Vancouver Comes up Short Against Seattle as Questions of Rotation, Breaks and Depth Loom Large

Vancouver played it’s third league game in a week Saturday, taking on the Seattle Sounders in another installment of the Cascadia Cup. The Whitecaps came back from their three week international break last Saturday in a wild affair against Colorado at home. They then left for Texas where another 2-2 finish was in the cards, even though Lucas Venuto saved it for late. After Dallas, the caps headed straight for the Emerald City, where a date with their longtime rivals awaited them.

Three games in eight days is a lot. Take into account the seven missing players, including three who would have likely been in Dos Santos’ starting lineup. Add the fact that eight players were used for the full 90 minutes in each of those matches, plus Felipe who played all but 15 minutes and Montero who only came off in the 90th minute last match, and what does one get? A tired team.

Then look at the opposition. This was Seattle’s first game back. Although they were also missing many key pieces due to international duty, their last match was a US Open Cup fixture on June 12th.

This one seemed destined for a stalemate until Kelvin Leerdam finally broke the deadlock in the 96th minute to send the Whitecaps and their travelling supporters home on a sour note. Vancouver pushed, just about standing up to their bitter rivals, but couldn’t hold through to the end. Marc Dos Santos eluded to fatigue in his brief post-game remarks “Physically it was difficult for us in the last five miutes”.

Theo Bair was subbed on in the 90th minute

Questions for the coach

There’s no doubt Marc Dos Santos was dealt a tough hand this week, but some questions will be asked of the decision to put certain players in the situations they were. From the nine possibilities to bring on substitutes over the last three games, Dos Santos only opted to use seven. He was reluctant to elaborate on his decision to do so, but it is a curious one considering the load on his players of late.

Throughout the match the Whitecaps failed to build attacks through the midfield as both teams attacked with more direct plays. A look at the heat map will back up that theory. The central midfielders in Dos Santos’ system didn’t really manage to work open the Sounder’s backline and the most obvious reasoning for it was a lack of hustle.

Looking more specifically at the midfield, here were Marc Dos Santos’ options for the last match: Jon Erice, Hwang In Beom, Felipe and Victor “PC” Giro, who all started, although PC’s natural position is not at centre mid. Off the bench the only real replacement option was Micheal Baldisimo. David Norman Jr. is injured, Russel Teibert was away and Andy Rose had to play at centre back due to the absence of Canadian central defenders Henry and Cornelius.

When Jon Erice laid on the new Century Link turf in pain, the only midfielder the Whitecaps had warming up was Baldisimo, and without any disrespect to the Whitecaps Academy product, he has never made an MLS start. There isn’t much depth. Even though some pieces are missing at the moment, it raises a bigger question. Do the whitecaps have enough squad depth to make it through the busy season coming up? The transfer window opens July 9th, and it is very possible that this club feels they need more to be able to compete in all competitions.

Michael Baldisimo warms up against Seattle, June 29th, 2019. SEATTLE (Taken by: Keveren Guillou)

Bad News, Good News

About an hour before kick-off in the pacific Northwest, Canada’s men’s national team bowed out of the Gold Cup in shocking fashion in Houston, Texas. A two goal half time lead for the Canadians slipped away as Haiti scored three unanswered in the second half. While Canada seemed to be losing everything, the Whitecaps gain some important pieces from the elimination. Maxime Crepeau will be very warmly welcomed back in net, Doneil Henry and Derek Cornelius will be very useful as centre back options and Russel Teibert will be a crucial piece in the midfield.

Marc Dos Santos, however, was not pleased. Not only with watching his country get eliminated, but the way the scheduling was done. He said that playing league games during the Gold Cup is “amateurish”.

“It was a tough day for Canada”

Marc Dos Santos

What’s next

That may have been a busy week, but it’s just a taste of what’s to come. Starting this weekend, Vancouver will play every Wednesday and Saturday until July 27th. That’s seven matches in 22 days, or interestingly, one match per π(3.14) days.

Looking even further ahead, the months of July and August will not offer any breaks, especially if the Canadian Championship showdown against Calgary goes as planned, which would mean another two-legged tie in August. If the semi-final round of the tournament is reached, the Whitecaps will be playing fifteen matches over the next two summer months. From July 6th to August 31st it means an average of one opening whistle every 3.8 days. The next time the Whitecaps will get a week off will be in early September, when Henry, Cornelius, Teibert and Crépeau will hope to be back on international duty.

The coaching staff surely knows what’s waiting for them, but what they will be able to do about it is still uncertain. No matter what happens, it should be fun, and most of all, offer a lot to write about. But for now, it’s time to get these tired legs refuelled, and regroup for a trip further down the golden coast, to LAFC’s Bank of California Stadium.

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