Post Match: The Mandate of Heaven

There are lots of possible explanations for why the Whitecaps have struggled to turn good play into results this season. There’s the purely mathematical explanation that sometimes unlikely things happen, even several times in a row. There are more material explanations. They’re too short, they aren’t good enough at finishing, etc. There are even spiritual ones: The players don’t have the right mentality to hold on to the lead, or lack concentration, or any number of incorporeal failings. Maybe you don’t like their tactical setup, you wish they played four-at-the-back- or you don’t like the way they defend set pieces. I’m sure the true answer is some combination of all those things. But after Vancouver’s 2-2 draw with D.C. United I am drawn to a metaphysical explanation; They simply don’t have the mandate of heaven. 

There was a sense on my Twitter timeline that the Whitecaps played poorly in this match. But I think that was largely born out of frustration with the way the match played out. Vancouver came out flying with an early goal and some fantastic passing play. But this momentum was quickly blunted by Tristan Blackmon slipping at the top of the box and Cristian Benteke equalizing with D.C.’s only shot from in front of the Vancouver penalty spot in the entire game. This goal was not the result of any kind of tactical shortcoming or system failure, it’s just the kind of thing that happens when you don’t have the mandate of heaven. Vancouver seemed to have regained control of the match shortly after halftime when a Ryan Gauld penalty that was proceeded by a number of half chances thrust them back into the lead. But almost immediately afterward a deflection straight out of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez Novella beat Yohei Takaoka and put D.C level again (the initial shot from Matheuz Klich had an xG of 0.02, in case you were wondering).

Now, it is true that D.C. was able to take quite a lot of shots throughout the game. But apart from that first-half meltdown, they were almost all from long range with several Whitecaps defenders behind the ball. I saw some mention of the ‘Caps defensive struggles on the timeline but what are you supposed to do to correct for a deflection and a slip? Other than that D.C had little to offer. Their gambit of matching Benteke up against Javain Brown mostly didn’t work. Sure, Benteke won a lot of duels but more often than not the Whitecaps were the ones picking up the loose balls, and when DC did pick the ball up they were rarely able to penetrate the Vancouver backline. But when you don’t have the mandate of heaven, this is the sort of game that never breaks your way. Incidentally, if they did have the mandate of heaven, Fisher is letting them take that free-kick quickly 10 times out of 10. 

I thought in the final 3rd the Whitecaps were a little over-reliant on crossing. Donovan Pines had the beating of Brian White in the air for most of the night. But the Whitecaps had quite a bit more success trying to work quick passing plays around the edge of the box. Ali Ahmed’s late chance was a particularly good example of this. So it was a bit frustrating to see so many high-balls launched.

Next up Vancouver plays St. Louis, a team that clearly does have the mandate of heaven. St. Louis has out-scored their xG by 20, conceded 6 less than expected, and somebody just passes them the ball in front of their own goal every other week. All of the usual indicators of who is “good at soccer” suggest the Whitecaps should brush St. Louis aside. But all of this “math” and “creating more scoring chances than your opponents” stuff is total bullshit compared to the mandate of heaven. So I guess we’ll see.

9 thoughts on “Post Match: The Mandate of Heaven

  1. They need a player who can hit the ball from 25 yards and make the keeper work. The whitecaps rely way to often in trying to pass the ball into the goal. That said, fantastic side and it’s been a pleasure to watch them this season.

  2. Also, who would have thought that the Caps could be a playoff contender despite ownership having to lease a stadium? Or that they don’t spend (blow?) enough money as TFC and others do so will never be able to compete?

  3. “St. Louis has out-scored their xG by 20, conceded 6 less than expected, and somebody just passes them the ball in front of their own goal every other week.”

    And considering that’s how DC got their first goal, the Caps are right on track.

  4. I’m with the Ahmed opinion. I kept thinking, no that can’t still be Ahmed on the sidelines. He should have come on much earlier. He’s like Musiala just brings a dynamic energy to the field with skill. That really disrupts an opposing team if a guy might run diagonal, is going to harass you forward and back, doesnt’ stop. Great passing though again. It’s a real pleasure to watch the Caps pinging the ball around and going forward. The Tak pass and stumble was unlucky. Those DC guys at the back were giant.

  5. Gotta disagree with the assessment that dc didn’t have much attack other than long range shooting chances. Around minutes 63-78 dc could have scored and maybe won the game. From then on it was the caps turn to perhaps win the game. It was a very entertaining 2nd half with the caps passing the ball around beautifully with attacking intent. My major complaint is levelled at Sartini for waiting too long to put Ahmed into the match. Ahmed had immediate impact so why wait so long????? Once in awhile Sartini acts but I think he misses opportunities to get fresh legs out there to score a needed goal. And expanding on that, we don’t seem to have a 2nd striker who is willing to get right in front of our opponent’s goal. White is doing great but it can’t be just him especially as we get into the last 15 minutes of a match. There’s going to be some do or die situations you upcoming and I don’t think we’re ready for it right now. I do agree that crossing from static positions isn’t that effective with White being double and triple teamed as he tries to get on the end of these crosses. I’m predicting we beat St Louis….

  6. The only good news was that everyone around us in the standings was tied up as well so we didn’t lose any ground. In the east 7 teams have clinched playoff spots and out west just 1.

    We get no breaks in the schedule until the last game of the season. Our last 3 games are against the top 3 teams in our conf. Home, away and home for St Louis, Seattle & LAFC.

  7. some digestion thoughts :

    1. the first goal was simply on takaoka– what was he doing kicking the ball to Blackmon near the edge of the box ? Taki is showing he is fatiqued and making some poor decisions over the last several games; the second goal was a terrific shot from a lucky deflection… but why was the DC player so wide open ?

    2. when the Caps get scored on, they tend to crumble for the next 15-20 minutes- as Vanni said on the game interview, they play soft and need to toughen up in order to maximize their ability as a TEAM

    3. 3 games remaining- 2 Home, 1Away- we need to take at least 6/9 points to have a chance at a top 4 placing and get a home playoff game

    4. the Gauld-White combo is the deadliest in MLS and Gauld is the best player in MLS over the past 3 months- but being in Vancouver, he will not get into the conversation for MVP in MLS

    1. The whole team is gassed. That leads to mistakes. If Blackmon hadn’t slipped or if Ranko had played the offside trap … Yea, mandate of heaven isn’t with those saying “if” LOL.

      I think if White gets the golden boot they will grudgingly acknowledge that Gauld is the key playmaker and might get MVP. That’d be cool having both on our team.

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