The Whitecaps are bone-creakingly old. At the start of the year, they were the oldest team in the MLS at 29.71 years. Then they traded Eric Hassli, Davide Chiumiento left and Barry Robson and Kenny Miller, both years older than their predecessors, were brought in. Age can be a good thing. One need only watch the masterclass that YP Lee usually puts on at right back to see the benefit of experience. But Captain Jay Demerit showed the downside of age in a tweet yesterday: “With every game I play, my body reminds me of how old I actually am. Good thing mind keeps telling me im 23. #sore #keepgoingJay #gocaps.”
I’m glad you left it all on the pitch, Jay, but I hope your manager has a succession plan in place.
Vancouver’s age shows in the numbers. Over the course of the season, goals should ordinarily be distributed quite evenly. You should score and concede roughly as many goals in the first 10 minutes as you do in the middle 10 and the last 10. The Caps goal scoring record is quite typical in this regard, with a very random distribution of goals. When you look at goals conceded, however, there’s a clear trend, and it isn’t a good one.
Vancouver starts strong. They’ve conceded only 4 goals in the opening 20 minutes of games this year. As matches go on, however, the Whitecaps concede more, culminating in an awful eleven goals allowed after the 80th minute of play. (Note: this includes injury time, which means that number is somewhat inflated by the 3 goals the Whitecaps have conceded in time added on.) At home, the Whitecaps have coughed up four leads in the late stages (against Seattle, New York, Los Angeles and Colorado). That’s four wins turned into late draws, or eight points in the standings. Coincidentally, the Caps’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot? Eight.
Now, the Whitecaps have wisely associated themselves with one of the leading figures in sports medicine in Rick Celebrini, but it looks like it’s not quite enough. Two of the Caps’ oldest players, YP Lee and Jay DeMerit, are one and two, respectively, in minutes played this year. As the game progresses, the numbers say the defence gets weaker. When Martin Rennie rebuilt this squad in the off-season, he didn’t factor in sufficient cover at right and centre back, and the Caps are now paying the price for the fatigue that’s set in on the back line. Here’s hoping the addition of Andy O’Brien will be enough to push the team over the finish line, and we’ll see some more promising talent in a backup role next year.