Head coach Martin Rennie and his Vancouver Whitecaps face a formidable final six matches as they try to ward off the chasing FC Dallas.VANCOUVER – As long as you get the points, the method is unimportant.
It’s a basic concept, and certainly one that’s far from revolutionary, but that was the credo for the Vancouver Whitecaps in the early part of the season.
When some pondered aloud or even asked players or the coaching staff if the low goal scoring was a concern in the formative stages of head coach Martin Rennie’s tenure, the answer was no – as long as the results were positive.
And at that point, they were.
Now, with four losses on the hop, and a longer spell of largely poor results over the last two months, not much has changed up front.
The team has never really been prolific offensively this season. The difference is the defence, which was once nigh on impenetrable with seven clean sheets from the first nine matches, has over the course of the campaign become rather ordinary.
Now it’s not as if Rennie hasn’t attempted to address the club’s offensive woes. His moves to bring Kenny Miller, Barry Robson and Dane Richards in show he is aware the team needs goals. It’s just that for one reason or another, the consistency hasn’t been there up top.
Robson has quickly established himself as the club’s best central midfielder – certainly the most noticeable anyway with his animated remonstrations of anyone in the vicinity at a given moment – although even he could be accused of trying to be too involved on occasion.
Richards has looked electric at times at BC Place, and then looked a completely different player away from home.
Miller is hardly worth talking about because in his past couple of matches he’s hardly got a touch on the ball due to a general lack of service.
It’s easy to point out the problems the club is going through at the moment, but there’s no obvious solution. There doesn’t appear to be a popular fan movement to have so-and-so dropped or X player brought in off the bench to save the day.
Perhaps the closest to that of the players still in the squad was Russell Teibert, the young Canadian who didn’t get a start this season until last weekend.
After the early promise he showed in 2011, there were high hopes that Teibert could be a sort of ace up Rennie’s sleeve if things went pear shaped. And while the 19-year-old didn’t offer a miracle solution on Saturday in Vancouver’s 2-0 loss to the LA Galaxy, he did show moments of what he’s capable of, notably making a number of mazy runs – runs that never really led to anything it must be said, but clear demonstrations of his quality nonetheless.
The coming matches will likely be the biggest challenge of Rennie’s coaching career to date. How he handles the pressure and manages his tactics could really boost his already sterling reputation as one of North America’s best young managers, or alternatively, knock down the “Special One”-like aura some have attributed to the Scotsman.
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In particular, the lineup Rennie chooses for the FC Dallas match on September 15 will say a lot about his philosophy and approach.
Will he line up his team for a draw? Or will he throw caution to the wind and go for the win?
The team’s offensively conservative approach this season suggests the former is the more probable likelihood, and given the teams’ relative points totals, it’s the correct approach on paper.
But given the way things have been going lately, it may be time to rip that defence-first playbook to shreds and go for the jugular.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.