied the Montreal Impact twice, drawn with the Portland Timbers in a match they were minutes away from winning, topped the LA Galaxy for the first time in franchise history, and now have beaten the New York Red Bulls. I know many of us are still sour from Wednesday, but this team is on a bit of a run. It's enough positive news that Martin Rennie should feel the noose loosening from around his neck. His coaching decisions (ESPECIALLY his substitutions) will always be looked at with a raised eyebrow, because fans and media have a long memory.
However, because of the Whitecaps recent surge in MLS play, Rennie has bought himself some time, and a little more credibility. I'm not saying everyone had completely lost faith in Martin Rennie, but I think it's safe to say we were expecting more mediocrity this season. I mean, did anyone think the Whitecaps had a legitimate shot to even draw with the Red Bulls? The bottom line is, Rennie has at least earned himself to the end of the season now; if the 'Caps don't make the play-offs, we can expect to revisit the issue.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the 'Caps have are facing a very winnable match in the face. They're taking on a vulnerable Seattle Sounder bunch who will be missing one of their top players in Obafemi Martins due to suspension. The 'Caps will be fielding a much stronger lineup as well; Nigel Reo-Coker will play, while Gershon Koffie may also make an appearance. Plus, Rennie has all but confirmed his attacking three of Teibert, Camilo and Kenny Miller will stay intact, which is good. Rennie likes to juggle his lineup now and then, but the trio have played very well together, and deserve an extended amount of time to see what they can accomplish.
Hey, with a win against the Sounders, The Whitecaps would leapfrog Seattle into sixth place in the Western Conference. I feel almost moronic for writing this, but I'm optimistic the Whitecaps will show up for this match, and keep their improved, solid play going. However, as a Vancouver sports fan, I'm getting pretty used to disappointment.