Poor leadership makes Whitecaps crash to earth in San Jose

April 8, 2012 at 11:24 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2012 | 8 Comments

The Vancouver Whitecaps set a record today in San Jose for the longest number of minutes without conceding a goal in a new season.  They then celebrated by conceding three goals in the space of ten minutes soon after setting the record.

The hottest striker in Major League Soccer going into the match was Chris Wondolowski.  For some reason the Whitecaps managed to convince themselves that he did not exist on two occasions, and he scored both times.  One of the hallmarks of Martin Rennie’s side this year has been the sharpness of the team and excellent mental preparation for matches.  In San Jose Rennie’s men lost their sharpness, fell asleep on 67 minutes, and never woke up.  They surrendered a commanding 1-0 lead in the process and lost 1-3.  What was worse was the fact it was our leaders who let the team down.

Jay Demerit and Martin Bonjour, who have been so alert and played so well all season, lost their concentration in the 67th minute, falling prey to the “no offsides on a throw in rule”.  San Jose’s hulking captain (and apparently the only player left from the MLS’ inaugural season) Ramiro Corrales found himself with the ball for a throw in.  He spotted striker Wondolowski lurking behind Jay DeMerit and threw the ball to him. When DeMerit awoke to see that Wondolowski was about to get through alone on goal with the ball,  he made a rookie’s error.  Instead of putting himself between the striker and the goal, he gambled and tried to intercept the ball.  It was a bad decision.  He failed to reach the ball and “Wondo” was in alone on our keeper Joe Cannon.  After all of his incredible saves this season, Cannon flopped down pathetically like piece of limp lettuce and surrendered the entire goal to Wondolowski who scored with an easy chip shot.  I know these two are friends from playing together in the past, but that was ridiculous!

Sadly our fantastic defensive streak was lost to basic mistakes made by two of our veterans who should have done much better.  Our veterans are supposed to be our leaders, but Cannon and DeMerit let the team down in San Jose.  It was all downhill from this point.

That man Corrales again played provider on the second goal for San Jose when he found himself with the ball unmolested on the left wing.  YP Lee (another of our sleepy veterans) slowly moved to close him down, but not before Corrales used his left foot to curl in a superb cross for Gordon (a Whitecaps reject) to deftly deflect with a diving header into the far corner.  After not allowing a goal in more than four and a half matches, we had given up two in five minutes.

The Whitecaps then made it three goals conceded in 10minutes, and this time it was Jordan Harvey who was the sleepy goat.  The Whitecaps again let Wondolowski stand all alone unmarked at the far post when a cross came in from a free kick.  One thing a striker should not be able to do is calmly slot home a high cross at the far post with his foot; he must surely only score with a header if our defence is doing its job.   Harvey gave “Wondo” plenty of room to work, misjudged the height of the cross, and proved the thesis that white men can’t jump.  Jordan must have got his little body about four inches off of the ground with his jumping effort, only to miss the ball completely.  This left the lonely looking Wondolowski to accept his second  ribbon-tied gift of the match.  Why keeper Cannon had not alerted his defence to Wondolowski standing alone at the far post is anybody’s guess.

While the 2012 Whitecaps are a far superior team to the 2011 squad, I don’t recall the Whitecaps surrendering three goals in ten minutes all of last season.  It is sad to say, but the squad has gotten a bit complacent with the small modicum of success they have had in the 2012 season.   Time for the Whitecaps to wake up: we are still crap!

It had all looked so good when, in the 49th minute, Eric Hassli provided Seb Le Toux with a lovely pass deep into San Jose’s penalty box for a sharp finish by the skinny one to give the Whitecaps a 0-1 lead.  The Whitecaps were pushing for a second and should have been awarded a penalty kick when John Thorrington was mugged in the penalty area in full view of the Referee.  Thor had earlier hit the crossbar in the first half and must be wondering what he has to do to get some good luck in a Whitecaps uniform.  I thought he was our best player of the match, but sadly he received no reward for it at all.

