Musings on the Vancouver Whitecaps Match: The Pacific Northwest Pacifies
by Jason Goodbody
Well, that wasn't ideal. As my wife and our dog lay fast asleep on the couch next to me, I along with those who stayed up way too late saw our beloved St Louis City SC fall to Vancouver 3-0. With home field advantage clinched through to the title game or for as long as we choose to journey through the tourney, coupled with a midweek game so soon after St Louis CITY SC relied on heavy minutes from its strongest lineup to beat Sporting Kansas, the Boys in Red seemed to have let off the gas a bit for this game.
VAR giveth but it wasn't enough
Despite the outcome, CITY got some video assistant referee redemption. Vancouver attacking midfielder Ryan Gauld had his goal overruled due to an offsides violation caught by the tiny referees in the video box on the sideline. Also Eduard Löwen had a handball in the penalty box in the first half and no one saw it. I did my own VAR and winced worse than even he did but didn't want to say anything out loud for fear of alerting the soccer gods. We should have saved these blessings for another game where they could be better used.
When is a slump a slump?
Oh goodness, we lost a game…..wait, is this the start of a thing? Remember, one data point does not a trend make. Two losses isn't a trend either. Three losses will be concerning because that makes for a nervous away match in game two of a three game round one playoff. And four losses in a row is called a "late-summer series for the Kroenke-owned Colorado Rapids." The longest losing streak CITY has had in MLS play is two games and we've done that only three times. So, no slump for CITY. We'll be fine.
I love all my kids the same
Coach Bradley Carnell tells us that this is a designated team and we have 29 starters, and that he can plug and play, and has the full confidence in….yada, yada, yada…. it feels like he is just telling his players that they are all special in their own way and he loves them all equally. But there is an optimal gameday roster. We know it, he knows it, his players know it. When his best players are on the pitch, CITY wins games. The Vancouver game didn't involve CITY's best line-up and so therefore…..we got what we got.
Part of the reason we had a heavily rotated roster was the prospect of playing on that billiard pool table surface that Vancouver calls a soccer pitch. The Whitecaps' BC Place stadium has FieldTurf that was just waiting to hand out ACL injuries and blunt force contusions and who knows what toxins and carcinogens are in that murder-carpet. Even Vancouver's own Andres Cubas left the game in the 51st minute with a right shoulder injury by apparently, from what I saw, falling onto the ground. Carnell was understandably careful and didn't even bother to bring center-back Joakim Nilsson as he just healed from knee surgery and probably would have needed to be dragged onto the pitch like a 7-year old being brought into the dentist office his second time. For Roman Bürki, whose actual job is to fling himself around onto the ground, no way was Carnell going to risk injury to the MLS All-Pro and soon-to-be, hopefully, crossed fingers-inducing league MVP.
Tim Parker started his professional career with the Whitecaps when he was selected 13th overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft where he played a few seasons before heading off to the Red Bulls and then to the Houston Dynamo. Jake Nerwinski was selected seventh overall in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft where he spent his 5 years telling all his friends and family how Vancouver "is so gorgeous and so clean. And the food is great. Make sure you hike West Coast Trail and see the orcas frolicking". He also had 141 appearances and scored 4 goals with the Whitecaps
If you look at Lutz Pfannenstiel's long and winding career and you scroll down….keep scrolling…one more page, you'll find that he spent about a month in Vancouver playing goalkeeper. It was his 4th team in 2007 alone and 27th team in a 20 year career. Oh and all this talk of overseas teams looking to buy Lutz away from his role as Sporting Director at St Louis CITY SC…listen, I'm sure he'll be around for a long time. Nothing to worry about.
Late game form.
CITY continues to add to its unfortunate tendency to give up goals in the waning seconds of games when it doesn't matter. One day it will matter and Carnell needs to figure this out before the team blows a 2-1 lead over Orlando in the MLS final….Sorry spoiler alert. I binged the entire season on Apple TV already.
Next game up will be a home match vs the Seattle Sounders on October 21st. Goodness, who scheduled this game?! CITY has not lost to the same team twice in MLS play so this is a non-trend I can get behind.
Check out musings from the Sporting Kansas re-rematch.
Photos Courtesy of St Louis City SC