It's a sad state of affairs all-round in Vancouver, as the Whitecaps have lost four in a row and a good few reporters are mailing it in when it comes to covering the team.BURNABY, B.C. – It’s a testing time in Whitecaps land.
With the ‘Caps enduring a disappointing spell in which they have picked up just three wins in their last 12 matches – the last of which came a month ago – things aren’t set to get any easier against FC Dallas.
Sitting on 37 points in the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot, the buffer Vancouver holds over Dallas going into Saturday’s away match is just four points – and seems to be shrinking weekly.
Dallas has five wins and four draws over its last 12 games, as a comparison point, so has picked up 19 points to Vancouver’s 11 over the same amount of games.
The Whitecaps still say they’re in the driver’s seat, and while that’s technically true, during the club’s current four-game losing streak it’s looked a bit like someone clutching the steering wheel of a car going straight off a cliff.
While head coach Martin Rennie has routinely shrugged off the idea of his team feeling pressure at various challenging junctures this season, he must surely be feeling it now.
And whether that’s vocalized or not, the signs are there – while practices were generally open during the season’s early successful stages apart from those directly before a game, things are on lockdown now.
Both practices at Swangard Stadium this week are behind closed doors, meaning reporters don’t have much to work with but the end of a scrimmage match or a cool-down session.
Rennie’s move to close practices isn’t unusual given the situation, and in any event there are plenty of coaches who elect to make virtually all meaningful practices private affairs, but nevertheless it’s an indicator of the current climate.
Perhaps the most interesting sign of the building pressure cooker came from Brad Knighton’s post-training comments on Tuesday. The 27-year-old usurped starting goalkeeper Joe Cannon for the first time in an MLS match this season in the club’s last game, a 2-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy on September 1.
“The media’s going to write what they want about confidence being low and people are down and out and we’ve lost four games in a row, but obviously the results have gone our way.”
Well – perhaps some have written about sagging confidence, but if they have, it’s because it’s been a theme a number of players have touched on – and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that given the situation.
As for writing about the team losing four games in a row? Well – writing about what happens is sort of what the media does.
Well, at least some members of the media.
One TV reporter responded to Knighton’s remarks by saying, “we wouldn’t write that about you!”
Enough to warm the cockles of the coldest heart, to be sure.
That exchange is illustrative of the sort of contempt the media has often shown in its coverage of this club, treating the team with the same level of scrutiny one would expect from a writer putting together a feature on a youth baseball team which has qualified for a regional championship.
Ah, sure, it’s only the local soccer team! Win or lose, “as long as everyone’s having fun” seems to be the order of the day.
If the NHL's Vancouver Canucks went through a spell like this at such a vital juncture, the knives would be out.
Sports editors would demand it of their reporters and columnists, and readers and viewers would expect it.
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In a sports media landscape rampant with often lazy hyperpositivity, cold, objective neutrality is coming to be defined as negative.
Sadly this isn’t limited to Vancouver though –during the fallout of Canada’s 2-0 loss to Panama in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, TSN radio’s Noel Butler Tweeted:
“No matter what we reconvene October 16 with Hex marbles on the line. Between now and then support #canMNT don't vilify them. That helps no 1”
To which Jason deVos, a TSN TV analyst and former Canadian international, replied:
“Being critical of player selections, tactics and performances isn’t vilifying. Support does not equal blind cheerleading.”
Well said, Mr. deVos.
It’s easy to write a piece about “every match being a playoff game” or put together a story on the team “staying positive” despite the adversity.
Real cutting edge stuff. Too bad it’s virtually unwatchable, totally unreadable, and does nothing to further the sporting conversation in this city, or this country.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Goal.com Canada.