To paraphrase Kenneth Wolstenholme, we thought it was all over. It is now.
Four days after Vancouver Whitecaps’ playoff hopes crashed and burned in the altitude of Colorado, there’s still a lot of anger floating around here at AFTN as it’s been a season of wasted opportunities, where those teams previously below us have strengthened themselves far better than the Caps did.
It’s also been a season full of ations for Vancouverand they’ve driven our playoff hopes off a cliff.
We’d hoped for celebration, domination and creation but unfortunately it’s been frustration, desperation and stagnation that have been the order of the day. All we can hope for now is that it is going to end with a termination.
The hard questions that have to be asked now by the Caps powers that be is what were the goals going into the season, who is responsible for the failure to achieve those and what are the acceptable measuring sticks of success and progression for this team?
As expected of a man fighting to save his job, Martin Rennie has been keen to play up the positives at every given opportunity over the last few weeks. And there have been some.
The Caps have recorded their highest ever points total after three years of MLS play and their highest number of overall wins and away wins (although some of those games saw the team filled with trepidation). Then there’s the big increase in goals scored and Camilo challenging for the Golden Boot.
They’re all positives. There’s a temptation to call it spin, but it is at least factual. It’s just not what I deem as acceptable progress when those around you have actually progressed more than you.
I know I’ve been beating these stats to death a little this week on Whitecaps Daily and on our own podcast, but they are worth mentioning again for those that haven’t listened.
We’ve improved in areas and yes, that is some kind of progress, but when you dig a little deeper into the numbers they become a little bit more telling.
Vancouver have 12 wins at present, but that’s only an increase of one from 2012. Portlandhave five more and Coloradothree.
Again, yes, the points total has increased to 45. A massive increase of two there, whilst Portland have increased by 20 and Colorado by 14.
Those were the two teams that finished below us last season that have improved enough to make the playoffs this year at our expense. Is that acceptable progress? And why were those teams able to strengthen better than we were?
Even looking at Dallas, who didn’t make the playoffs last year or this, have five more points and two more wins.
The Whitecaps have scored 50 goals so far this season. That is up a whopping 15 on last year and sees them sitting with the third best ‘goals for’ record in the West and fourth best in MLS overall.
Great stuff, but hold on a minute. How can a team that’s scoring like that not even be in the playoffs, never mind languishing 14th in the overall table? Portland are also up 15 goals and they sit atop of the Western Conference.
Well a quick look one column over tells you why. The Caps have conceded 45 goals this year, which is actually an increase of four on last season. Only six teams have conceded more and four of them are also missing out on the playoffs. Portland on the other hand have conceded a massive 23 goals less than last season.
Rennie stated again at training yesterday that the team needs “a settled back four”. They do and yes, there has been a huge amount of chopping and changing with the central defenders due to the insane amount of injuries that has befallen that particular position, but how many goals and losses can be pinned on that defensive pairing? Everyone who’s played there this year has done reasonably well and at times excellently so.
The problem has been on the wings. With Lee retiring and Harvey struggling defensively, there’s two voids to be filled there in the offseason and, without going into the rights or wrong of the Rochat trade once again, many would say it should have been filled this year.
Not to mention for the umpteenth time that we’ve needed at least one more midfielder all season long.
I said back in April that this squad was not good enough or deep enough to make the playoffs. It was glaringly so. A storming June papered over some of those cracks but they soon became visible again leading to our traditional late summer horrorshow.
It was all very frustrating to watch and that frustration soon turned to desperation, which in turn led to the Caps finding some form when they were fighting for their playoff lives.
All too little too late and you’re left wondering what might have been had they found that swagger and playing style sooner.
Which ties in with another ation that’s caused problems. Rennie’s formation. Rigid, predictable and seemingly without the right personnel in place to carry it out at times. At this late stage in the season, how many would agree on what our best starting eleven actually is? Does Rennie even know? At times it’s felt like improvisation.
In his postgame interview on Saturday he claimed that:
“I wanted to introduce a number of young players in the team and we’ve really done that. We’ve had a number of young players establish themselves in the group.”
Who? And what team? The Reserves? Manneh couldn’t even find a spot on the bench in a number of matches. Teibert, Koffie and Leveron all lost their starting spots.
There’s been some statistical advancement but not to an extent of achieving the Caps’ set goals.
At training yesterday Jordan Harvey commented that “Obviously we’re disappointed at not making the playoffs, that’s our number one goal. We had high expectations.”
Not everyone can achieve their number one goal, but when it really matters the Whitecaps consistently failed to achieve most of their aims under Rennie. And the fact that often it has been in their own hands is what is particularly anger inducing.
We knew we needed two wins against Coloradoto most likely make the playoffs. We didn’t get the job done. We knew we needed to beat Montrealat home to win our first every Voyageurs Cup. We didn’t get the job done again.
We did win our first Cascadia Cup in the MLS era but all that gets us is a shiny fan trophy, bragging rights and libations. Fun, enjoyable but ultimately it should have been way down the pecking order when it came to what people feel was acceptable as a mark of a successful season.
Rennie’s interviews often have an element of spin to them, manipulation if you like, but at times they also have a feel of a flight of fancy and you wonder if you’ve been watching the same game and team.
There can only be so much spin and the results speak for themselves. Rennie sees progress, yet Caps President Bobby Lenarduzzi told Team Radio yesterday that “I would say that we were stagnant”.
“The competition in the division, it’s clear for everyone to see, other clubs upgraded, as did we, but just not enough. Too many points dropped at key times.
“I would say that we probably maintained where we were, but most people would view it as having regressed because we haven’t made the playoffs.”
It’s hard to read or hear those comments, and others where he clearly lays all of the player decisions and signing with the manager, without thinking that Rennie’s days are numbered in Vancouver and the season will end with one last ation – termination.
Whoever then comes in will be one of the key appointments in Whitecaps history. It has to be right man, with the right ideas and the right knowledge to lead this team to success, hopefully adding a new ation for next season – rejuvenation.