That wasn’t the game that many people expected. When it looked like the Whitecaps were making a turn for the better, a trip to a sluggish LA Galaxy seemed like the place to grab a crucial 3 points with the playoff game getting increasingly tight as the fixtures whittle down.
The first red flags was with the two main strikers being out for this game, forcing the Whitecaps to rely on academy product Easton Ongaro. It was an exciting gamble, as the Whitecaps are in desperate need for a second striker that can help link play to Cavallini and White, and this was the perfect proving ground for it.
Unfortunately, the LA Galaxy weren’t about to let Dignity Health Sports Park just be a stage for the Canadians, and they hit the ground running on Saturday. Scoring three goals within the first thirty minutes, LA Galaxy looked as deadly as their city counterpart, taking advantage of a disorganized defense. Nerwinski looked particularly lost, being subbed off after practically gifting LA Galaxy their first goal. LA ran riot as the Whitecaps struggled to keep up, and the morale was at an all time low from the Canadian team as they seemed desperate to create something.
Ryan Gauld, who has been taking a back seat recently in terms of outstanding performances due to the arrival of multiple new signings showed why the Whitecaps were in desperate need of a 10 as he created multiple chances and even got a goal in himself. This did inspire the thoughts of a potential comeback but they were quickly crushed by LA.
Midfield was a glaring problem, and in high stakes games such as these, you get to see the cracks in the squad clearly. The Whitecaps don’t have a midfield problem- far from it. They have players with pedigrees in Europe and South America, coming in with much fanfare, yet are often relegated to watching from the bench as the Russel Teibert + Midfield Partner show plays out in front of them. Now I don’t think this is a Teibert problem, as you can’t blame the man for playing when he gets the opportunity to, but rather a managerial decision problem itself. I’m not saying sell Rusty, but maybe a 29-year old player who’s level has long been passed by the MLS won’t have a career renaissance akin to Raposo’s just because you play him more. It’s as baffling as also starting Nerwinski on his weaker side.
Questions have to arise, as players are starting to be shipped out (Notably important ones such as Godoy and Gutierrez (Reportedly)) in favor of starting arguably weaker players. For a club that has looked to be changing their ambitions in recent times, this reliance on their old identity is holding them back. Vanni has done his job, and I don’t think that this is calls for ending his stint as head coach, but I do think as I mentioned before, cracks are starting to show and the limits are beginning to set in. The start of the year was equally as frustrating but somehow the Whitecaps managed to turn their fortunes around, but slight variations on the same system will only get you so far and we’re starting to see it here.
While yes, not a great result for the Whitecaps, hopefully this functions as a wake-up call across the board before things spiral out of control and a once promising midseason ends the year on a sour note.