The almost loss to FC Edmonton Wednesday night and the paltry showing by Vancouver has resulted in many fans questioning a) the lineup decisions of Carl Robinson; and b) the depth of the Vancouver Whitecaps roster. To address both questions a) the lineup decision was correct; b) the Whitecaps have excellent depth.
It has become common practice for teams to play their young players, and sit their stars, for the opening rounds of domestic cups. For example, let’s examine Real Madrid’s and Barcelona’s lineups for the first round of their domestic cup (Copa del Rey) and their semi-final Champions League match. Real Madrid had four players who played in both: Varane, Benzema, James, and Carvajal. James was taken out in the 59th minute of their Copa del Rey match while Benzema was removed in the 75th minute. Barcelona had three players who played in both: Ter Stegen (keeper), Rakitic, and Iniesta. Rakitic was taken out in the 63rd minute. Who was not in the lineup for Barcelona? Suarez, Messi, Neymar…Alba, Alves, Pique…The practice of playing your ‘depth’ or young players in the opening rounds is done at all the major clubs throughout the world. There is no reason why Robbo should have deviated from this practice. Given the ‘depth’ lineup, the outcome should not be that surprising. Technically, NASL is one tier below MLS. Therefore, the quality of play(ers) should not be significantly lower. FC Edmonton capitalized on a poor giveaway early and held on –or crawled around on the BC Place carpet- for the remainder of the contest. Plain and simple.
Question #2: The Whitecaps showed they have no depth.
This is so hilariously foolish and the reason why I felt this article needed to be written. The Vancouver Whitecaps DO have excellent depth. Let’s clarify what is meant by depth. Depth is not taking a bunch of guys, who never play together, and having them demolish another team. Depth is having competition at each position and being able to interchange parts (not the whole, just parts) without much fear of a decrease in production. For example, let’s take Kianz Froese. He has looked good in MLS but was very poor last night. There is a difference between plugging a guy into an already-built lineup and asking him to do his thing versus putting him in a new lineup and saying ‘hey, be the leader of this team’. The same can be said for most of the other players. There is a reason why they are ‘depth’ players. Unless you are Bayern Munich, your next 11 are not better than most other’s starting 11. Mezquida had a bad game as well last night, but everyone was raving about him when he was playing for the injured Rosales, or filling in for Morales. Depth means that when Sam Adekugbe goes down, Jordan Harvey can step in and play the position and be one of the better players on the field. THAT is depth. Finally, you have to consider that MLS has a salary cap that inhibits the ability to have outstanding depth.
The sky is not falling, the Vancouver Whitecaps do have depth, and they will be playing Montreal in August for a place in the CONCACAF Champions League in 2016. We would love for every game to be a blowout but that is not going to happen. Let’s keep perspective as we look forward to the next game against Seattle this weekend!