Carl Robinson: The best manager the MLS Whitecaps have seen

Carl Robinson: The best manager the MLS Whitecaps have seen

“Joe, what are you thinking?”, “Have you watched the team play lately?”, “Don’t you have a Twitter account?”. I know, this isn’t the article you expected to see, but what you cannot hide from is the truth: Carl Robinson is a victim of his own success.

Step in my time machine with me. It’s 2013, the ‘Caps have just finished 7th in the West, and the coattails of Martin Rennie would no longer darken the doorstep of BC Place. Rumours of ex-USA head coach Bob Bradley were circulating, Camilo was on the move, there was more confusion than optimism in Vancouver.

After a few weeks of speculation and angst, the quietly confident figure of Carl Robinson was presented by Bob Lenarduzzi as the man to take the Whitecaps forward. After strengthening the team with several unknown Latin American talents, we stormed to a 4-1 victory against New York Red Bulls in our first home match. The fans were on board, and the players were eager and willing to live by the club’s new found philosophy.

That season, the ‘Caps would finish inside the playoff picture after a late scare. The following season, the Whitecaps would end the season third in the Supporters’ Shield race, their best ever regular season finish.

Slowly but surely, Robbo moved the club up the ladder. His changing from a 4-4-2 to a dynamic 4-2-3-1 formation is hardly a revelation to the tactical students of the game, but his greatest achievement has been finding the players to fit the roles. Pedro Morales, Matias Laba, Kendall Waston and Cristian Techera are all Robbo era-club favourites. Counter-attacking, hardworking, and honest. Those are the philosophies that shine through on a Carl Robinson team.

Returning to reality now, the Whitecaps have not only stalled the bus, but said bus appears to be on fire. Playoff hopes are inching out of reach. The players look deflated. There is a lack of invention. The fans are disappointed, and they want blood. Are they wrong? The nature of sport as a form of entertainment is results. When a team is not getting results there has to be changes. That much is logical. But what changes? That is the million dollar question.

My AFTN fellow writer, Aaron Campbell, enquired to the fans as to the root of the problem, and they believe that the front office is responsible. Bob Lenarduzzi and company have not only failed to sign a DP to strengthen the attack, but have allowed the team to stagnate at a key time in the club’s development. Robinson is the man feeling the wrath of the fans after games, but stop and think for a second, Robbo has had this team on the upward trajectory, why has it stopped all of a sudden?

Lack of funding? Difference in expectations between Robbo and the board? Either answer points to one thing: a disconnect between the two groups of people that are responsible for running this team.

And why is Lenarduzzi so untouchable? He has hired badly two times and well once! 33% isn’t really good enough is it? If you hired me to build your shed and I built 33% of it you’d tell me to bugger off.

Questions need to be asked to the right people. Why did we sell a once highly rated DP in Octavio Rivero and gain a middle level MLS striker? Why haven’t we invested in an experienced right back? Why has the club in the MLS era repeatedly bragged about up and coming Canadian talent (Bryce Alderson, Caleb Clarke, Russell Teibert etc.), when in reality they parade them for a bit before not renewing their contract or offloading them? These are not problems in Robinson’s philosophy, but in the front office.

As Aaron pointed out, Carl Robinson is showing all the symptoms of a man who is going to have a bright future in the game. I would not be surprised if we woke up one morning and an English Championship team has snapped him up. Owen Coyle was sacked by Houston and still landed a job in the English Championship for Pete’s sake.

The harsh nature of the Vancouver supporters sporting culture means that people want changes to be made. But do not forget who has made the club what it is today.

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Joe Deasy
Authored by: Joe Deasy

There are 9 comments for this article
  1. HC at 20:29

    Thing is – if they get rid of Lenarduzzi, whoever replaces him would want to bring in his own guy (or at least be ready to fire him as soon as the first sign of trouble). It might be an all or nothing situation.

  2. Geoff Flamank at 21:28

    As a new footy fan and season ticket holder for the past 4 years, I’ve never understood the ill feelings towards Lenarduzzi. I am extremely disappointed in this years results but I have seen Robbo try everything under the sun to make this team click. Injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc have all led to a team that is unable to find consistent chemistry. In addition, the cataclysmic drop in performance of key personnel could not have been foreseen by even the most avid of Monday Morning Centrebacks. Laba, Morales, Techera, Waston, and even our dear David O. have all had inert brain farts – the smell has been there but there has been no gas. It’s a shitty year and I’ve pretty much written it off as such and have faith that the Bobby and Robbo Show will find some changes to make. As for a high-dollar DP, that’s a big crapshoot that has seen more disappointments than successes.

