Last week, I wrote that the next 3 games were going to be important for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Win all 3 and they win their second trophy of the season (and three-peat as Cascadia Cup champs), advance to the knockout round of the CONCACAF Champions League (in their first appearance), and increase their lead in the Supporters Shield standings, as the best team in MLS.
The Whitecaps started out strong, albeit in their ‘easiest’ game of the 3, defeating C.D. Olimpia last Wednesday night, at BC Place. However, the positives ceased after that game, as the Whitecaps were shutout, at home, on Saturday night 3-0, and were embarrassed by Seattle Sounders for a second time in 4 days, losing 3-0 on Wednesday night. To add insult to injury, the two losses to Seattle meant that the Sounders a) won the Cascadia Cup, b) advanced in the CONCACA Champions League, and c) gave life to a Sounders team that was in desperate need.
On Saturday evening, I took to 86ersForever Twitter account to tweet the follow "OMG PEOPLE!!!! Are there any poorer/fickle fans than those in Vancouver? They lost. It happens. The sky is not falling. Still leading MLS." I am sure that Wednesday’s drubbing will do nothing to quell the uproar that is Vancouver sports fans. While I stand by my comment about fickle Vancouver fans and the sky not falling on the Whitecaps, there is valid evidence for concern, even among ‘true’ supporters.
The Whitecaps did not look like a top-level MLS team on Saturday evening. This is independent of the score as I feel the last two goals, especially the second, were the result of circumstances more than anything. Wednesday evening was a train-wreck, epitomized by Robert Earnshaw’s free kick at the 85-minute mark where he looked to be channeling his inner-American footballer trying to hit a field goal and tie the game that way. I expect to hear a vocal group noting the Whitecaps’ (and myself) claim to having excellent depth and once again it being shown to be a mirage. While I can certainly come up with excuses –injuries, whole-sale changes, etc. – at some point, you need to accept the data you have in front of you and say, when pressed to make considerable changes, the Whitecaps have failed to perform.
Potentially more concerning during this stretch was the injury accumulations. Darren Mattocks, Nicolas Mizquida, and Pedro Morales all went down. This does not bode well for the success of this team down the stretch. Wednesday evening also brought forth another concern. I have been preaching patience with Diego Rodriguez, and while I still believe he has plenty to offer and expect him back next season, he has shown nothing in his opportunities that he can be relied upon at the back. I have also written about the importance of Pa Mo-Dou Kah to this team. However, on Wednesday evening Kah was woeful and many of the concerns Whitecaps fans had at the beginning of the season, in relying on Kah, were on display.
In a week’s period, where the Whitecaps had a great chance to solidify themselves as a force within North American soccer, that they belonged in the conversation of elite teams, they faltered. Keeping in mind that this is a young team that is still going to have plenty of growing pains (including by the head coach), what is your take on the week that was? What are your expectations for the remainder of the season as the Whitecaps can now focus their attention on one goal and one game a week?
As a final note, the one bright spot from this week’s games is that the return leg against C.D. Olimpia, in October, has turned out to be a ‘meaningless’ game just as we had hoped…just not for the reason that we hoped.