When the final whistle blew 100 days ago after a truly awful 1-0 home loss to Real Salt Lake in the last match of the 2019 season, I let out a sigh of relief. As it was my fourth season not being a season ticket holder, I closed my laptop and went about my day. As I attempted to forget about the game, something hit me…
I remember when I used to agonize over defeats. On the post-match walk across the Cambie Street bridge, my friends and I would argue over tactics, refereeing decisions, individual performances, and anything else that was in any way relevant. In 2019, watching the team had become a chore.
The players were nothing special (apart from a notable few), the atmosphere wasn’t the same, and the organization had a plague of PR blunders that took away the shine. The only thing that kept me mildly engaged was Marc Dos Santos trying everything he could think of to get results. Most of them didn’t work, but at least he was trying something. The Whitecaps played nine different formations last year according to whoscored.com, I’m not sure I can name more than 10 conventional formations.
Intrigued by our MLS freshman head coach, I kept an eye open for “Marc Dos Santos Mic’d Up” videos, which in my humble opinion is the best type of sports content outside actual matches. Dos Santos’ energy and drive was infectious to watch, and I liked how he communicated to the players, often in the language that they are most comfortable with. Those videos validated what the fan could already see – Dos Santos was a man who wanted to win. A glance at his resume backs this up; before the Vancouver Whitecaps, the man was a serial winner.
Unfortunately for the club that he is employed by, an abuse scandal and the Development Squad fiasco were like a car accidents you could not look away from; making the Whitecaps appear a failure on and off the pitch. In case you still had any positivity left, the woeful recruitment of Jon Erice (the club captain who fell out of favour, lasted one season, and today was announced to have returned to Spain), Joaquin Ardaiz (0 goals and 0 assists in over 400 minutes as a forward), and Lucas Venuto (transferred mid-season after an inconsistent time in Vancouver) should quash that.
The current offseason has been long and largely uneventful. Apart from the signing of Lucas Cavallini and Glass City’s extremely entertaining rumour mill, there has not been much to report.
Don’t get me wrong, Cavallini is a game changing player at MLS level, but as multiple people have pointed out: the rest of the squad is lacking. We are not in panic territory yet though, there is plenty of time to get business done – especially after the European windows close towards the end of January, and potential transfer targets run out of options.
However, the full-refund season ticket cancelation promised to renewed season ticket holders is just over two weeks away, and you would be hard pressed to find a fan satisfied with the transfer activity so far. Again, not a condemnation, but an indication that Whitecaps organization have again set targets for themselves that they were unable to achieve.
Don’t panic, the 2020 Caps will have a team of 11, and maybe even a full bench of players. But what reason do we have to believe anything will change?
The “fog of war” is supposed to apply to the movements of an enemy army, not the moving parts of your own. I’m more worried about the Vancouver Whitecaps recruitment and strategy than I am about our rivals. There is reason to peek over the garden fence at them when the fire alarms in your own have been ringing for 20 minutes.
A new sporting director and CEO will take time to settle, and if things don’t go well in 2020, there is an obvious fall guy – Marc Dos Santos, the man who we know will try everything.
Should we be preparing for the blame game and another season of disappointment? Right now, all the signs are pointing that way.