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Ahead of the playoffs, the Vancouver Whitecaps may need to take drastic measures in order to compete. Could dropping the Scottish designated player contingent be the answer?

Things haven’t gone exactly to plan for the Vancouver Whitecaps.

After starting in spectacular fashion, the wheels have come off – big time.

They’ve qualified for the playoffs, but the team that brought them there has, to a certain extent moved on.

Davide Chiumiento and Sebastien Le Toux – two key figures in the early going – are gone and they won’t be coming back.

Their playmaking ability and work ethic, respectively, haven’t been replaced. Brought in in their stead have been two players with bigger reputations than apparent ability to contribute.

At least if those little things called results are considered.

Now, head coach Martin Rennie could stick to his guns if he wants with the playoffs almost here. The Scotsman could stick with his pair of designated players which haven’t quite hit the ground running.

It will eventually work out – right? His patience and confidence in his countrymen Kenny Miller and Barry Robson will be rewarded, surely.

They will be worth the cash. No doubt.

Or he could attempt radical change. Rennie could go with – wait for it – established Major League Soccer players.

Players who have been there and done that in North America’s top league. Players who don’t wave their hands at their teammates when things don’t go right. Players who have actually achieved something in the game on this continent.

Thankfully they’re on the roster. Their names are Atiba Harris and John Thorrington.

If Thorrington’s hamstring isn’t fully healthy, that’s a reason for exclusion. But if he’s back to full health, why not give him the nod and leave Robson on the bench?

There’s something to be said about team chemistry and cohesiveness, and it’s very difficult to see what Robson has brought to this squad apart from a remarkable accuracy when it comes to striking walls set up by opposing teams.

If that’s the goal, then well done – it’s hard to comprehend a player with a greater accuracy and consistency when it comes to striking the defensive structures set up by opponents in set piece situations.

As an individual, Thorrington probably isn’t better than Robson. But his decision-making and his chemistry seems infinitely better. He passes to his teammates, for one. If he gives the ball away, you can be sure he’ll be bust his behind to get the ball back.


And if a teammate makes a mistake – yes, he’ll hold them accountable – but he’ll probably do it behind closed doors rather than make a holy show of it in front of a crowd of 20,000 spectators by waving his arms with the propensity of a wind turbine.

It’s a shame there isn’t the technology to harness Robson’s mannerisms, which would be sure to be strong enough to power a small city.

As for the club’s forward situation – if Darren Mattocks is going to be left on the bench, why not use Harris?

If the gameplan is to just kick and run, bypassing the midfield, why not use the biggest physical specimen on the team? If Harris could appear dangerous under the supposedly one-dimensional Teitur Thordarson, think of the potential under the enlightened tactics of Rennie.

Harris was a massive factor in FC Dallas’ run to the 2010 MLS Cup final. Again, like Thorrington, if he’s not fully fit, that’s a reason for exclusion.

But really – is there anyone in their right mind who would choose Robson and Miller over Thorrington and Harris?

This isn’t the Scottish Premier League of five years ago. This is Major League Soccer, and the year is 2012.

Let the guys who care play – the guys who aren’t just here to collect their retirement packages – and reap the rewards.

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Canada.


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