Former Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon was excited to head along to Thunderbird Stadium on Wednesday night, tweeting out how much he was looking forward to seeing WFC2 live for the first time after being impressed with what he had seen online.
He couldn’t have picked a worst game to attend, as the young ‘Caps put in one of their worst performances of the season to come away on the wrong end of a 1-0 defeat to last year’s Western Conference champions, Orange County Blues.
The Whitecaps never really got started, mustering one shot on target all night, but they never looked in much danger themselves until Brenton Griffiths rose to head home two minutes from time, after a corner was flicked on into his path.
A disappointing end to a disappointing performance.
“Yeah I agree 100%,” WFC2 head coach Alan Koch told AFTN after the match. “They fully deserved the three points. We weren’t good enough from start to finish at all. It was a very, very disappointing performance.
“We’ve progressed as a group a lot this year. I think a lot of the individuals have progressed within that group, but tonight there were very, very few signs of improvement.”
Koch went with that rareness of things, an unchanged starting line-up. Certainly the strongest one at his disposal, but it simply didn’t get the required result on the night.
“I think it’s the first time all season,” Koch told us. “Our group’s a hybrid group, so we obviously deal with players coming in and coming out. Fortunately for the group, we thought, it was nice to play the same starting 11, but obviously didn’t have the desired outcome.”
There just seemed to be no spark for the ‘Caps against OC Blues and it felt from the outset that a goal just wasn’t going to come, even with the firepower and talent that we’ve seen from WFC2 this season.
“I think we always feel with this group that we can score,” Koch added. “We have some players that can pull something out of nothing. Having said that, we didn’t deserve anything tonight. The energy, the intensity, the level of application, wasn’t there at all.
“I thought the second half was probably a little bit better than the first half, but not by much.”
That spark, impetus, intensity, call it what you like, has been missing in a few ‘Caps games of late. They’re now winless in four, with just one win in their last seven.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly why, but there’s certainly a few contributing factors. The goals have dried up for Kyle Greig right now, with the ‘Caps captain goalless in his last nine outings. Alphonso Davies’ flair and creativity is certainly missing from the midfield. Marco Bustos is struggling and so is Sem de Wit without Cole Seiler in there beside him at the back.
Just too many key players being off their game at the same time, and fatigue must certainly play a part in that.
“You’re going to have spells,” Koch mused. “It’s a 30 game season, so to expect to be at the top levels that we’ve performed in for the full 30 is almost impossible. We’re not having the most success now in terms of scoring and capitalising on the chances we’re creating, but hopefully we can address it in training and get ourselves back for the last few games.”
If there’s one positive to try and take from the game it’s that WFC2 now have 11 days off until their next match, a home match against Arizona United in Langley.
With a big crowd expected, the ‘Caps now have time to regroup and recharge after a gruelling spell of the schedule. They also have time to think about the loss and with the playoffs looming, it will hopefully give the squad the perfect wake up call and kick up the ass they need.
“Yeah I think it is a good thing, to be honest,” Koch agreed. “It’s been a long, long, long stretch. There’s no excuses for that. We should have put in a better performance tonight, but it’ll be nice for the guys to have a little bit of a break and then we’ll regroup and start preparing us for the last seven games.”
Vancouver stay top of the USL Western Conference despite the loss, but have played more games than the chasing pack of four teams. There’s a lot of football to be played and positioning to be worked out, so there’s no postseason talk from the ‘Caps camp just yet.
“We haven’t made the playoffs yet,” Koch added. “So we’re not even talking about the playoffs, we’re not even thinking about the playoffs. We’ve got to prepare ourselves to bounce back from this and hopefully get some points the next game.”