The new Vancouver Whitecaps coach has seen his side lose twice consecutively, and two difficult fixtures are next on the menu.VANCOUVER -- With two consecutive losses and two very difficult fixtures to come immediately after, Vancouver Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson is facing the first real adversity in his career as a manager (well, in terms of actually competing – the Camilo situation this offseason was a nice baptism of fire!).
Losing first to the Colorado Rapids 2-1 at BC Place after a controversial Matias Laba yellow card reduced his side to 10 men, before falling to the LA Galaxy last weekend 1-0 at the StubHub Center, Robinson now sees his men prepare for a clash against the Galaxy once again this weekend at home.
Then, after that match, his side must travel to Utah to play perennial Western Conference powerhouse Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Welcome to management, Carl.
As of now, the Whitecaps' record stands at 2-2-2. Nothing to be ashamed of there. But given the calibre of the opposition over the next two matches, it wouldn't be unthinkable to see Vancouver emerge with a four-game losing streak and two games under .500.
It's early in the season and regardless of what happens over the next two games, there's plenty of time to reverse the tide if those games don't go to plan, or botch the momentum if Vancouver pulls a pair of upsets.
But the point is even at home to the LA Galaxy, it's difficult to call Vancouver favourites – and away to RSL there won't be anybody putting money on the 'Caps to come out on top.
Beyond the results, there are also some interesting storylines bubbling under the surface. Robinson's decision to bring Nigel Reo-Coker down to Carson, Calif., for last weekend's game to the Galaxy, only to leave him on the bench, perhaps the most fascinating of the lot.
Reo-Coker, who missed two games due to concussion prior to last weekend's benching, seemed a bit frustrated after Tuesday's training session, and had an engaged conversation with Robinson after training which both men said was civil. The Englishman followed the script while talking to reporters, insisting he would bide his time and work hard in training.
“That's down to the manager,” Reo-Coker said on Tuesday when asked if he expects to play this weekend. “I don't know what he's going to do this week. He hasn't said anything tactics wise or team wise what he's going to do. We're just working on basic principles, what he wants to do better as a team.
“But he hasn't said anything about what team he's going to pick or what he's going to look to do.”
As for any long-term implications for the player, Reo-Coker played down the significance of the situation, putting things in the context of his career in England.
“I've experienced a lot in my career so far,” Reo-Coker said. “You can only control certain elements as a professional football player. All I can do is train well and train to the best of my ability. The rest is down to management to pick the team that they see fit and good enough to win whatever game respectively we're playing.”
If Reo-Coker does play on Saturday, where he slots in will be interesting. Laba will return from suspension, and one would think will slot back immediately into the side either as one of two holding players in a 4-2-3-1, or as the deepest lying midfielder in a diamond 4-4-2.
But Russell Teibert was exceptional in a defensive midfield role last weekend, despite the side's loss, and Gershon Koffie has been steady in the heart of midfield in Reo-Coker's absence.
Reo-Coker likely has the advantage this weekend in that Vancouver is coming off a loss, however narrow, and that might give Robinson the impetus to slot him back in for this weekend.
However, if Vancouver's Welsh manager leaves out Reo-Coker again, it's difficult to see this situation of tense civility continue much longer.