    The latest attempts and additions of Edgar, De Jong, and Barnes have had all of the impact of a popcorn fart (geez, there’s that gas theme again). Kekuta, as much as he wasn’t having a great season prior to his injury, feels like the saviour in his absence. The Jordan Smith experience was horrific and I wondered why it took so long for Robbo to give up on him. In fact, the whole right back scenario was a cluster-f**k.

    So to me the essence of the problem revolves around finding a consistent and cohesive lineup. I say we flush all of this smelly shit down the toilet and start building for next year. Won’t that be a breath of fresh air?

  3. El Cabeza at 03:02

    Great article. I violently agree. Watch how quickly everyone else jumps back on the bandwagon when Robbo steers the ship back on course next year.

  4. Ian at 11:39

    Classic example is letting Steven B go because they would not pay him – TFC is very grateful for VWFC’s misplaced frugality and it has been a revolving door ar right back ever since..And then there is Koffi – Laba has not been the same since his partner in defense left either.

  5. Rhm at 15:40

    It’s Lenarduzzi and the Ownership group that simply doesn’t have the depth in their personal retirement portfolios (dot Com sales from 15 yrs ago) to fund a team properly and take risks.

    Until the team is sold to a proper sports ownership group (which will replace the Duze) we will have this “save-on-soccer” approach

  6. Greg at 19:33

    Ian,
    I think it’s unfair to say the Whitecaps weren’t willing to pay Beitashour. It’s a salary cap league, and sometimes you have to make decisions on what the value of a player is in that context. The Whitecaps thought they had a good goalie in Ousted, a strong CB pairing in Waston-Parker, and good defensive mid in Laba, With all of that in mind, it’s natural to think that you could experiment a bit on the right and use the salary cap money elsewhere (like on a badly needed striker). Unfortunately, all of the above players have had disappointing years and none of that is because they’re missing Beitashour.

    As for Koffie, he only played about half the games with Laba last year, so again, it’s unfair to say that Koffie’s departure is the reason Laba is struggling this year. They made a salary cap decision with Koffie. That’s what you have to do in this league.

    Now, as to whether they spent all that salary cap space they freed up wisely….I think results show they sure as hell did not.

  7. Jon at 22:22

    It’s all about having a high profile striker to score and win games. It’s not Robbo’s fault or front office that the owners are not willing to pay for DP striker. Look at Toronto’s high profile signings to see the difference spending money makes. There is not much you can do with a team of average players. The way out of this is for deep pocket new owners to come in and spend big on new signings.Otherwise, nothing is going to change.

  8. Anonymous at 21:02

    What people need to know and what this club needs to know is we need to get this club playing soccer as it needs to be played. The formation we play does not work. You can’t have a striker who is at all times by himself. If you watch teams like LA Galaxy or Dallas and even TFC at all times when they attack they have 6 to 8 guys moving forward and whitecaps at best have 1 to 2 guys which leaves them at all time either holding the ball or going backwards. You’ll never get quality playing backwards. You need a team to move at 1 at all times. Our goalie not the issues. The play from defence forward is the issues. Playing this long ball does not work in soccer but for whatever reason we continue to play this style which I call Canadian soccer is garbage. Look at champions league, priemer league, La Liga, it’s all about short passes and making runs. Whitecaps don’t do any of this. Bringing in a 6″4 forward in brek Shea who played defence for 2 years and putting him winger. What are we thinking. He 6″4″ with more speed then Montero. Shea needs to be in the middle getting his head or feet on the ball. I was a season ticket holder since empire stadium and this year I cancelled them due to bad plays on the field and boring soccer. After the TFC loss on the weekend I won’t watch again until the whole office gets cleansed and we get a actual coach who will play his starters every game or until changes be made. I have a son who I took to games and he eleven and he knows between good and bad and we have bad.

  9. Antony Jones at 14:37

    He’s gonna be the new Welsh manager.

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