Caps Playoff Bound In 2011? The Debate Rages

Our Blog on Monday commenting on Ali Gerba’s “tell all” interview with The Score has certainly fuelled some debate the last couple of days. Great to see, as the more debate we can all generate about Canadian football, the stronger state that it is in.

The more interest we can generate in the Vancouver MLS franchise at the same time, then the more our job is getting done in spreading the Caps word.

The 24th Minute blog asked some serious and pertinent questions about my statement that I feel that the Whitecaps will find themselves in the MLS playoffs before Toronto do. Even tonight’s excellent It’s Called Football podcast were discussing the topic.

What is behind my confident claim? Am I slavering pish? Can I back this up with facts? Well without time travel, no, it’s all assumptions on both sides of the argument for now, but obviously that’s what the internet was built for!

What I do know is that Vancouver certainly gives the impression of entering the MLS in a more organised fashion than Toronto FC did in 2007.

They have worked very hard in the last year to make sure that they have some talented individuals in the right roles.

By bringing in Tom Soehn as Director of Soccer Operations, they have secured the services of a man who has been around the MLS since 1996, both as a player and a manager who knows what it takes to win in the League and secure silverware at that level. He may not have that glowing playoff resume but it’s still a better MLS record than some.

The biggest coup as far as I’m concerned is bringing Paul Barber over from England to become the Caps Chief Executive Officer. A man of his standing is not going to leave his role at Tottenham Hotspur, a club he has supported all his life, if he didn’t know something special was happening in Vancouver. He is not here to fail. He knows the game inside and out and he has contacts and plenty of them.

Toronto on the other hand have Maurice Johnston. My fellow Scot’s career is very familiar to me – as a player. He has been a flop as a manager at two MLS clubs, now and he is being proven to be a flop as a Director of Football as well.

Don’t kid yourselves Toronto fans. If MoJo had what it takes to be a football manager do you honestly think he would be hanging around the MLS? He’d be back in Scotland or the UK after being headhunted by one of his former clubs. Even in Celtic’s worst plights in recent years, Johnston was nowhere on their list of potential new managers. Rangers, Hearts and even Partick Thistle would have no interest either. Now why would that be?

With MoJo at the helm, TFC are going nowhere, certainly not the playoffs, and he also shows no signs at all of going anywhere else, any time soon. Preki isn’t going to be the answer when MoJo is still backstage.

Those are some of the reasons that I feel the Caps will be in the MLS playoffs before TFC will. Notice I am saying playoffs and not winning the whole shebang. Even Mr Optimistic me wouldn’t go that far. Not just yet, but all you need are the breaks once you get that far.

Of course I’m realistic enough to know that success isn’t primarily achieved off the pitch but on it.

A lot of talk is focussing on the fact that the MLS draft is going to be diluted next year due to Portland having to share it with us and the Caps having the whole Canadian national player rules imposed as well. The current Caps roster features eleven Canadians incidentally. TFC has it’s five domestics that they need.

Remember that these draft players aren’t the best that the League has to offer or haven’t shown that to be the case so far anyway. The Caps have taken on some interesting players to assess this season. Players that could definitely make the grade in the MLS. How many we will take, or be allowed to take with us when we step up always confuses the hell out of me with all the weird rules with discovery players, development players and all that farcical stuff that spoils the MLS.

There is very little difference I feel in the top NASL/USL players and the bottom MLS ones. In fact I’d favour the former on many occasions.

I know this wasn’t the case for Seattle when they joined last season and even those players who did make the step up didn’t see that much action. That’s how it’s worked for them. They’re not us. We seem to be planning more carefully with who we’re assessing. We have some of the cream USL crop from recent years.

Just because the MLS fans aren’t seeing these players week in, week out doesn’t mean they can’t do the business. I think a lot of MLS fans are deluded about the actual quality of play in the League. A lot of it is crap and I know crap, I’ve watched enough of it in Scotland over the years.

