It’s Whitecaps Wednesday, which means we at Pucked in the Head are out and about in our Vancouver soccer kits, hoisting pints and chanting in pubs all day long. As such, Chris and I don’t have time to do much writing and picturing for you. Kudos to Russell Arbuthnot (@arbuoutthere), then, for filing this literate, epithet-heavy story after Whitecaps FC finally lose a home match, 1–0 to the Philadelphia Union.
VANCOUVER, B.C. – When healthy, Vancouver Whitecaps FC boasts one of the most potent offensive lineups in MLS soccer. Camilo “Mean Muggin’” Sanvezzo currently leads the league with 14 goals, while fellow striker Kenny “The Mauler” Miller sits in a tie for seventh with six markers. Russell “Dat Good Canadian Kid” Teibert is tied for 3rd in assists with seven, despite having played in just 12 games thus far. As a team, the Caps rank 2nd in goals with 33 and have racked up 29 assists this year, good enough for 4th overall.
Even casual fans who aren’t much for the numbers notice the Whitecaps offensive style. Between Miller, Camillo, Teibert and Gershon Koffie and Darren Mattocks, Vancouver has breathtaking speed up front. They’re regularly running onto balls behind opposition defenders. Keepers have trouble gauging that kind of pace coming at them on a regular basis, forcing them to guess one way or the other. Whoosh. There’s Mattocks chipping the ball over a cheating keeper’s head in a win over Seattle. Boom. There’s Camillo burying one in the corner when the Chicago keeper gets caught too deep in his net.
More after the jump.
Whitecaps FC is an exciting, attacking club. Tell me why, then, a team that thrives on playing an offensive brand of soccer continues to employ an extra defender, disguised as a midfielder and named Jun Marques Davidson?
Look, I get it. I’ve played soccer for nearly thirty years, the majority of which as a midfielder. I understand the dual role a midfielder needs to play. Both ends of the pitch, attack, retract, back and forth. You’re at times the focal point of offense and almost always “the one who missed his mark” on defense. But please, PLEASE Mr. Martin Rennie, let’s stop pretending.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are not a defensive team. That goes double when two of their best players — both defensemen mind you, in Andy O’Brien and captain Jay DeMerit — are sitting in or around the press box wearing business suits.
But he repeatedly seems unable to fully embrace the Caps knack for offense. Despite the Whitecaps firepower, the Whitecaps faithful consistently see Jun Marques Davidson, a “defensive specialist”, in the starting 11 week after week. Call it blind faith, call it a carry over from their time together with the Carolina Railhawks or call it what it is: systematic discord. Marques Davidson plays his game, and has shown little desire or ability to evolve offensively with the rest of the team.
Before I get too far, I concede that Martin Rennie’s thinking is completely understandable and he is far from alone. Nothing raises a coaching staff’s blood pressure like witnessing missed assignments and a wide-open style of play. After all, if the game devolves into a glorified form of schoolyard soccer, why are the coaches even needed? Systems, strategy, strict assignments and zonal aptitude are all hallmarks of superior coaching; consider these as forms of job security for a coaching staff.
Further to that, down to 10 men early against the Philadelphia Union (thanks to Mr. Davidson’s lack of judgment – we’ll discuss this shortly), the Caps flexed their offensive muscles as effectively as could be expected. They had plenty of chances, kept pushing the pace and just could not capitalize. Really, they deserved a better result than a 1-0 loss. For this, Martin Rennie ought to be applauded.
In the past, Mr. Rennie has dealt well with difficult personalities (see Barry Robson & Eric Hassli) while leading the Caps to the playoffs in just their 2nd year in MLS. Granted it took some time and a whole lotta leash, but their attitudes were ushered out of town when they became too much to deal with. I guess what I’m saying is: there is still hope.
Now on to the aforementioned “lack of judgment.” Jun Marques Davidson decided to deliver a boneheaded head-butt to Keon Daniel in just the 8th minute on Saturday night. Needless to say, his actions did nothing to curry favour with his mates, the fans, nor his biggest ally, Manager Martin. It was an unnecessary retaliatory penalty that left referee Baldomero Toledo no choice but to send Davidson packing, leaving ten men on the field to play the following 82 minutes shorthanded.
Jun Marques Davidson brings nothing special to the table, yet he is consistently put ahead of others despite capable alternatives being present on the bench (see Daigo Kobayashi). Davidson is inconsistent at best, and consistently poor at worst. He has limited offensive vision, which is costly for an attacking team.
A surgical attack requires synchronized movement as a unit and an ability to decipher the correct play as it’s happening. When the right side of the attack cannot correctly analyze the vision of the left, balls are turned over and dangerous counter-attacks are created
But aside from all of that, what he did on Saturday night was completely inexcusable. A selfish play from a player who should know better, but obviously doesn’t. If you missed it, Davidson made a good defensive tackle to steal the ball from Union midfielder Keon Daniel. As he turned upfield, Daniel kicked wildly at his midsection, sending Davidson crashing to the pitch, at which point he leapt to his feet and butted his head into Daniel’s back. Sure, referee Baldomero Toledo is known for flashing cards — just ask Russell Berrisford at the Sun — and has delivered nine reds in the past twelve games. But here, he was perfectly warranted to give Daniel a yellow and toss Davidson from the match. (Check the video highlights at the bottom of the page.)
When you type “Jun Marques Davidson” into your handy-dandy Google search bar, the suggested searches that come up are:
- Jun Marques Davidson flop
- Jun Marques Davidson dive
- Jun Marques Davidson Whitecaps
That’s the wrong order if you’re Davidson, or for that matter any member of Vancouver Whitecaps FC. For those extra-inquisitive Google-ites out there, feel free to search out “Jun Marques Davidson and Julian De Guzman” to induce further shameful feelings — the dive by Davidson against TFC was every bit as blatant as the numerous cheats we love to hate on Dallas FC.
And that’s just it.
What irks me the most about Jun Marques Davidson is that, throughout his tenure here in Vancouver, he has represented everything I dislike most about the game of soccer. And I’m pretty sure I have company in this sentiment.
The ‘beautiful game’ is easily made ugly by the actions of a few. Embellishment, diving, complaining, whining, hair pulling, slapping…head-butting. Perhaps it’s being a Canadian and being influenced by the likes of ice hockey and lacrosse, but I have no time for these types of antics. I’m far from a goon and anything but a bush-hardened lumberjack, but I know how to play a game.
You play it hard, you play it honourably and you sweat your walnuts off trying to win for your team.
This environment in which we Vancouverites live does not tolerate such tomfoolery, and rightfully so.
It’s time now for Jun Marques Davidson to spend some time on the pine. Not to think about what he’s done, heck, he’ll have plenty of time to do that while riding out his suspension, but rather because he simply does not fit into the composition of this team.
But what’s most troubling for Martin Rennie and his squad, Jun Marques Davidson does not fit into the composition of this city, and that is indeed an inconvenient dilemma.