Dallas disaster dims Whitecaps playoff hopesSeptember 8, 2013 at 10:20 pm | Posted in Whitecaps Season 2013 | 1 Comment
Tags: Dallas FC, MLS Playoffs Martin Rennie, Vancouver Whitecaps
The Vancouver Whitecaps were dealt a devastating 3-1 defeat in Dallas last night which changed the Whitecaps from playoff contenders to virtual also-rans.
Both Dallas and Vancouver had been dealt a blow by the perennial clash which the MLS schedule has with international matches. Russell Teibert and Darren Mattocks were away for Canada and Jamaica, and three starting Dallas players, Perez, Fernandez and Cooper were away on international duty or suspended. One would think this would give the Whitecaps a major advantage, but the Dallas FC players coming in to play off of the bench proved to be better than our starters.
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie played “Fantasy Football” at the time we could least afford it, making some bizarre player selections. He fiddled with our line up, putting Johnny Leveron in the holding midfielder spot while Carlyle Mitchell slotted in for him at centre back; Matt Watson and Daigo Kobayashi played on the flanks in midfield.
Incredibly, Nigel Reo-Coker was played at right back while YP Lee started on the bench. I can only speculate that Rennie was giving Lee one of those rest days that seem to be a part of Lee’s contract this year. With the Whitecaps playoff hopes hanging in the balance, this was not the occasion to give Lee the night off. Reo-Coker does not play well at right back. He was exposed on two of the three goals, giving too much space to the shooter on the first goal and getting caught out of position on the second goal. Why Martin Rennie would put our best midfielder at right back is simply beyond me. The failure to obtain a right back to deputize for Lee, especially after current deputy Greg Klazura’s disastrous play earlier in the season, is beyond belief. Frankly, I would have preferred Matt Watson at right back over Reo-Coker. The key to any success we have had this year has been down to Reo-Coker’s midfield play. His true talents were squandered on this night by poor coaching decisions.
The other mystery was that the slow and ponderous Matt Watson was preferred to the speedy Kekuta Manneh. Manneh’s speed and dribbling ability could have helped us keep the ball. The possession statistics showed we only had the ball for just over one-third of the match. The Whitecaps lack of ability to hold the ball allowed Dallas to dominate this match.
The misfiring Daigo Kobayashi gave the Whitecaps a dream start after only four minutes of play. The Whitecaps caught Dallas napping at the start of the match. Some lovely accurate passing and off–the-ball running by Miller, Camilo and Kobayashi on the right flank led to a beautiful cross from Miller that Kobayashi deflected in for his first goal since match day two against Columbus back in March. It really was magnificent football, but sadly this was virtually the only intelligent move the Whitecaps would make in this match.
It would take only four minutes for Dallas to reply through Je-Vaughn Watson. Watson found himself in possession on the left of the Whitecaps goal at the corner of the 18 yard box. Reo-Coker gave him plenty of time and space to shoot, which he did with superb accuracy, finding the top corner of the net at the near post. He also found Whitecaps keeper David Ousted asleep and out of position. It is becoming clear that shot stopping is the weakest part of Ousted’s game. Like the goal Landon Donovan scored against him in the recent LA Match, Ousted was badly out of position in his goal. There is no way that Watson’s shot should have gone in. I have every confidence that both Brad Knighton and Joe Cannon would have stopped that shot. We are seeing far too much of Ousted picking the ball out of his net lately.
The Whitecaps rode their luck, surviving several Dallas chances which really should have been in the back of the net. They held together a good defensive shell, grinding their way through the match headed for a tie when Whitecaps old boy Eric Hassli came on in the 84th minute. He quickly showed class on the ball that was missing from most of the Whitecaps starters and helped create the goal that would turn the Whitecaps to rank outsiders to make the MLS playoffs. He controlled an untidy clearance from Carlyle Mitchell and put Castillo through past a well out of position Reo-Coker, who was inexplicably 10 yards behind the play; Castillo teed up a perfect cross for a charging (and unmarked) substitute Mauro Diaz, who hit the ball home from 12 yards on a full volley. It was three minutes from time.
The Whitecaps effort turned into a farce in the 87th minute when Jair Benitez was allowed to score on a counter attack from just over the half way line when Ousted was again caught out of position. Like the other two Dallas goals, it was magnificently struck, but it should have been an easy save for Ousted had he been in position. It was humiliation time for the Whitecaps, and what needed to be a win turned out to be a demoralizing and embarrassing loss.
YP Lee should have started this match. I am aware that his contract allows him a couple of rest games, but this was a crucial match and no time to rest him. I cannot believe that when Lee was finally brought on in the 64th minute Rennie put him in midfield rather than putting Reo-Coker there and putting Lee in at right back. Sometimes Rennie’s team selection decisions are ridiculously amateurish. The Whitecaps are not playing fantasy league football, and how is it that Rennie does not know that Lee is better at full back and Reo-Coker is better in midfield is beyond me. We stood a chance to win the game if the two played in their natural positions, but they were left to play poorly in positions that are foreign to them.
Rennie’s decisions beggar belief, and I hold him responsible for the loss we suffered last night in Dallas. In many ways, coaching is easy: find the best eleven and put them in their strongest positions on the pitch. Many times this season Rennie has looked completely confused over what our best team is. This is poor coaching, pure and simple.
The disaster in Dallas was made all the more exquisite by the fact playoff rivals Colorado, Seattle, and Portland all won their matches. Dallas leap-frogged over us to dump us down in seventh place, five points out of a playoff spot. San Jose also beat Philadelphia to draw level with us on points. All in all,it has been a miserable weekend for Whitecaps supporters.
With this loss the Whitecaps playoff chances became a long shot, and only a fantastic run of form, combined with some poor play by our rivals, will see us get a playoff spot.
With the Whitecaps poor performance of late and the looming reality that we are most likely out of the playoffs, Martin Rennie’s time here is looking very limited indeed.