The Vancouver Whitecaps are mired in a really bad slump. They are winless in their last eight matches, with their last win coming at the end of May, they have only one goal in their past five matches, including none against Canadian Premier League club Cavalry FC, and they have allowed 13 goals in their last three Major League Soccer matches. This has led to them squarely landing in last place in the Western Conference with 20 points (four wins, 10 losses, and eight draws) and third to last in MLS (ahead of only Columbus and Cincinnati).
13 goals against in last three MLS matches. One goal over last five matches, including none again CPL club. Winless in last 8.— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) July 18, 2019
Not good times for Caps right now.
Earlier this week, our own CWilkins wrote an article entitled “It’s so Much Worse Than You Think”. In the article, he spoke about how success in MLS requires finding those ‘hidden gems’ and underpaying for a players performance. The key to this was that the Whitecaps suck at this. While I don’t disagree with Caleb’s assessment, I am going to propose a bit of a counter-argument. STAY TUNED!
Last season was dreadful both on and off the pitch for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Combined with Alphonso Davies transfer to Bayern Munich, it meant that the club experience a substantial overhaul in personnel. Out was the coach along with 75%+ of the players. Heading into the season, pundits and fans peached patience on the Whitecaps rebuild and viewed this season as Expansion Season 2.0.
People thought it would be bad not not this bad.— Trev (@_TJR88) July 18, 2019
Flash forward to the end of July and patience has worn thin, as the Whitecaps recent poor showing has led a lot of fans to question the club. For me, the more worrying concern is the reversion back to the style we saw last year -bunker and absorb, play without the ball, and try to hit on a long-bomb counter with some speed. The problem is, this is not what fans were promised nor what Marc Dos Santos is known for. With so much turnover it can be baffling to see the club revert back to what brought so much pain last season. A bit of an aside, but it may suggest that the problem is higher up (duh!) and/or that Carl Robinson was not that bad of a coach, just that he felt that he had no other options given the players he had; granted he brought those players in himself, but I digress.
This.— Corey (@Whitecaps4Life) July 18, 2019
You don’t need a bunch of superstars to make the game difficult for the other team. The problem is we give up so much possession and chasing is hard (as opppsed to stroking the ball around) but I have no idea why they are so passive on defence. So many gaps.
When MDS was brought into this club he preached a vision and that fans needed to be patient. That this club would not be fixed in one transfer window. Sure enough, MDS was able to fill out his roster JUST prior to the beginning of the season, but there were plenty of question marks. Most obvious was that MDS had brought on several reclamation projects including Venuto and Ardaiz (a la Robbo?).
The Caps got off to a slow start this season with four losses and two draws. They then seemed to rebound over the next six matches, recording three wins, two losses, and one draw. They then went on an undefeated stretch of six matches, however, only one of those six was a win. They have now lost four straight, most in embarrassing fashion. Yes, the club has hit a sort of rock-bottom.
In hindsight, it might not have been a good idea to have so much upheaval in the roster. It is possible that some of those let go could have been good contributors; even better than what there is currently. Cristian Techera was a bright spot as was Kei Kamara. Techera wasn’t going to stay, and that might have been for the best given his antics and poor behavioral decisions. Despite being an offensive leader, I don’t ever recall him giving an interview, do you? But many have questioned the decision to part ways with Kamara, especially after he has shone bright for Colorado to the tune of eight goals in 19 matches. However, it is sometimes a good idea to just simply start over rather than try to patch things up. There are arguments both ways and I think each is valid. For the record, those arguing that Kamara is preferred over Montero need to understand that Ardaiz is really Kamara’s replacement. You might say, “that makes it even worse!”. True, but I understand the logic of MDS. Kamara was not a long-term solution. MDS wanted to see if he could get a young, potentially great, guy who could stick around for a long time and be someone to build around. It hasn’t worked out, but I get the decision.
There are three points I want to make. The first two are quick, so I will go through those and then spend more time on the third. First, rebuilding is never linear. There will be growing pains. There will be good times and there will be bad times. The Caps have had two decent stretches this season. Not good, but…you know. Second, MDS stated that his first priority was to build a foundation. To build the back first and then move forward. He has done this, which leads to my third point. The signings are not as bad as Caleb made them out to be. I want to take a different approach to this, so let’s get started.
The primary additions MDS has made are as follows, starting from the back and moving forward on the field: Maxime Crepeau, Zac MacMath, Scott Sutter, Erik Godoy, Derek Cornelius, Jasser Khmiri, Ali Adnan, Andy Rose, Jon Erice, Victor ‘PC’ Giro, Hwang In-Boem, Lass Bangoura, Lucas Venuto, Joaquin Ardaiz, Fredy Montero
Evaluating MDS Acquisitions
I want to break these up a bit. First, let’s get rid of the veteran/depth support that are meant to be bridges. They are important sure, but really every team has them. I would put Sutter, Rose, and, maybe, MacMath and/or Victor ‘PC’ Giro into that group. We could, possibly, throw Cornelius into that group as well given that he was supposed to be fourth on the depth chart, but I will put him in another group. Second, let’s make a group of players that HAVE worked out. I think it is almost unanimous that Crepeau, Godoy, Adnan, and Erice have been worth their money, yes? Third, let’s make a group of player that have, almost universally, not worked out: Bangoura, Venuto, Ardaiz, and Montero. My final group is question-mark acquisitions, which includes Cornelius, Khmiri, and In-Boem. I am sure many of you will put In-Boem in the third group, but I am not ready to do that yet. In-Boem is 22-years-old, is playing outside of Korea for the first time, having to learn a new language and culture, having to learn a new league with MASSIVE travel demands that he has not experienced, while having to fly across the Pacific several times to play for Korea’s national team. Has he been a bit disappointing so far? Yes, I will agree with that, but he has also shown his skill. Personally, I will begin judging In-Boem NEXT season. When Davies was transferred to Bayern we kept telling them to not start judging him until this upcoming season. Same needs to be said for In-Boem in my opinion.
If we focus on the final three categories -hits, misses, and incomplete-, we see four, four, and three. At worst, if you wanted to put PC and In-Boem in the ‘misses’ category, that means four hits and six misses. Is that a lot? Sure, but it is not unexpected. You are not going to ‘hit’ on every single one of your acquisitions. Caleb noted that LAFC are only using two of their DP slots. Why is that? Well, because their third DP Andre Horta did not work out. Every team has the failures.
The other notable thing from those hits and misses categories is WHERE players are located. As I noted, MDS’ priority was to build a strong foundation and spine. The best players this season have been Keeper, Central Defense, Left (Wing)Back, and Defensive Midfield. Where have the misses been? Wings and Striker. What is missing from all of this? Midfield ability. I think this highlights the very strengths, weaknesses, and gaping holes in this club currently.
Is everything good in Whitecaps land? NO! Am I okay with everything right now? NO! However, it is important to keep a calm head and remember that this is a process, that we have seen progress and (shocking) an identity for this club. That progress is not linear, but it is there. Now is not the time to freak out as easy as it can be to do so.
Everyone is so negative. It’s a process.— Marc Weber (@marcdweber) July 18, 2019
At least that is one man’s opinion. Do you agree or disagree with my outlook? Let us know your thoughts.
A simple one: Do you still believe in MDS long-term?— Eighty Six Forever (@86forever) July 18, 2019