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The Vancouver Whitecaps have a discipline problem

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After the recent (stupid) fines to Cristian Techera, coupled with all the other red cards and fines, we discuss the discipline issue that has long been evident on the Whitecaps and ask you what is the issue.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

I am not exactly breaking new ground by telling all of you that the Vancouver Whitecaps clearly have a discipline problem. This season, they have received seven red cards in Major League Soccer play (with one being rescinded), and have another one in the Canadian Championship. Efrain Juarez and Yordy Reyna lead the way with two each, while Cristian Techera, Jose Aja, Felipe Martins, and Kendall Waston have one apiece. In addition, two players -Techera and Juarez- have had to serve three match suspensions for their conduct on the field.

The problems are not confined to red cards. While the information is a bit more difficult to find, so please note any I miss in the comments, the Whitecaps have received at least nine fines this season: Techera has three, Juarez has two, and Anthony Blondell, Reyna, and Waston each have one. In addition, the club has been fined for twice violating the league’s mass confrontation policy.

The names that should stand out most on this list are Juarez and Techera. Juarez has been covered extensively this season, so I will leave that one; however, I feel that Techera’s behavior has received far less attention because of his positive contributions on the field. Techera’s second yellow, and accompanying red card was for removing his jersey after scoring a penalty kick, FOUR MINUTES after receiving his first yellow card. His three-match suspension was for offensive language. In the August 25th match at San Jose, Techera was fined for, I kid you not, ‘defacing the penalty spot’.

Meanwhile, he was fined again this week, for putting his hands to the face of San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski…after Techera kicked a ball off a Earthquakes downed player’s head. I believe AFTN said it best.

One could attempt to point to the excessive red cards as being a by-product of an overly aggressive squad. While not the best thing, it can be useful to be ‘hard’ to play against. However, that is not the case. Despite leading the league with seven red cards, the Whitecaps are 12th (out of 23 teams) in yellow cards, with 44. By comparison, Colorado Rapids lead MLS with 71 yellow cards, but have only four red cards. In 2017, Vancouver finished 15th in MLS with 58 yellow cards, but were tied for 4th with six red cards.

Extending the discipline/composure argument even further, Doneil Henry has only played once since August 8th, because he had to have surgery on his fractured wrist, after punching a wall after the first leg of the Canadian Championship -where he gave up the tying goal in the dying seconds.

Under Carl Robinson, we have routinely heard of player scuffles at practice (remember the Ousted/Morales issue), had the now captain tackle a player out of bounds after the final whistle and then try to justify his actions, had a player (Sebastian Fernandez) slap himself in the face and received a four-match suspension and fine, had players bad mouth the club at the tail-end and after they have left, had coaches fined and suspended on multiple occasions, and plenty more that I am sure do not come readily to mind.

The question then arises, who is to blame for this. While it is easy to point the finger at the manager Carl Robinson, who builds the squad (players and coaches), and sets the expectations for the club, I do not believe the blame rests solely on his shoulders. Every person is responsible for their actions, but the mentality of multiple leading figures can have an impact on determining what is acceptable and what is not. Therefore, I put a lot of the blame on the coaching staff that Robinson has assembled.

After a heated moment on the field, far too often do the broadcasters note a skirmish on the sidelines, during the match or after, involving the assistant coach(es); especially Martyn Pert, who’s name I hear CONSTANTLY in the middle of things with opposing players and coaches. When the coaching staff is setting the tone that this is acceptable behavior, that mentality is shared among the players.

It is no surprise that when players, like Kekuta Manneh, have been dealt to other clubs, it is cited that they are not fit enough nor at an acceptable, professional, level. In a recent interview with Jordan Harvey, on settling in with his new club LAFC, he said the following: “It’s a real pleasure to come into work everyday, and have a culture where everybody works hard, everybody is held accountable, and the standard is there from top to bottom.”

There are rumors circulating that this is Carl Robinson’s last season with the Whitecaps, whether he fails to make the playoffs or somehow wins MLS Cup. If true, we will see a cleaning of house with coaching staff as well. I would not be surprised if we see a bit of a change in discipline next season as a result; unless the problem is much deeper, and the upper management plays a key role, or a coach with a similar mentality replaces Robinson.

What is your take on the discipline issues plaguing the Whitecaps? Who is to play: players, coaches, MLS, someone else? Unlike Juarez, has Techera’s production on-the-field allowed him to get away from fan/pundit wrath on his antics? Let us know your thoughts.