The bad news is that the Whitecaps haven’t won since opening day and, on Saturday, suffered their first loss at Empire Field. The good news is that the MLS playoff format is even more forgiving than last year and any team that can put together a decent run of results will soon find themselves back in contention.
Assuming there is no freakish outcomes then the simplest way to look at it is to know that Vancouver need to finish in the top ten in the overall standings to get into the post season. Can they do it?
If they play like they did against Dallas then no. Once they went in front the whole team seemed to freeze. They had the opportunity to kill the game off by pressing on against a team that was lacking in confidence but instead got stuck midway between going forward and sitting back and eventually paid the price.
They also seemed to be unsettled by the Dallas players constant desire to stay on the ground when touched but that is part of the game. The players need to maintain their concentration no matter what is happening on the pitch and the fact that the first Dallas goal came directly after a lengthy injury stoppage is not coincidental.
The other bit of bad news is that they have only played two of their seven games on the road and will need to start picking up points on their travels if they are to push into a coveted top ten spot.
So is there any good news? Thankfully yes. The Whitecaps have yet to send out their best eleven and have been running a makeshift defence all season. Once they get captain Jay De Merit back and can move Alain Rochat to left back that should make a world of difference in the goals conceded column.
In the centre of midfield Gershon Koffie will be back after the weekend game at Columbus. He may only be young but so far this season he has shown the ability to keep the ball in a simple way (sadly lacking against Dallas). Once him and Terry Dunfield line up together again then the midfield will be more coherent.
Which leaves us the two “mercurial” players that the Whitecaps possess. Davide Chiumiento made another goal (and leads the league in assists) but he tends to drift out of games far too often and doesn’t make the defenders do as much work as he should. I wonder if he doesn’t quite trust the turf at Empire Field and that this inhibiting his play? Whatever the reason he needs to be braver in his choices.
And Eric Hassli? He faces another suspension after picking up a harsh yellow card on Saturday. The worry though isn’t the yellow cards that he is getting but that his style of play is being inhibited by the fear of them. He pulled out of a number of challenges against Dallas and I suspect that must be frustrating in itself. He is the best forward at the club by some margin and the Whitecaps need to work out a way of getting the maximum out of him. If that means the occasional suspension in return for goals then so be it.
So we can still be cautiously optimistic about post season play. The games in MLS produce an awful lot of ties and if Vancouver can ever get to full strength then they are certainly capable of making a run. Let’s hope they get everybody back as quickly as possible before they fall too far behind.
Tags: featured, MLS, Vancouver Whitecaps, World soccer