Much of the ciriticism for the Vancouver Whitecaps' recent woes has been levelled at head coach Martin Rennie, but his players deserve much more of the scorn.
When things aren’t going well with a team, it can be easy to find a scapegoat.
For the Vancouver Whitecaps, now winless in seven, many have aimed their criticism at head coach Martin Rennie. Some of the criticism has been fair, some has been off the mark, and some has been absurd.
It’s fair to say he’s made some questionable decisions at times – and he’s been called on it in mainstream outlets, but is selection policy really the problem here?
If a striker who has scored goals for fun most of his college career shanks chances from close range in multiple games is that a coaching failure?
If your goalkeeper has visions of playing like Lionel Messi and jinks past a player before essentially gifting the opposition a corner which you subsequently concede from is that a demonstration of tactical naiveté?
How about if your fullbacks lose all will to push forward away from home and loft slow motion crosses in which are a delight for defenders to head away?
And, if your midfielders decide to saunter back to defend while the opposition attack your goal, I suppose you’d call that the height of managerial duncery?
Rennie hasn’t always got it right – no coach ever does – but his players have been letting him down in recent matches.
And everyone has taken a turn. Striker Darren Mattocks is clearly in a bad mental place and his goal drought is weighing on him, regardless of his assurances to media that it’s not stressing him out. He looks rattled out there and the sooner the goal and the uglier it is the better.
Fullbacks Lee Young-Pyo and Alain Rochat, while very impressive in the club’s two wins to start the year, have looked their age since then – certainly away from BC Place. They seem to be very tentative to push forward – perhaps with the team so snake-bitten in front of goal, they’re paranoid of conceding a goal and then don’t push, perpetuating the current issues.
Daigo Kobayashi is another player who started strongly but faded fast. The once-capped Japanese international just might not be built for MLS. He has been left at home for a road game in this young season, and it’s been some weeks since he’s looked the formidable creative force he ‘s supposed to be – even against NASL side FC Edmonton he didn’t seem effective.
Goalkeeper Joe Cannon has made some poor decisions at times, but these have been unfairly highlighted as every goal conceded on this misfiring team feels twice as significant – this team’s problem is in the final third, not its own six yard box.
Some people have criticized Rennie for chopping and changing his lineup too much, but if you were coaching this team would you honestly stand by the same lineup which just let you down?
Apart from Nigel Reo-Coker, Andy O’Brien and possibly Brad Rusin, the performances simply haven’t been good enough.
Yes, a coach’s job is to motivate and organize his players, but to see some of the laissez-faire tracking back against Real Salt Lake... well Rennie can’t do the running for his players, can he?
Over the next few weeks we’ll see whether the players on this squad want to play for Vancouver, for Rennie, and the fans, or if they’re all talk.
Rennie’s style is not the most exciting and he has yet to find a way to get this team to score consistently, but he brought 2011’s worst MLS team to the playoffs in 2012. That achievement, despite last season’s terrible run down the stretch, should mean the Scotsman gets the benefit of the doubt.
And no doubt the cooler heads on Water Street will give him time to ride this storm – after all, the ‘Caps are just three points back of the fifth and final playoff spot, and it’s only nine games into the season.
If this run continues, by all means get the knives out, but for now, I’d stick with the two sticks, the tifo and the scarves.
It’s a better look.