Alas, the Whitecaps second goal never came, and the whole pattern we have become used to this season was reversed: we generated lots of chances and played very well in the final third, but our defensive effort was deplorable, a disgrace to the uniform.  Rather than celebrating our back four, we have been left scratching our heads after the San Jose match wondering how they could be so incredibly bad.

Thankfully the team now has a week and a half to lick their wounds and to get their minds back on track before they meet the hottest team in Major League Soccer,  Sporting Kansas City.  Sporting have won all five of their matches.  Martin Rennie had better get his troops prepared, because it is one thing to be embarrassed on the road, but at home such a poor performance would be unforgivable.

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  1. I share the sentiment regarding the overall play of the back line, but I have to disagree on one or two points.

    I think you’re coming down a little heavy on Cannon. Without his stop on Salinas’ wicked curler in first half stoppage time, the WCs are down 1-0 at the half.

    On the first goal, Wondo is not the kind of guy you want to go 1 v 1 against from 8 yds out. Cannon had only a couple options and about half a second to process them: charge Wondo and try to break up the play, or guess and commit to it. He guesses wrong, and the ball’s in the net. If Wondo had tried to cut across goal, there’s a good chance that Cannon breaks up the play.

    That goal was solely on the shoulders of DeMerit if you ask me. Lee and Bonjour are playing a very high line (as is Harvey on the far side). Probably not the best strategy under the circumstances. Lee is squared up on his man, and Bonjour too is squared up on Gordon. DeMerit (aptly named on this play) is in deep coverage, but at least 3 zip codes away from Wondoloski as the throw-in is taken. He tries to make up ground, but takes a horrible angle, allowing Wondo to get goal side easily, and then misses the attempt at the ball to allow Wondo to prance in untouched. We see Bonjour racing in behind the play, not because he makes a bad read or is out of position, but because he’s quick to see what’s going on with the blown cover and tries to get back to help.

    On the third goal, Harvey simply got stupid. He starts off in relatively good position as Moreno sets up for the FK. As the ball’s struck, though, Harvey’s anticipating more inswinging english on the ball than there actually was, and overcommits toward Cannon. As he does so, Wondo reads the trajectory correctly and shuffles backward 3 or so steps — gaining even more separation from Harvey. The ball’s now halfway to target, and Harvey’s beginning to register that he’s in Nowheresville. With no time to close the gap he makes a feeble attempt to header the ball away with a mistimed “jump”. Wondo takes the easy volley uncontested and buries it. If Harvey just tracks Wondo from a goalside position, he’s got a chance to make a play on the ball, or simply to block the shot.

    Why Harvey is matched up with Wondolwsi anyways on a set piece is beyond me. Last week the WCs squandered two opportunities when Rennie allowed Harvey to take FKs. This week, Rennie has his 2nd team LB tasked with holding off one of the MLS’s top strikers on a free kick. As the line goes: “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

    Enough of the minutiae. The Caps defense did play well for 75 minutes or so — especially in the first half, when Wondolowski didn’t get so much as a sniff at goal. Why the later meltdown then? I have absolutely no idea.

    • i totally agree with your comments…i think the 1st goal is as you said and the other two are a case of the streak is gone and the teams heads hung down. if we had been able to get that 2nd goal we would have broken SJ and the victory would have been the Caps. overall, except for ten minutes, i thought they played really well, especially an away game.

    • I agree with most of you statements exept one. Cannon needs to take some blame on the first goal. when your one on one with a striker you need to fight your impulses to dive in. instead you need to let the striker make the first move and either dive at his feet if he takes a big touch or just stall him untill you defenders can get back to help. I do think however that cannon seeing wondo bearing in on him got nervous because he knew that a very good player was coming in on him. so he got overexited and dived in much to early. I have don this myself.

  2. Cannon does a great job on making the saves he’s not supposed to, but struggled last year on run of the mill opportunities. He played that first goal horribly. He guessed. That’s OK on penalties, but not on a shot from a tight angle with the your defender pressing the shooter. If he’s simply stood his ground he would have been better off. Further, on Cannon’s case, he should be seeing that kind of play develop and communicating to his backline.

