Form throughout a season is a funny thing, sometimes you’re hot and can’t seem to drop a result - take the 11 match undefeated run at home which the Vancouver Whitecaps had snapped by LAFC back in April. Sometimes however, it feels like the bounces just aren’t going your way - take the 6-0 hammering at the hands of Sporting KC.
On the whole, it seems easy to get so lost in the frustrations of a run of form, that you can forget the bigger picture and for some, even fail to enjoy the high points that are why you watch football to begin with. From what I see on Twitter, to some of the comments that come in here, you could certainly say that some of the fun is lost on some folks!
The past week and a half has been a prime example. Three draws seem to feel like points dropped in some cases, especially when the team is for all intents hammering the opposition like the ‘Caps were in the second half of the San Jose Earthquakes match last Wednesday.
After training this week Carl Robinson was asked about his own take on the current run of form and whether they should look at the recent draws as points dropped, to which he said:
If you look at the Houston game it was a point gained because we scored in the last minute. Obviously two points lost because we were at home. The San Jose game was an anomaly, but it happened four days earlier against Houston, we managed to get a point out of that game but probably dropped two points. But Dallas on Saturday we probably gained a point because we were down and out.
I have to say that I agree with him on that, when the Houston Dynamo went up a goal in the 89’ minute through Mauro Manotas it was deflating to say the least. At that moment, it looked certain to be another home loss, and worse it was against a mainstay Western Conference rival.
But the team showed some grit, some backbone, some steel, a willingness to keep going and not just roll over and die. Felipe’s outstanding set piece delivery meant that a dead ball could actually lead to a real chance - which it did on several occasions earlier in that match - and has continued to do so since. It paid dividends in the end and the ‘Caps responded with an equaliser through Kei Kamara’s outstanding header back across and Kendall Waston’s desire to get on the end of it.
That last gasp stuff was demonstrated again on the road in one of the most difficult places to visit, in the Toyota Stadium in Texas, under immense heat and against a veteran FC Dallas side.
When asked about the Dallas game, Kei Kamara said “It was a good fight. It’s tough really, every game away [but an] amazing team effort overall.” For the team to have “the not give up attitude to get one point from a game that basically everybody thought was over. It’s good when you get that and you come into the week, it makes you train better and it makes your attitude even better.”
In Dallas it was new boy Anthony Blondell playing the hero and literally making something out of nothing with less than 10 minutes to go, when the ‘Caps had no business staging - let alone pulling off - a comeback. Kamara added “That’s what happens when you have a deep squad and people can come in and out and you have everybody making use of their chances, for example you have Anthony coming in and doing everything in his power to get us that point away.”
Yes, the team could have defended better against the Reggie Cannon and Urruti goals. No, Brian Rowe couldn’t make the save on either that or the Urruti goal, but honestly neither of those are on him. They’re on the ten players in front of him that allowed the space for those chances.
Stefan Marinovic isn’t making those saves, David Ousted isn’t making those saves, Peter Schmeichel might possibly make a save on one of them in 1992.
Regardless of those goals though - there was a spirit in the team that didn’t quit when they went down two goals. There’s even more players that are willing to keep going and keep fighting, and it’s not just Waston and Kamara. In Dallas, Yordy Reyna and Blondell stood out for their efforts, Felipe continues to impress in midfield, and Russell Teibert put in a real quality shift in Dallas too.
Felipe himself said “that should be the standard” for the ‘Caps and their mentality. That the players in the team are all players that love the club and love what they do, and “that’s the way [they’re] going to try to be every game.”
There is depth in this team, and a desire to win - or at the very least not to lose - and that is undeniably positive.
There are obviously points to improve upon, which the manager himself obviously sees too. The team played well and after changing the formation from his traditional 4-2-3-1 to the 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 the ‘Caps have run out recently. Robinson said they’ve:
[P]layed some very good football we created a number of chances which was a concern prior to that, whether it was a tweak in the formation or getting personnel back healthy. What we haven’t done is scored as many chances as I would have liked. Having said that, if you take all your chances you score four or five.
It’s not enough to change results, and the foundation of that (and Robbo ball if you will) is in the back where Robinson says:
I’m still a stickler for keeping clean sheets at the back and for us to concede six goals in three games is not good enough for us. I think we need to get back to the drawing board on the individual detail on that because yes, there’s some worldy goals, a right back scoring left footers into the top corner, but we’ve got to be better than that.
I would wholeheartedly expect this team to get back to that. There’s been too much desire to keep going for them not to improve on their mistakes from what I see. While there have been similar situations of the team getting burned, keep in mind this is a team that still sits fifth in the West, and could well be out of the playoff places if it wasn’t for that same spirit to keep going.
Those draws, that I see many people lamenting as losses, are actually in fact not losses! They’re still a point gained. Take Houston for example, the ‘Caps took four points off the Dynamo, and that in itself means that on the season that’s one rival the ‘Caps have effectively beaten in the home and away.
There’s a mentality that has been made famous by Jose Mourinho in the Premiership, that if you take four points off everyone - you win the league. Now that doesn’t completely apply to MLS, but if you can keep your opposition from taking three off of you, you’re in much better shape than the other way around. I guarantee that the Dynamo wish they’d had four points off the ‘Caps rather than walked away with only one.
What’s better still, is that we’re only 13 games into the season, four points out of second place in the West and there’s still plenty of time to close the gap on Sporting Kansas City in first place. No one in the West is showing any real consistency (save SKC) so really - it’s all still up for grabs!
I hope at the very least this helps provide some perspective on the larger picture, and turns some of those ‘didn’t win every single game’ frowns upside down.
Now please, I know many will disagree, but let’s hear it. I think there’s a discussion to be had around this so what’s your take - am I a bit too glass half full? Can the ‘Caps claw their way to the third place seed in the West like I predicted in our round table? Or have the wheels fallen off and we might as well watch the games outside in the rain so our tears of sorrow are masked by the drizzle like it’s winter again in Vancouver?