Building a team within the confines of MLS isn’t a particularly easy task. By and large, the player pool is generally limited to in-betweeners (those who can’t quite make the cut in other leagues) and to players either in the dawn or twilight of their careers. It’s also limited to players who are willing to work and play on our vast continent and put up with the turf and the travel – there is minimal contrast between most when it comes to talent in a league driven by parity such as MLS.
The Designated Player rule is a means by which teams can bolster their roster – it is the most immediate mechanism clubs have to separate themselves from the pack. And when you’re hamstrung by the budget limitations enforced by the Whitecaps front office, it makes the necessity to utilize that mechanism all the more difficult – and crucial.
It is also a process that the Whitecaps have seemingly overlooked and/or underestimated repeatedly.
For nearly half an hour on Wednesday night it looked as though the Whitecaps would become back-to-back Canadian champions. Vancouver took advantage of a Bradley-less, Irwin-less Toronto FC squad to stake out to a 2-0 lead (2-1 on aggregate) and carried that lead well into stoppage time. A disinterested and detached Giovinco, seen moping around the pitch at BC Place for 90 minutes, didn’t help TFC’s cause much either.
Everything was seemingly coming up Whitecaps. After a rather pedestrian first 45, Carl Robinson subbed in firecracker Nicolás Mezquida at half-time in place of Russell Teibert. The move paid immediate dividends when the Uruguayan scored just two minutes later. Tim Parker pushed the Caps into the pole position after a nifty chest-to-foot volley in the 68th minute found the netting in behind replacement keeper Alex Bono.
It’s a testament to the talent within the Whitecaps’ roster that four integral pieces of their makeup will be unavailable for this evening’s matchup versus the Houston Dynamo. Blas Pérez, Kendall Waston, Cristian Bolaños and Tim Parker will all be on international duty for their respective countries, and as such, allow for the depth of the squad to be truly tested. I’m looking forward to it.
The absences represent a both a significant challenge and a significant opportunity for the club; Parker and Waston have formed into a top central-defensive pairing in MLS while Pérez’s influence on a game was noticeable during last week’s victory in Seattle. He appears to be the solution to the oft-quoted lone striker issue that has afflicted Octavio Rivero with frequency since his arrival to Vancouver last summer. Bolaños, for his part, has yet to fully adjust to the North American game but has shown flashes of brilliance, including the heady-run that drew Vancouver’s first PK against the Sounders. Nevertheless, he is another one of Robinson’s preferred starter and his absence represents an opportunity for someone else to accrue some quality minutes.
Sigi Schmid, the rotundiest of all MLS head coaches, disagrees with you, and me, and the 21,000 (now more) soccer fans that pack BC Place whenever we have the chance to swear at the Seattle Sounders. Sigi Schmid likes boring soccer. Or, at the very least, “easy” soccer. Those are the only reasons I can possibly fathom for him announcing his desire to “…not play the Whitecaps 100 times” this season.
Now, I’ve always been a selfish kinda guy. I mean, I’m nowhere near Trump levels of selfish and/or pigheadedness and I like to think I’m actually quite compassionate in my own way. But I’m a fellah who likes what I like, will do what I like and I’m gloriously unapologetic about that. That’s more or less why I don’t have money-burning and time-sucking children. And one thing I do like, is Sounders vs Whitecaps.
After getting entries four and five out of the way, we’ve officially reached the podium positions in our Top 5 of 2015 game review series. It only seems fitting as anticipation for the 2016 season mounts with the Caps having arrived back in town for training camp. And what better way to celebrate than by sitting down with a frosty brew (might I suggest a Four Winds Pale Ale?*), taking a load off and wasting some time reading Pucked in the Head while those players bust their asses running laps and submitting themselves to arduous fitness testing? In case you need some more time to finish your drink, catch up on our previous installments – you can find entry 5 here, and entry 4 here.
Now, without further ado, in the Bronze medal spot we take a peek back to the happenings at BC place on April 4, 2015 – just the fifth game of the young season for the Whitecaps. The match was a significant one for the team because of the opponent, because of the result and because of the method in which they delivered that result.