Which way do the boys go?
It's been said that in professional sports, a little adversity is always a good thing. It's also been said that good teams don't lose three in a row. I could go on and on with these supposed sayings, but I won't. The bottom line is that the Whitecaps have lost 3 in a row, and have looked pretty grotesque in doing so. I will point you to Saturday night's BC Lions game as a prime example of your big name players coming up with plays that they should make to help your team win the game, a stark contrast to 24hrs before where on the exact same field, the home team couldn't produce anything.
For the first time, Carl Robinson has lost 3 league matches in a row. Normally, that's not particularly newsworthy, however, given the timing and style in which they lost, one has to wonder about many things. With 9 league games left for the Caps, the situation is precarious to say the least.
As of right now, the bottom half of the West goes like:
Portland: 25GP, 32pts
San Jose: 23GP, 31pts
Vancouver: 25GP, 30pts
Seattle: 22GP, 24pts
Houston: 22GP, 20pts
We all knew that the 2 games in Texas followed by the match in Colorado were gonna be a test for the Caps, and needless to say, they did as expected, or worse, depending on whether you're a glass half full or half empty kind of person. I used to be half full, but I'm starting to shrink the amount of liquid proportionally with the expedited shrinkage of the cup. Does that make me a cynic? Probably, and with good reason too.
While making the playoffs, re-taking the Cascadia Cup, claiming the top seed for the 2017 Voyageurs Cup tournament and advancing to the group stage of the 2016-2017 Champions League are still very much mathematically in play, I don't see many of those things happening.
With league matches left against everyone in the bottom half, except for Houston, this is very much in their hands. Obviously, the biggest concern are the games in hand the teams around them have. With Houston and Portland having yet to play this weekend, the Caps could find themselves in the basement of the West by mid-September. That pretty much polishes off them making the playoffs.
As for the Cascadia Cup, as long as Portland doesn't sweep the home-and-home with Seattle, there is some room for error. As much as I feel my wrists starting slit themselves, would a Seattle sweep be the best situation? It would pull them even with the Timbers and Caps, and it would put the Caps in the drivers seat.
I don't see the Caps getting the top seed for the 2017 Voyageurs Cup tourney. TFC is 6 up, Montreal is 3 up, both with 2 games in hand, I just don't see it happening. I would love to be proven wrong, but I just can't.
I will preface this next part by saying that I will not be bailing on this team for next season, as the deadline for renewal (not automatically initiating the next billing cycle), is Monday. Normally, I'd suggest formation and lineup changes, but I think the ideal time for that was 6 weeks ago, right after throwing away the Canadian Championship and a ticket into the 2017 CONCACAF Champions League.
Whatever issue Robbo has with Aird, unless its fitness related, he needs to get over it. Yeah, he's not the most defensively sound guy they have, but he's miles better than Parker. While I think Seiler has looked good in limited minutes, I don't think he's ready to be thrown head first into the fire, in what are essentially must-win games.
The next one is Alphonso Davies. 36hrs ago, I was like just start the kid with no hestitation, but then I remembered the howler of a half that Bustos had in DC, a game I was on Report Card duty for. I pretty much blamed his (Bustos) performance on Robinson, not putting the kid in a position (out wide) to succeed. However, I do feel that Davies, a winger, might be better suited for a start. Some will disagree with him, thinking that I'll be ruining the kid's confidence. Well, if Saturday night showed me anything, this team needs a spark, and a swift kick (or multiple) in the posterior. Moreso, I'd be doing it to send a message to the veterans.
Blas Perez. I've always been of the belief that if you're gonna play the system they do (4-2-3-1), your forward needs good service, regardless of who. If you play Perez up top, he's got the strength and savvy to hold the ball up while your midfield joins the attack to provide him some options. When Kudo starts, a player more likely to make a run to get behind the defenders, service is still required, but it can be more of a fluid type of attack. Don't get me wrong, I like both players, however, I just don't know why Robinson won't use Perez more. Robbo's first sub usually comes around the 60 minute mark, so why not?
Following up on the formation and lineup issue, I feel that the 4-2-3-1 is so widely used, it's also very easily defended, moreso, when the Caps trot out the usual starting 11 they do. I do realize that what I proposed in a previous piece is radical, but I think it's worth investiating a bit more.
1)Leave Morales on the bench, or even out of the 18.
On the face, I know it's an insane idea in the final 10 games of the season, but there's a number of reasons why I think it should be considered:
2014 was Morales best year, in which he was strictly an attacking midfielder. 33 appearances (28 starts) yielded 10 goals, 12 assists, 39 shots on goal in 2554 minutes. What does all this mean? He made a direct offensive impact every 116 minutes.
2015 saw 23 appearances (15 starts) yielded 6 goals, 4 assists, 17 shots on goal in 1429 minutes in a start-and-go season filled with injuries. This season also marked the first time we had seen Pedro used as a deep lying playmaker or even a holding midfielder, playing beside Matias Laba.
2016 to date has seen 1 goal from Pedro coming during the run of play, that being in the 4-3 win at BMO Field in May. The other goals have been from PKs.
2)Change of tactics
Robinson seems pretty loyal to the 4-2-3-1, however, I think it's time to change it up. 4-1-4-1 or even 4-4-2 diamond.
4-1-4-1 is a lot more attack oriented than what Robbo is accustomed to, but I think it'll work.
Subs: Tornaghi, Kudo, Hurtado, Jacobson, Techera, Davies, Parker
Given what I said earlier, with Perez up top, he can hold the ball up while 2 or 3 of your midfields overlap to give Perez some options. I feel that 2 holding mids is redundant and has Matias running around trying to cover for whoever partners him, save for Jacobson. When Aird goes forward, Edgar can slip out wide and have Laba drop back as a quasi-defender.
4-4-2 diamond is something that Rennie toyed with once or twice, and it was one of the few things that worked.
Subs: Tornaghi, Hurtado, Kudo, Jacobson, Edgar, Morales, Davies.
Yes, I've left Morales on the bench, feeling that Mezquida can provide a bit more of a spark at the #10 position. As mentioned above, when Aird goes forward, Parker can slide out wide and Laba can slip back.
Obviously, these formations are without Manneh, so you could plug him either for Techera or Davies while keeping some semblance of speed in the lineup.
As the current situation stands now, I would not be starting Davies in league play, instead using him in the CCL as he provides a spark that may be able to expose SKC's 2nd team or just completely overpower Central FC. Should the Caps continue to struggle, I may re-consider and give him 1 half just to see how he copes with it.
Do you focus on CCL play, even though Lenarduzzi, rightly or wrongly, came out and said that MLS Cup is the team priority? Someone chimed in on Twitter and basically said, what's the point? Get hammered by a Mexican club in the Knockout Round? From my point of view, there is no shame in being eliminated by a Mexican club in the next round of the CCL, as long as it's not Queretaro. They would just be another MLS team to join the list of MLS teams unable to beat a Mexican team.
Is Robinson's time up? Hard to say, as reports from local scribes, had a new deal being worked on, but with another late summer/fall slide seemingly well into effect, one has to wonder of Lenarduzzi and co are still of the same mindset.
Time will tell.