Experienced sailors will tell you that there are two different types of seasickness; the first leaves you terrified that you are going to die, whilst the second leaves you terrified that you are going to stay alive.
Substitute the feeling of acute nausea for watching the Whitecaps this season and it becomes a pretty apt analogy. The worry for some fans may be that the season is effectively over, but the greater terror is that they will have to carry on watching a team that is in disarray for a few more months yet.
When Tom Soehn was appointed manager at the end of May the official talk from the club was of making a push for the play offs and an immediate improvement in the style of play. Now the talk is of ending the season on a positive note and explaining to supporters how difficult it is to turn around a team that is struggling.
The strange thing is that the vast majority of Whitecaps fans already knew that; they didn’t have expectations of a triumphant season, they just wanted their team to be competitive in most games and to give the appearance of progressing on and off the field.
That sense of gradual progression was lost with the firing of Teitur Thordarson, and now the competitiveness is also in doubt with players openly speaking about the team being “out-fought” and “out-hustled” in the final game against Toronto.
Given all this it’s likely that most fans would probably be happy to see Soehn go the way of Thordarson, especially given the number of errors that he has made since being appointed.
The immediate decision to replace regular members of Thordarson’s starting eleven with his own favoured few is arguably the main cause of the current lack of fight in the squad; creating small cliques (whether actual or perceived) is the ideal way to demolish team spirit at a stroke.
Elsewhere his decision to rely on inverted wingers was a reasonable gambit, but his persistence in maintaining the tactic once it became clear that the players available didn’t suit the style is foolhardy. It’s also true that goals from open play have become increasingly rare with only “Goal of the Week” style efforts from Hassli and Rochat lingering in the memory.
Yet there are some aspects of the last few weeks that speak to his defence; he has clearly had the players working hard on set-pieces (something that seemed to be criminally disregarded under Thordarson) with positive results, and he is at least attempting to introduce a pass and move style of play which in the long run could make the Whitecaps one of the better teams to watch in MLS.
Remember too that he has only been in charge for one game at Empire Field since being appointed, and that even earlier in the year the team struggled badly when playing on the road.
The other huge argument against replacing him is that another managerial change now would be the path to madness and create the kind of instability that can take years for a team to recover from, and maybe the harsh truth is that the real issue isn’t the manager at all.
The players have to take an enormous amount of responsibility for much that has gone wrong, not only for the number of individual errors that they have committed but for their attitude; no matter what any player thinks about the manager and his decisions there is simply no excuse for giving up when an important game is still there for the taking.
Perhaps the person we should be looking to is the one who was in charge of recruiting so many of these players that have failed so spectacularly to live up to their billing.
Maybe the real culprit isn’t manager Tom Soehn at all, maybe the real culprit is the man who was the Whitecaps Director of Soccer Operations at the start of their first season in MLS.
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Tags: Vancouver Whitecaps, World soccer