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From the Locker Room: Disappointment in San Jose

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View from the press box at Avaya Stadium as the Vancouver Whitecaps take on San Jose Earthquakes
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Five years ago, I moved down to the Bay Area for work purposes. As a result, I only get to watch the Vancouver Whitecaps in-person when they play San Jose Earthquakes. Lately, that has only meant once a year. However, with their recent play, maybe that is not entirely a bad thing.

Saturday was my yearly opportunity to take in a Whitecaps match. The Caps have been good to me lately, having interesting matches. There was the 2017 match, in which they jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, only to see Ousted receive a red card and lose the match 3-2. In 2018, almost the reverse happened. They were down 2-0 early, thanks to some POOR defending from Marcel de Jong, and stormed back for three goals in the second half to win 3-2. Coming off a victory against DC United, coupled with San Jose’s recent poor form, I was curious to see what the night had instore.

While the match started out positive, with right back Jake Nerwinski scoring his first MLS goal in the 6th minute, it was all down hill from there. In fact, almost literally from then on, as San Jose scored less than a minute later to draw the match even. I don’t have to repeat any of the stats as I am sure you have seen and heard them all.

Sitting in the press box, begging for the match to end, I was a bit stumped as to what to ask Marc Dos Santos and the players. Being outside of Vancouver, this was the first time I was meeting MDS and you don’t exactly make a great first impression when you talk about how much the team sucked.

After the match, we were able to speak with Marc Dos Santos, Doneil Henry, and Maxime Crepeau. Of course, we were curious about how each saw the match and what they took from it. In a way, it was refreshing to hear them all say that there was nothing positive to take from the match. I feel like coaches and players, understandably, try to put a positive spin on negative situations and try to say that they learned from it, however, in speaking with MDS, Henry, and Crepeau, the message was clear: they were not good enough and they were run over.

Doneil Henry was asked about the pressure from San Jose, coming wave after wave. He lauded the Earthquakes saying “They have a good attacking five or six players. They’re really difficult to defend for 90 minutes counter, after counter, after counter. It puts a lot of pressure on us”. However, he also noted the Caps difficulties with the first pass, citing: “we were not tidy enough. It is that simple. San Jose pressures a lot and [play] a really aggressive game…If we are a bit more tidy, then we can beat the whole press.” Of course, Doneil was happy for his keeper and defensive line mate Jake Nerwinski. On Nerwinski’s first goal, Doneil said Jake “comes to training every day and does his part…definitely well deserved”.

Speaking with Max, we asked about the struggles the Caps seem to have giving up shots to San Jose. He noted that it is difficult playing against a team that presses and crashes the net, like San Jose does. It seems like that is a key method for defeating the Caps this season; however, it is certainly challenging for any team to maintain that for 90 minutes.

Trying to have a positive end to the season we ask Crepeau what the Caps need to do to get some positive momentum. Like his teammate and coach, the answer was the same “be more aggressive in our own half defending, and when we win the ball back, securing the first pass to get out of the pressure because we struggle with the first pass in our half and after that we don’t even maintain possession…we have to defend the whole game just because we did not secure the first pass and maintain possession.”

Vancouver now heads to Montreal to take on the Impact on Wednesday evening. The match sees Maxime play against his former team and he is certainly excited. “I would be lying if I said it was just another game. It is family and friends there and is always special moment when a player…goes back home to play against his former team. It will be nice to see family and faces…but once it goes to the pitch it’s business.”

The match was certainly not pretty and there is a lot of work to do on this club. It seems that the players and the coaches are aware of the issues and what needs to occur. The problem is, they just can’t seem to do it or don’t have the players to make it successful. For me, through all three interviews, the same narrative was put forward and it screams to me what the problem is, but I don’t want to direct this conversation too much, so I want to hear your thoughts on what the players see as the problem and whether you see the solution…I think it is there, but maybe I am reaching a bit.

Let us know your thoughts below.