It was clear that the last two weeks would be difficult for the Vancouver Whitecaps. First, they were playing back-to-back matches in a state (Texas) they had never even obtained a point, at the end of July. Second, they were traveling to Trinidad and Tobago for their first CCL match. Third, they would close out their road trip against a surprisingly strong Colorado Rapids team, at altitude, where the Caps have also struggled to pick up points. It should come as no surprise that the Whitecaps finished their Dallas, Houston, Colorado MLS trip with only 1 point. What might be more concerning, although again, somewhat expected given the tough conditions, is that the Whitecaps failed to score in any of those three matches. Even more, in their final match against Colorado, they looked lifeless and showed no signs of turning things around.
While it was only one game, it is worth noting that the addition of David Edgar to the backline did not seem to stop the defensive woes for the Caps. In fact, Edgar played a passenger role in both Rapids goals. Additionally, the black hole of the right back position remained such with Tim Parker looking terrible in the role.
With Portland Timbers defeating Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, the Whitecaps officially fell below the red-line and out of a playoff position. If they fail to win against San Jose Earthquakes this week, they will fall below them in the standings, having played two more games than San Jose.
Currently residing in the US, my broadcast of the Whitecaps game on Saturday was provided by the Rapids television station. During the second half I noted on Twitter the comment they made about the Whitecaps not being a playoff team, as their defense was just not good enough, while their offense was not strong enough to carry the weak defense. The sad part is, the defense SHOULDN'T be the problem for the Caps. It is hard to disagree with the Rapids broadcast team's assessment. It is worth noting that the Rapids broadcast team are my favorite in MLS as they tend to be fairly educated in their discussions and provide a neutral broadcast. It is actually a real pleasure to listen to them.
Back to the point. It is hard to disagree with the assessment that the Caps are not a good team right now. While there is most certainly plenty of blame to go around, it is also easy to play the blame game. When things are going well, everyone is happy. When things are not going well, fans are asking for the head. Just ask the Seattle Sounders!
Although I wont go so far as to call for anyone's head, I do have some questions for Carl Robinson. I have been a fan of his all the way along, however, I am puzzled by some of his decision-making. I did not understand his love-affair with Jordan Smith when it was clear to everyone else that he was not suited for this league. You could argue that he had no other options, however, in Trinidad and Tobago Robbo still played Smith, even though Fraser Aird was healthy, and in the same Starting XI, playing as a winger. Yeah, figure that one out!
Robinson also felt the desire to continue playing Rivero, and then Hurtado, despite neither showing they could put a ball in the net. Meanwhile, the only player consistently a threat on offense, Nicolas Mezquida, apparently cannot find any playing time. Almost every time Nico has been on the field the Caps have looked better and ACTUALLY played better (I wrote an article about it a month or two ago). Moreover, when Morales is playing deep with Nico up high, they are a strong threat. Yes, Jacobson has been one of the best and most consistent Whitecaps this year (as sad as that is), but continuing to play the two DM midfield kills all offensive options. Why does it seem everyone EXCEPT Robbo seems to see this? Morales continually drops back between the CBs and Laba to pick up the ball. When he does that, the options are very few up front (two wingers and striker). Easy to defend; especially with the speed of Manneh now gone.
Despite Cristian Techera having a terrible season, he began to get into a rhythm about a month ago when he scored in two (or was it three) straight matches. After he does that, what does Robbo do? He sits him for several matches. Wait.....what? "Sorry Bug, you're scoring too much, we need to sit you on the bench and let you cool off. E-Money, where you at?"
Finally, the Whitecaps seem to play well for the first 20-30 minutes, but if they do not score, or have a lead at halftime, they are basically done. There is a reason why the Caps went a year without winning a game when they went down. Moreover, it has become commonplace for the Whitecaps to fail to make any adjustments at halftime and get completely overrun in the second half of matches. It is almost clockwork to predict.
It might be worth noting that when we was being hired, Carl Robinson did not feel he was 'ready' to be a manager yet. I don't think he outright said that, but he did discuss that he wanted to be an assistant for a bit longer and learn some more before taking over the reigns. Maybe that was needed. We see great young players get rushed and not properly develop. Maybe the same could be said about young coaches.
With only ten matches left in the season, including away matches to LA, Columbus, and KC, we have to begin to question what's next for this season? Typically the standard has been 50+ points to get into the playoffs. That means the Caps need to average 2.0 points be match the rest of the season. Currently they are averaging 1.25 points per match. In MLS anything is possible, and you only have to somehow get into the playoffs to have a legitimate chance to win the MLS Cup, just ask Portland Timbers fans. However, I have seen nothing this season that suggests that this late run is even possible. Have you?
So, I pose the question to you, What's Next for the Whitecaps this season? What should be the focus?