    As for the backs, I am willing to cut them some slack on 10 minutes of poor play. They weren’t going to run the table with clean sheets. Demerit played the first goal like a 12 year old (trust me, I have one), but he’s a high-risk, high-reward center half. We know that. He is adept at great tackles, but lest we not forget how he often gets in the position to have to make said tackles in the first place. Having said that, Demerit and Bonjour appear to be a stead center half tandem that will only get better with time. Lee is a quality player – a true fullback with more skill in his pinky toe than the rest of the lot combined. But the absence of Rochat is hurting.

    Rochat was arguably the best player of the Caps last year. His abilities are understated, and he’s often unnoticeable – which is a complement for a defender. Harvey is a fourth rate back up to a player of Rochat’s class. He and Leathers were often the goats for breakdowns defensively last year, and this year is no different. He doesn’t appear to understand the basic concepts of defensive positioning or how to close down a player. Count how often he lets players sneak in behind him undetected.

    All in all, the back four – the healthy version – is good enough to succeed in this league, but they lack the depth. This will need to be addressed otherwise they will be in trouble come injuries and suspensions – two things that are an ultimate given in this league.

    As for the rest of the squad on the weekend, the play in the attacking third was better. An improvement we can probably attribute to Koffie’s return. I don’t like the diamond midfield, but to each his own. Even with Chumiento in a playmaking role, they still lack that catalyst in the middle of the park. A talisman who can distribute and be a threat. Far too much going side to side and backwards. They need a player who will be willing to push it forward and get the ball onto the feet of the two talented frenchman. I suspect Robson will fill this role, and that the like of Thorrington, Watson, Koffie and even Davide are simply placeholders until that day.

    We should give them a mulligan on the day, but we best not see those dreadful ten minutes become a trend similar to last season.

    • You make a number of very good points. Yes, Cannon should have been calling for help even before the throw-in takes place, absolutely. But WTH is DeMerit doing at least 15 yards off Wondo? It’s not like JDM is a rookie. As my kid’s only 11, maybe I’ve got one fewer year of analysis under the belt, but as you say he played that one all wrong. If he’s only 10 yards off (which is still horrendous) and takes even a decent line to Wondo, that risk-reward success rate goes way up.

      We’ll have to agree to disagree re Cannon on the first goal. You wrote “…when the defender is pressing…” after Wondo gets turned downfield, JDM’s got nothing to do but chase — no chance to press at all. With a player of Wondo’s quality, I have no doubt whatsoever that if Cannon stands his ground on the play, he’s made to look like a pylon.

      Fully agree about Rochat, who was, in my opinion, the best defender on the team last year, and the best at transitioning the team to the attack once we regained possession in our defensive third. He’s talented, and a very smart player, you’ll rarely see him in desperation mode. Also agree with your assessment of Harvey. He had me fooled a bit in the Philly match, which I thought he did a credible job in. But his marking on the third goal on Saturday was at best “amateurish”.

      I didn’t go over the offense, but I agree that they played much better — we almost doubled our shots on target figure for the season in that one match. Several were high-quality chances — and I’m not even including JT’s crossbar chip. Hassli held the ball up exceptionally, and there was support for him a great deal of the time.

      I think the lesson learned is that our attack isn’t as bad as we’d feared, and the defense (though still very good) isn’t as impermeable as we’d figured. Once Rochat is back in, things should tighten up — but I’d like to see MR find just one more high-quality defender (or even a good one) to add some depth.

  3. The team played well but Demerit and Harvey lost the game. (The 2nd goal ia a goal of the week candidate and I view as a great play rather than a caps miscue). They know they blew it and will learn from this namely “keep track the mls’s #1 striker and keep yourself between him and the goal.”…..duh

    • Very nicely summed up!

      The aggravating thing is the “Duh!” factor that you point out. We can get blown out by a better squad, or lose due to bad breaks, and I won’t moan all too much, but losing because of brain farts just doesn’t cut it (pun intended) at the professional level. Why/How/When/Where these crop up is still a complete mystery however.

  4. allow me to be the first to say
    -“you mad bro?”


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