Vancouver will also have the advantage of being an active team joining the League. If a decent core of players can be kept together and allowed to be brought on, they will know each other well and be more of a unit than the continuing ragtag TFC squad that has had so much turnaround in their four short years of existance.

Bringing through players, possibly with lower salaries, may also allow us to go for the three designated players and who knows what quality that may provide us with? Although I think we will stick with just the two in our first year and I would expect them to be of a hell of a better quality than Julian De Guzman. 8 goals in 233 career club games (wikipedia stats before someone nails me on that!) is not worthy of taking a DP position at any MLS club.

Obviously no-one knows what the future holds in store for either team. I’ll either be right or wrong in my playoff assertions but I still firmly believe them. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a fun road getting that answer and 2011 can’t come soon enough.

Authored by: Michael McColl

There are 4 comments for this article
  1. Johnnie Monster at 21:14

    I really do get a chuckle at how TFC fans get their panties in a bunch the instant anyone suggests that another Canadian club can achieve what Toronto has not.

    After the MLS announcement party, I faced similar targeted rumblings from The 24th Minute over my remarks that Vancouver was the heart and soul of Canadian football (gasp! the horror!)

    MLSE really is a jack of all trades organization: well versed in many things, but master of none.

    Meanwhile, the Caps are a football-first organization with exceptional talent in the front office, and a consistently competitive product on the field.

    If the question, as Rollins put it, is what makes us so sure Vancouver will reach the playoffs before TFC… I think the Caps have a better understanding of what a football organization needs on and off the pitch to mount a successful season.

    Further to that point, look at how player personnel are handled at Caps v. TFC.

    Wes Charles ran into major personal issues. The club suspended him for his scuffles with teammates, but assisted him as far as counselling and fitness goes in the offseason.

    Meanwhile, Ali G is told to take a hike without cause, and in his words, was made to feel like the club thought of him as “a rapist.”

    A major key to the on-field woes of TFC is what appears to be the demoralization and disenchantment of its players. Losing match after match must be bad enough… but having the coach and management piling it on heavy will do wonders for Vancouver & Montreal's chances in the future.

  2. Anonymous at 06:59

    We're Blue, We're White,

    I totally agree with what both of you have said. However, the one thing that the Ali G dismissal, and subsequent fall out, has reminded me of is that we have not always dealt with our players the best. I don't really want to go into examples (and I'm not evening thinking of the “philosophical differences” with the 3 local lads just over a year ago). Let's just say that we don't always end our relationships with players well…we're sometimes bad at breaking up with players we've lost the love for. More specifically, we haven't always communicated well about these circumstances with players. Anyways, that is a bit of a tangent.

    Much Love,

    Forever A Team

  3. Johnnie Monster at 15:22

    Fair enough, always room for improvement. I guess the difference for me is that the core guys who were let go a few years ago were at odds with TT's coaching philosophy for quite some time. Their release came at the end of long-standing disagreements which they were quite vocal about, so it should not have been a surprise to see them go. If Ali G is to be believed, he was blindsided unexpectedly and given half-assed excuses on the way out the door. If there is this kind of disconnect between the players and their coach, the team is in big, big trouble.

  4. Anonymous at 20:51

    Johnnie Monster,

    I think we have had similar situations to Ali G's departure that have been less publicized, which is maybe because some of those involved were not that vocal about the negative side to their not returning/leaving. Again, I'm not referring to Clarke, Kindel, and Valente. As you say, theirs is a different case. When these smaller other situations have arisen it has made me uncomfortable with how certain key people in the FO have handled them. By that I mean that I haven't necessarily disagreed with the decisions or direction that the Management/Coaching Staff have wanted to go, but rather that they haven't always treated people well…especially those that were being let go/not offered new contracts. I don't really want to give the specific examples, but they are not too hard to think of.

    Looking forward to hanging out at tomorrow's match!

    Much Love,

    Forever A Team

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