A dismal effort; 'Caps fall to Real Salt Lake
By Jon Szekeres
A week ago, the Vancouver Whitecaps gave one of their best efforts of the season, drawing with FC Dallas in a beautiful come from behind effort. Many scribes, including myself, walked away from the match feeling a strange sense of optimism. I write 'strange' because this club hasn't allowed me to feel that emotion much this season. However, we thought it could be the start of something wonderful, a launching pad for the rest of the MLS season.
Boy, were we ever wrong.
The Whitecaps fell to RSL 2-0 on the weekend in one of their worst efforts of the season. They couldn't generate offense, they had several defensive breakdowns, and worst of all, the club looked disinterested. You would think on a professional football club, motivation would never be a factor. However, the entirety of the Whitecaps roster looked like they simply did not give a rats ass about the RSL match, something that is completely unacceptable for followers of this franchise.
1) The Road Struggles
Honestly, the Whitecaps struggles outside the comfy confines of BC Place has almost gotten laughable. Not since Cormac McCarthy has the road looked so bleak. While the 'Caps can field a competitive team on home turf, get them outside the 604 area code and prepare for chaos. Once again, the swagger this club had at the start of the season has dissipated so quickly, it's almost unbelievable. While players do get most of the blame, one has to wonder about some of Head Coach Martin Rennie's lineup decisions. Rennie went with Camilo as a middle attacker against RSL, despite everyone and their dog knowing Camilo is most effective when he's able to get wide on challenges and defenders. Putting him in the middle essentially sterilized him for most of the match, while Corey Hertzog, who also started up front, generated next to nothing. You can't truly fault Rennie for giving Hertzog a chance in the starting 11, because he scored a brilliant goal against FC Edmonton earlier in the week. Sadly, Hertzog couldn't keep the mojo going.
Finally, it's surprising to see Andy O'Brien continue to get the call when he obviously needs some rest. One would think O'Brien would've been given some time off in one of the FC Edmonton matches, but he started and finished both of those. He was victimized on the first goal of the night, and it's clear the big man needs some time to rest his feet. His fatigue falls at the feet of Martin Rennie, who has used him far too much. It's that simple.
2) Blame the Players
While this may sound hypocritical considering I just criticized several of Rennie's decision making, make no mistake; the fault for the lack of results for this club falls directly on the feet of the players. Rennie has tried different lineups, he's given young guns a chance, he's worked with Darren Mattocks after training sessions, and yet the team still cannot click. When you let RSL score two goals on you, despite them missing their top 3 scorers, that's not a coaching error. Most surprisingly, YP Lee and Alain Rochat, two rocks on this club last season, have been average. Hell, average is putting it nicely; they've struggled. When players of that caliber can't get it going, you really have to wonder what the hell is going on. Should I even mention Darren Mattocks at this point? He had so much poise last season, so much confidence. He didn't walk into the Whitecaps dressing room, he strutted. That's why no one can fathom why he's having so much trouble finishing his opportunities this season. Some have argued Camilo should bear some of the blame as well, but at least he's got a couple of goals on the season. Mattocks has one in all fields of competition, and while it was a beauty, it was a long time ago. He needs to step up his game badly.
3) Rennie Angry
Rennie is never one to lose his cool, but he didn't protect any players after the match. He questioned their character, their heart and challenged them to play better in the next one. I absolutely loved every minute of it. You see, the 'Caps have put forth dismal efforts before, but Rennie would just defend, deflect and dismiss any hard criticisms. Not this time. He sounded fed up, frustrated, and who could blame him? All Rennie can do is put his puzzle pieces on the pitch; it's up to the players to actually solve it and they haven't come close to doing that. Hey, Rennie has every right to question his club through the media, because when the axe does fall, he'll be first on the chopping block. It's not fair, but coaches are only based on 'what have you done for me lately?' Rennie might have gotten this club into the post-season last year, but he hasn't won a match since March 9th now, and that's unacceptable.
A seven match winless streak is pretty bad. An effort like the one put forth against RSL is downright deplorable. For all the support this team gets, they had better figure out whats wrong, and do it quick. Otherwise, in a season that started with so much bloody optimism, we could be looking at a rebuild. Yikes.