We conclude our year-end round table discussion looking at the boss himself, Carl Robinson. While the season ended with a whimper that left a sour taste in the mouth of fans, reflecting on the expectations heading into the season, many would consider the Vancouver Whitecaps 2017 campaign a success. And yet, it doesn’t really feel like a success does it? It feels like there should have been so much more. Nevertheless, Carl Robinson will be the manger next year. Therefore, we asked our writers the following two questions. Let us know your answers to our two questions in the comments.
We know that Carl Robinson will be the manager next season, but do you think he should be the manager?
Yes, but he really, really, really needs to change his tactics from one game to the next. The club may not have had the tools to easily adapt on the fly, but preparations for playing Atlanta should not be the same as that of a team like Kansas City. If the club has put their support behind Robinson, fine. He's gotten results out of a cash-restricted roster, which is great. But if Robinson maintains his low-possession, counter-attack style next year, which other clubs should wholly be expecting, and it doesn't get results (e.g. making the playoffs), he should be shown the door.
For all the flack that Carl Robinson has gotten from fans, he had moments of tactical strength this season. My biggest gripe with Robbo’s management has been his inability to settle into a first team XI and tactical style. For better or worse, the counter attacking style of play that we saw the Whitecaps employ was distinct and, for the most part, served its purpose to get Vancouver into the playoffs. At some point, the Caps will have to decide if that is good enough long term or if we need a tactical style that could deliver greater results. But until that moment comes, I feel comfortable with Robinson as management.
No. His tactics against Seattle Sounders in the second leg need to be re-examined. Brian Schmetzer knew exactly what he was going to face, and I don't remember the reason why, but he deployed Nicolas Lodeiro in a deep lying playmaker role and it killed the Caps. Also, Robbo's squad rotation needs to be questioned. Yes, a few heavily rotated squads picked up results, but they also got smashed against Seattle and New York (other circumstances played a role in that as well).
I think (get your pitchforks and torches ready) that keeping Robbo around for another year is the right call. Look, I freely admit that the series against Seattle was kind of a disaster. However, with the exception of the 2016 season, the team has been on a general upward trend, in terms of MLS success, and I think it would be spurious to just toss that aside. Things aren’t exactly perfect under Robinson, but it could be a hell of a lot worse. For all his faults he’s a huge improvement on his predecessors Martin Rennie and Tom Soehn (though a tennis ball with a smiley face drawn on it would be an improvement on Soehn). If somebody with a great pedigree were interested in the job, like Carlo Ancelloti, then I’d be in favour of a coaching change. But, if all we’re going to do is replace Robbo with another average MLS coach then frankly I don’t see the point. I keep seeing this sentiment that we’re this long suffering fanbase going through hard times but to be perfectly frank that’s just not the case. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be critical, but I am saying we should keep things in perspective. The Whitecaps are a decent team on a general upward trend. If you don’t believe me just pop over to excel and make a chart of the Whitecap’s MLS points since 2011. The line pretty much goes straight up. As long as Robbo continues to show improved results, even if they aren’t as rapid or as pretty as we’d all like, he should keep his job.
I think it would be harsh to sack Robinson now. His team bounced back after a dreadful season, made it to two semi-finals, won at home in the playoffs and was competitive the entire season having no extended losing streaks. I have read fans call for his departure because he has not shown the tactics to get the job done in the end, but I believe what extends his leash are the astute signings he made near the end of the season. Ghazal and Igiebor look to be strong additions that absorbed the blow of losing Laba to injury. Stefan Marinović looks like a reliable keeper that addresses David Ousted’s looming desire to return to Europe, while freeing up some cap space. And Jordy Reyna looks like a creative offensive spark. The team that ended 2017 is definitely better than the team that ended 2016. In the face of these reasons, sacking Robbo now would send a confusing precedent for the next coach coming in, and really, he deserves a chance to finish what he started to bring in his target signings, and see if he can take his team to the finals.
Despite being announced as the manager, how long is Robbo's leash next season?
I think he needs to meet or exceed this season’s accomplishments. If we get to the second round of the playoffs next year, then I think he should be kept around. If he doesn’t make the playoffs he should be out for sure. That being said, I think it was the right thing to keep him after 2016. I think if you have two good seasons in a row then you’ve built up enough goodwill that you get some benefit of the doubt for a down year. Right now, he’s coming off the back of one good season, so he should need to show improvement to keep his position.
Barring and 0-fer start to the season that very quickly dooms the club, Robinson will most likely be given the same leeway for the entirety of the season.
Robbo will probably be on a shorter leash than you would expect given the fact that this team made the playoffs. While I don’t get the impression that Whitecaps’ management is particularly concerned about changing managers, the fact of the matter is that they are much more likely to stomach an ugly playing style if the team is winning. If that stops next season, it wouldn’t shock me if a managerial change occurs as well.
I think it is as far as I can throw him. Provided he were the size and shape of a tennis ball, and my throwing arm is pretty strong right now. Lenarduzzi clearly implied that any thought of Robbo not coming back was utterly ridiculous. However, there are some worrisome signs about this team. For me, the foremost being their rather cynical and naïve belief that they can absorb whatever pressure comes their way for 80 minutes and score on the one or two chances they get the other way. I think that if his tactical decisions lead the team into an extended losing streak, and the talent that he is accruing on the team are stifled in his system, then I can see him let go mid-season. But like any coach, the wheels would have to fall off for that to happen.