Martin MacMahon: 'Caps struggling at worst time

The Vancouver Whitecaps are in a rut, and it couldn't be happening at a worse time with only eight matches left to play.
VANCOUVER – Martin Rennie isn’t hitting the panic button – but should he?

With his Vancouver Whitecaps winning only three of the last 12 games, the club’s head coach has been quick to downplay any crisis developing ahead of the final eight games before the MLS Cup playoffs.

Over that spell, his club has picked up 12 points, and more crucially scored a lowly 11 goals.

It’s been a phenomenon similar to that which takes place in competitive cycling. A couple of riders leave the pack early, establishing what seems to be a sizable gap. And then, the mountains hit.

This is when the big guns generally overtake the early leaders. They’ve got another gear the others can’t match, and they kick into it right at the hardest part of the race.

The most obvious case of this in the Western Conference is the fourth-place LA Galaxy, which have been on a tear over the last dozen matches, doing their best Lance Armstrong impression, picking up 23 points and scoring an impressive 28 goals over that spell after having a dreadful start to league play.

But it doesn’t stop there – virtually all the clubs around Vancouver are slowly but surely ramping things up while the Canadian club stutters.

Third-place Seattle Sounders? Vancouver’s Cascadia rival has picked up 17 points over their last 12 matches, scoring 19 goals.

How about the teams in the hunt behind Vancouver?

Sixth-place FC Dallas have 19 points over their last 12, and have scored 18 goals. Over that same spell, seventh-place Chivas USA have picked up 17 points, scoring nine goals.

But, on the plus side, Vancouver does have a better record than eighth-place Colorado Rapids. That club has only six points over its last dozen games. So, chin up, Whitecaps fans. It’s not all bad.

When a reporter questioned his team’s performances over the last two matches, in which the team fell 2-0 to FC Dallas before falling to the same scoreline against the Seattle Sounders, Rennie went on the offensive.

“Anybody who understands soccer knows that if you make five changes from a team that’s playing very well, then it’s going to have a big impact on the game,” Rennie told reporters at BC Place on Tuesday after a training session. “So anybody who follows the game and knows about it will understand that any time you make more than two or three changes it’s going to have an impact. We’ve brought in some players who haven’t played for six, seven weeks or more.

“That’s been part of it. A lot of it is keeping it in perspective. People don’t do that, but as coaches you do keep it in perspective.”

It’s been the second time in the span of a week Rennie has prefaced his answer to a reporter’s question with something along the lines of, “anybody who knows anything about soccer,” perhaps implying the question – or questioner – was ill-informed on an issue with an obvious answer.


And while there’s an inordinate number of stupid questions Rennie answers gracefully every week, there does seem to be an added edge in recent times when his side’s recent struggles are brought up.
Some of the new additions are rusty, we are told. Almost all of the key refereeing decisions in recent weeks have been anti-Whitecaps, we are told.

But, regardless of whether it’s reasonable to look at these last 12 matches as an indicator of the club’s ability to make the playoffs, Rennie is happy where his team is at and its ability to push on for a first-ever post-season berth.

“We’ve always had our goals and we’re right on track with them,” Rennie said. “I think what happens – if you lose a couple of games, then everybody thinks you’re going to lose every game, and if someone else wins a couple of games, they think they’re going to win every game.

“Realistically, that’s not going to happen. You have to be focused on the next game and keep it in perspective.”

Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for Canada.