Having to endure Major League Soccer season 2016 as a Vancouver Whitecaps season ticket holder was tough, but early indications have 2017 being worse. The Whitecaps have played three Major League Soccer games with only one point gained thus far via a boring 0-0 tie with Philadelphia on the first match day. In three games the Whitecaps have two goals and have conceded five. Now they have as many red cards as they have goals: new acquisition Brek Shea got him self sent off for dissent in the second half of Saturday’s 0-2 loss to Canadian rival Toronto FC .
Goalkeeper Spencer Richey got his first MLS start due to David Ousted’s suspension from his red card. Paulo Tornaghi was benched because of his less than convincing displays over two games in which he conceded five goals.
Richey’s defensive back line consisted of Harvey, Waston, Parker and Williams. Laba and Tiebert played defensive midfield with Davies, Shea and Mezquida playing ahead of them. Striker Freddy Montero was left alone up front all match.
It was a dreadful match to watch as a Whitecaps supporter. The Whitecaps were very flat and uninspired in the first half, and just as they were waking up from their slumbers in the second half, Shea said something stupid to referee Elfath and got a red card.
Very simply put, the Whitecaps have no midfield to speak of, and this is killing the team. In spite of playing a five man midfield, it was not uncommon to see Mathias Laba all by himself with the ball in midfield with the rest of the midfield players lining up like strikers. Neither Shea nor Davies bothered to go back and support Laba and Mezquida completely failed to act as any kind of midfield link.
The consequence was that Laba would have to pass the ball back to the defenders who would lob long balls over the top with the hope that some Whitecaps player would win the ball. It was pathetic to watch, and one wonders if coach Carl Robinson has no idea it is happening, (because it is plain to see), or if the players have just stopped listening to him. It was a sad display of technical incompetence.
Toronto easily soaked up this “pressure” from the Whitecaps. The only chance the Caps had was when striker Montero deflected a sloppy goalkeeper clearance, with the ball bouncing wide of the net.
At half time coach Robinson made a good move when he took out youngster Alfonso Davies, (who had his poorest match yet at the senior level), and put midfield mastermind Bolanos into the match. The Whitecaps were immediately better, and the switch clearly demonstrated that the Whitecaps need to get some talented and experienced midfielders on to the pitch if they are to go anywhere this year.
The Bolanos substitution was actually working and TFC were starting to look a bit uncomfortable on occasion. The Whitecaps were putting some real pressure on the men in red.
It all came for naught when Brek Shea first got a yellow card for hacking down a TFC player in what was a blatant foul. As he got the card he was talking to referee Elfath and caught his attention with something he said. He got another yellow and was sent off. With 20 minutes to go the Whitecaps were down to ten men.
It was an incredibly stupid thing for Shea to do. Shea has made a very poor impression with his blatant dive to try to get a penalty against Tigres earlier in the week, and now this. Shea’s stupidity cost the Whitecaps all of the momentum they had gained due to the Bolanos effect. With Shea the Whitecaps appear to have picked up a guy with poor character and no discipline. Sadly, it looks like we have bought damaged goods.
Coach Robinson gambled and decided to try to win the match with speed, in spite of being 10 men down, by putting in Manneh and Hurtado on for Montero and Mezquida after 74 minutes. It was very risky, especially given Manneh’s dislike for defending. It seemed like a daring throw of the dice that just might work, but two minutes later TFC scored.
TFC winger Edwards crossed a long ball from the left side of the pitch to the far post to danger man Jozy Altidore. Left back Jordan Harvey did not bother to challenge for the ball and Altidore had plenty of time to pick out a target, and he did, nodding the ball to the charging Vazquez who easily headed home past Richey from close range. Both Harvey and Parker simply looked on in admiration; both were guilty of ball watching.
Four minutes later in the 80th minute Jozy Altidore put the match beyond doubt when he received the ball at the top of the box and managed to easily turn Kendall Waston and fire the ball past a slumbering Parker into Richey’s net to make it 0-2. Like the first goal, Whitecaps defenders looked very static and responded slowly to what was happening.
Whitecaps fans voted with their feet at this time any many left the stadium. People who left cannot be blamed because the Whitecaps put on a terrible show that made me wonder for the first time since the team started in MLS if my money was well spent on a season ticket.
The Whitecaps actually had a good chance in injury time as Hurtato managed to wriggle free and charged with the ball towards the TFC goal. Inexplicably, he fired the ball high and wide from close range, not even making the keeper work at all. It just made those remaining in the stadium shake our heads in disbelief. It felt like insult had been added to injury.
A match that was poorly attended from the start was mercifully over. Fans are starting to stay home rather than come to see the poor soccer the Whitecaps are playing, and it looks like the Whitecaps, as a team and as an organization, are heading towards a crisis.